Greg McGarity took responsibility for various Georgia Bulldogs teams not living up to expectations. What exactly is he doing wrong?
Greg McGarity has been public enemy no. 1 for Georgia fans for some time now. fans and media criticize him for not investing in the school’s athletics department properly. They criticize the coaches he hires and the way he fires coaches.
But for a while, one could play devil’s advocate and say that Georgia is still succeeding and the coaches all need to do better to keep up. That was until Thursday’s release of the NCAA Director’s Cup all-sports standings. Georgia sits at no. 24 nationally and no. 5 in the SEC. Georgia hasn’t finished outside of the top 20 in almost 20 years.
McGarity stated in the athletic director’s report to the UGA Athletic Board:
“The responsibility to enhance our strengths and address our deficiencies lands on my desk, I know our program is not reaching its full potential.”
After accepting blame, McGarity then shifted the blame stating:
“Let us not be distracted by those who attempt to divide us. We must be united and stronger than ever before to help move our athletic program forward.”
He never stated who exactly was trying to divide the Georgia Bulldogs however. Which is odd, he was willing to accept blame early in his address and then he shifted the blame to a nameless party.
But make no mistake, Greg McGarity is to blame. And there is no division. The Bulldog Nation wants championships and demand that from our coaches. But I’m not sure Greg McGarity really demands quality.
There are several examples to back up this claim, first is his handling of Mark Richt in 2015. He fired Richt in November much to the pleasure of some and the chagrin of others. But does anyone actually remember Richt being on a real hot seat?
You can say he was on the hot seat going into the 2011 season. After all, Georgia failed to live up to lofty expectations in 2008, finished 8-5 in 2009 and 6-7 in 2010. But Richt turned the team around by going 10-4 and winning the SEC East in 2011. He then led Georgia to just one play from winning a SEC and possibly a National title.
Injuries ruined the 2013 season. 2014 was a disappointment but one you can live with if things don’t get worse.
And well, nothing got worse. Mike Bobo left after the 2014 season, Brian Schottenheimer was hired to replace him so radical changes were expected on offense. Georgia went from a multi-formation, half spread/half pro-style offense in 2014 to a pure power pro-style attack in 2015.
Top that off with the lack of a star quarterback and there was no reason to expect anything special from Georgia in 2015. Then Nick Chubb got injured and judging by play calling, Schottenheimer never bought into Sony Michel as a star running back. yet, Georgia still finished 10-3 and only lost one game in Athens to the eventual national champions.
If anything, Georgia exceeded realistic expectations in 2015. Still, McGarity fired Richt. But until around the week of the Florida game of that season, can you think of any tension between Richt and McGarity that would suggest that Richt was under enormous pressure to succeed.
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Richt himself admitted to getting complacent at Georgia. But why? How does a coach become complacent? He’s obviously a good coach and came close to delivering national championships to Georgia on more than one occasion. Or a better question is, how is a coach allowed to become complacent?
The answer to that is simple; pay him and don’t demand from him.
Nick Saban’s a great coach but was he really anything special before he came to Alabama? Yeah he won a National Championship at LSU in 2003, but he book-ended that season by going 8-5 in 2002 and 9-3 in 2004 (including going 1-3 against ranked opponents).
But Alabama demands success. They wanted to win like they did in the 1960’s and 70’s again and they are because of it. If there is something out there that will give the Crimson Tide even the slightest edge (legally) they get it. When coaches before Saban struggled to win consistently, Alabama wasted no time in firing them.
Everyone around the nation knows that Alabama demands national championships in football.
But a better example might be Jeremy Foley at Florida. Their athletics department wasn’t anything special when they hired Foley. Now look at them. It helps that the state of Florida became the state with the most talent, but Foley clearly demands success at Florida.
We saw that in 2004 when he showed no patients with Ron Zook and fired him before the end of that season. We saw it again in 2014 when he fired Will Muschamp despite Florida having three offensive coordinators in four years and having worse injury issues than Georgia in 2013.
Unlike Alabama, Foley and the University of Florida Athletic Association demand success in every sport, not just football. They are no. 14 in the Directors Cup national standings and no. 2 in the SEC. They are a mainstay in the top 20 and do not appear to be falling out of the top 20 any time soon.
At Georgia however, that same demand for success is not present. When McGarity fires coaches, it often comes out of nowhere and some are clearly mistakes.
He fired Steve Holeman in 2014 after he led the Georgia woman’s soccer team to the NCAA Tournament. Those Lady Dogs have’t come close to the NCAA Tournament since. McGarity did not retain Kelly Hester as coach of the women’s golf team in 2014. In 2017, Hester led Clemson to the NCAA National Tournament while Georgia failed to qualify on their own course.
McGarity has held the position of Athletic Director since 2010 and he has since fired two coaches that he hired after five years (Danna Durante-gymnastics and Lizzy Stemke-volleyball). To me, five years seems like a long time to keep a coach that isn’t winning, especially when one of those coaches is taking over the best gymnastics program in America.
What kind of message does that send to potential coaches? Come here to Georgia, we’ll pay you very well for several years just don’t lose too much. Don’t worry about championships either, as long as you don’t lose too much, you’re good to go.
More so than his failure to invest properly in each team or the lack of great coaches he hires, that is the biggest issue that Greg McGarity has as Director of Athletics at Georgia. He does not demand from coaches the way that his former boss Jeremy Foley does, or other AD’s at winning programs for that matter.
Until he does or until he gets fired, do not expect anything spectacular from Georgia athletics as a whole on a consistent basis. The urgency to succeed just isn’t there. Our coaches aren’t under any pressure. Georgia has created an atmosphere that breeds complacency.
That falls on Greg McGarity and him alone.