Georgia Bulldogs: Does Greg McGarity deserve all of his criticism?

JACKSONVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 28: The Georgia Bulldogs mascot 'Uga' barks in the end zone during a game against the Florida Gators at Alltel Stadium on October 28, 2006 in Jacksonville, Florida. Florida defeated Georgia 21-14. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
JACKSONVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 28: The Georgia Bulldogs mascot 'Uga' barks in the end zone during a game against the Florida Gators at Alltel Stadium on October 28, 2006 in Jacksonville, Florida. Florida defeated Georgia 21-14. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images) /

After a great year for the Georgia Bulldogs in most sports, fan hostility towards Greg McGarity has simmered down significantly.

Georgia athletic director Greg Mcgarity is a man that stirs up a lot of emotion among the UGA fan base. He took over as Athletic director in 2010 for Damon Evans after Evans resigned due to a DUI. Mcgarity worked at the University of Florida for years. Even though he went to UGA, a hire from UF raised a few eyebrows.

His entire time here, he has been under a microscope. Sometimes he deserved it, sometimes he didn’t. But we all know that comes with the territory.

Now with talks of Mcgarity’s contract being redone, debates about his job performance are all over social media and get almost as intense as the ones that were being had in Mark Richt’s last days here as head football coach.

Many of the same ones who thought it was time to part ways with Richt also think now that McGarity should go. I have been a part of both of those groups of fans. I think it’s become pretty obvious that the firing of Mark Richt and the hiring of Kirby Smart has worked out for the best for UGA (and Richt,honestly, he seems happier at Miami).

So we should just do the same thing with McGarity then, right? Just fire him and hire someone better? Well in the words of Lee Corso, “Not so fast, my friend.”

Let’s look at some of the main reasons that people want or have wanted to move on from Greg McGarity. The number one reason is obviously football. While I know we have the resources to be successful in other sports we all know that football is king in Athens. So as we began to see the decline of the football program in the latter part of Richt’s tenure here, fingers started being pointed.

Thousands were pointed at Richt. Thousands were pointed at McGarity. The reality is that both were to blame. We all knew that if McGarity didn’t make the right hire after making the bold move of firing a coach as beloved as Richt was, that he may be done as AD of Georgia.

I remember hearing fans say it hundreds of times, “he better get this hire right. You don’t fire a coach like Mark Richt without having a better replacement lined up!”

Well, here we are over two years later and he got the hire right, didn’t he? Kirby Smart is one of the most exciting and successful young coaches in the game today. So McGarity made the right move. And what happens? Many of our fans still don’t want to give the guy any credit.

Now all I hear is “Well, he was just doing what he was told to do!” Okay, well let’s simplify this move. Even if he was doing what the big money donors wanted by hiring Kirby, that doesn’t change the fact that it was the right move.

What about basketball? Many fans, myself included, were sick of the constant underachievement of the basketball program. Teams that should have been sniffing Sweet 16’s were instead losing to Belmont in the 1st round of the NIT. And McGarity watched. For a while, he did nothing.

Mark Fox continued to earn respected in many circles, and McGarity gave him chance after chance to be successful or at least turn this into a respectable team that made the Big Dance consistently. It didn’t happen.

And fans who don’t care about basketball continued to sound like nails on a chalkboard to me by saying over and over, “doesn’t matter, we are a football school.” While I agree, that’s no excuse to accept mediocrity in other sports.

So McGarity had to let Fox go. This wasn’t as bold of a move as the football one, but it was still vital to the legacy of McGarity. The hire was the most important part, but the firing wasn’t as big a deal because a lot of fans simply don’t care about basketball. A move needed to be made to change that.

A big name hire seemed impossible to a lot of fans. But McGarity did it when he hired Tom Crean. I personally believe this was also a good hire. I’m realistic. I don’t think we will be playing for national championships in basketball anytime soon. But I absolutely believe that Crean will have us back in the tournament and winning a tourney game or two soon. If we build off that success, who knows where the program may go.

So we have established that one of McGarity’s bad points is that maybe he has a tendency to hold on to coaches who aren’t getting the job done for too long. He did it with Fox and Richt, and it seemed as if the same pattern was repeating itself with the baseball team.

Scott Stricklin’s squad had a losing record the past two years. Many wondered if it was time to make a move there. McGarity stuck with Stricklin though. And now, we are in the midst of a 37-win season and getting ready to see the Diamond Dawgs host an NCAA Super Regional. Will they maintain this current level of success? We’ll see. But the baseball team is pretty good right now, and Stricklin is a big reason for that.

So lets recap and add in a couple of other bits from other sports during McGarity’s time as AD. Football is looking as good as it has since the early 1980’s. A big time hire was just made in basketball. The baseball team is competitive once again.

Girl’s softball is doing well right now, and women’s gymnastics is annually competitive over the past decade. We have a beautiful new indoor practice facility and some great work was done recently to Foley Field, Stegeman Coliseum and Sanford Stadium.

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I’m not saying to completely erase the blemishes on McGarity’s career here, Dawgs. I’m just saying lately, it seems like the guy has been getting a raw deal. If he fails, he’s blamed. If he succeeds, many people say “Well he was just doing what he was told”. At some point, the guy is going to have to get a little credit.

I say give him another couple of years and let’s see if we win a natty in football, the basketball team makes a turnaround under Crean and the baseball team stays competitive under Stricklin. If those things all happen, we all may have no choice but to admit that McGarity is doing some good things as AD.