Greg McGarity will be introduced as Georgia's new athletic director this afternoon at 4PM. This should surprise no one. McGarity was endorsed by Vince Dooley (again), Dan Magill, Jack Kingston, Tony Barnhart, and T. Kyle King not long after the term "red panties" was uttered for the first time. It seemed he was the obvious and default choice throughout the process. His only potential roadblock, it was thought, were his ties to Vince, not Michael Adams.
Despite the perceived clashes with Adams, McGarity was the obvious default pick for a reason. He's got an impressive Georgia pedigree as a former athlete, coach, and administrator. When he left UGA to advance his career at UF, he joined what has become one of the best, most consistent athletic programs in the country. McGarity served under Jeremy Foley while both oversaw the sustained uber-competitiveness of Gator athletics from 1992 until today. He has a long history at a successful athletic program attached to a academically rigorous public university. Again, the choice was obvious.
So, what does the decision mean and what does McGarity need to do? First, I wouldn't read this decision as some profound statement of current politics in Georgia or the university. I don't think Adams made his pick because he was scared of Roy Barnes. I also don't think this alone means that Adams's power is eroding on campus. Once it came to light that McGarity has not only applied for the job, but really, really wanted it, the choice became clear. No other candidate could match him. Adams made the call and got a guy with a great reputation and vast experience. I've also heard that Adams isn't going to be our President for too many more years (by his choice, not yours) and he is becoming more concerned with the state of the university he will leave behind. Thus, maybe he is more interested in competency and long-term success over hiring "his guy" for control. I may be giving him too much credit, but it's a theory.
McGarity will have plenty of personnel decisions to make in the next few months. Depending upon how a couple of our teams perform this year, he could have some coaching decisions to make this year (I'm not referring to Mark Richt). Those are going to be big decisions, but I'm more interested in making sure McGarity and our athletic programs are on solid footing. He is taking over a fiscally fantastic program, but the University of Georgia Athletic Department can improve in many ways. Here's a few things McGarity should concentrate on:
1. Michael Adams: Every successful university athletics program is backed up by a committed and enthusiastic university administration. Despite our considerable squabbles with the leadership of Michael Adams, you can't say he's not interested in intercollegiate athletics. People might debate the helpfulness of that interest, but he is at least involved. McGarity must make sure that our university administration remains committed to the ongoing development of the athletics arm of the university. Damon and Adams got along well. McGarity needs to not only get along with Adams, but push him for as much help as Adams and the academic side can give.
2. Revenue: While Georgia is highly profitable, we do not generate as much revenue as our competitors. According to 2007-2008 numbers, Georgia was sixth in the conference for athletic revenue. We have to do better than that. Our profitability is unmatched in conference, so if we can scale that up to the revenue numbers enjoyed by our competitors, all the better. Florida seems to receive a lot of big donor money through its Bull Gator program for large annual donors. I wonder if such a program is in the works for Georgia to increase donor revenue. Georgia recently signed a lucrative new media rights contract, so he'll have to look at other, inventive ways to maximize non-donor revenue.
3. Facilities: Most of UGA's current facilities are at or above the average SEC school, with one large exception. Foley Field. Ole Miss, LSU, and South Carolina have recently opened baseball palaces, and we're still sitting on a facility that seats less than 3,500 fans. A big decision regarding Foley is coming and McGarity will be the man to make it. You can add the less urgent, but omnipresent, indoor practice facility to that list as well.
4. Tone and Expectations: Jeremy Foley doesn't put up with mediocrity. McGarity shouldn't either. There have been times in the past that I believed UGA would tolerate mediocrity. One of the chief goals of our athletic department should be to turn a large profit, but big profits without championships is emptiness. I'm all for making money, but money is secondary. The goal is to offer our athletes a quality education and allow them opportunities to win games. We seem to be doing fine with regard to educating our athletes, so I'll take that as a given. But there should be just as much priority on winning as there is on profits. We're real good at profits. Let's get as good with wins.
Good luck, Greg McGarity. Welcome home.
UPDATE: Add one more to those challenges. If we're going to stream a press conference, can we get a consistent stream that doesn't pause every two seconds? That was miserable.