ATHENS – The Georgia Athletic Association end-of-the-year board meeting is scheduled to get started tomorrow morning at the Ritz Carlton Lodge on Lake Oconee. Actually, current and emeritus members will gather there to socialize tonight, then commence with business first thing in the morning.
And I’m expecting a lot of business to be conducted. UGA so far has offered only a very vague agenda for the meeting, which lists things like “AD’s Report,” “New Projects” and “Financial Update” and the like. But the most important item of business isn’t spelled out there and we all know that it’s going to take place (likely during AD’s report).
Georgia is expected to finally reveal the details of football coach Mark Richt’s new five-year contract. Legal representatives for both Richt and the university have been dickering over the final form of the new deal for months, going back to the end of the regular season last December. We know from Georgia’s announcement back in January that Richt’s new deal takes him through the 2016 season, but little beyond that.
What we don’t know are the particulars such as how much of a raise, if any, Richt is to receive, and what the terms and conditions of any buy-out clauses might entail. Those are the truly important details. Georgia hasn’t shared any of that so far, despite numerous freedom of information requests for copies of any drafts or memos of understanding, which are subject to state open-records laws. AD Greg McGarity says all documents remain in the hands of the respective lawyers, and therefore remain protected, and that he’ll first share the details therein with the members of the board on Thursday.
My guess is that Richt will receive a modest pay increase to at least keep his place among SEC coaches. That is behind national championship holders such as Nick Saban ($5.32 million), Les Miles ($3.6), Gene Chizik ($3.5) and Steve Spurrier ($3.3), but get ahead of less experienced and less successful coaches such as Florida’s Will Muschamp ($3.2). Bobby Petrino was making $3.6 million at Arkansas but that little market adjustment he took care of himself.
Not including outside sources, Richt currently earns about $2.9 million annually in UGA-arranged income. Look for that to go up over $3 million. Longevity and performance bonuses allow Richt to earn much more than that. . . .
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It’s unclear whether or not Todd Grantham’s new deal will be included in this week’s proceedings. The third-year defensive coordinator’s contract has also been agreed to in principle for quite some time. We know he’ll have a new three-year deal that will expire after the 2014 season. But he, too, is probably looking at a substantial pay increase.
This time last year, Grantham was the second-highest paid defensive coordinator in America at $752,000 a year. At the moment, he’s not even the second-highest paid DC in the SEC.
Alabama’s Kirby Smart got a raise to $950,000 a year, Brian VanGorder left the Atlanta Falcons and joined Auburn for $850,000 per year and Sal Sunseri got $800,000 to leave Alabama and become Tennessee’s defensive chief. Meanwhile, LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis is awaiting approval from that school’s trustees that will pay him $900,000 this year and $1.1 and $1.3 million in the subsequent two years, an average of $1.1 million.
Based on that hierarchy, look for Grantham to fall in somewhere between $800,000 and $850,000 per year. Under his leadership this past season, the Bulldogs finished fifth in the nation in total defense (277.21 ypg). That was impressive, but Alabama, LSU and South Carolina were one, two and three in that category. Georgia was 23rd in points allowed, well behind those other teams.
More important for Georgia — or Georgia fans, as the case may be — is what Grantham’s buyout clause will look like. If it stays pretty much the same as his previous contract, which is UGA’s only multiyear deal for an assistant, Grantham would incur no penalty for leaving for a head coaching job or one as an NFL defensive coordinator. But he’ll likely have to pay Georgia for any remaining years to leave for what could be perceived as a lateral move.
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The identity of Georgia’s new gymnastics coach is expected to be revealed, if not at the board meeting then sometime before the end of this week. It has been widely speculated that McGarity and senior associate Carla Williams have settled on Danna Durante, pending background checks. Durante is the current head coach at Cal and a reknowned balance beam expert. Durante, 39, has been head coach at Cal only one year. She was a longtime assistant at Nebraska and Washington before that and was a gymnast at Arizona State, earning a bunch of 10s on the balance beam.
Durante, if that’s indeed who it is, will have the unenviable task of following Jay Clark, who unceremoniously resigned a couple of weeks ago after three mostly disappointing years as head coach.
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Other business expected to be conducted at the board meeting will be a vote to make substantial improvements at Foley Field, the Bulldogs’ baseball stadium. First and foremost, that facility needs an elevator up to the press box and other handicap-access accommodations. Georgia does, after all, have two former players who are in wheelchairs. And the stadium has been far surpassed in recent years by others in the SEC.
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I’ve fielded a lot of questions lately about Georgia baseball coach David Perno and whether his future is in question. The Bulldogs are stumbling here at the end of the season. They face elimination against Auburn tonight in the SEC tournament, which would likely end any thought of an NCAA tournament bid. But Perno has led the Bulldogs to three of the school’s six College World Series appearances, got hit with some unfortunate injuries this season and his mother is not well.
All of which is to say I just don’t think UGA will take any action. But it’s doubtful Perno’s contract, currently set to expire after the 2014 season, will be extended. More than likely the Bulldogs will stand pat and look for improvement next season.
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I expect there will be a good bid of bragging on UGA’s part about the athletic department’s accomplishments in 2011-12. The Bulldogs, as we learned Wednesday, finished second in the SEC’s all-sports competition, sponsored by Halifax Media Group. Florida, as one might suspect, finished first.
Highlighting the year for Georgia was an Eastern Division championship in football, an SEC title in women’s swimming and diving, an SEC tournament title by men’s tennis and several top fives across the board. Also, the 533 UGA student-athletes earned a cumulative GPA of 3.05 for the spring semester of 2012, including 17 with 4.0s and 133 with 3.50 or better. Women’s gymnastics led all sports with an overall GPA of 3.52.
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At least that’s what I think. Tim Tucker, the AJC’s astute sports business reporter and part-time UGA beat guy, will cover the actual meetings while I report on the NCAA tennis tournament. But check back right here for updates all day Thursday. I’m sure even more news than I’ve mentioned here will come out.