— Mark Elliott
There’s some validity to this, if you just look at the timeline. Since Jere Morehead was elevated from provost to president in the summer of 2013, the following long-sought football and basketball projects have happened:
- A $30.2 million indoor facility.
- A $63 million west end-zone project.
- The $8 million renovation to Stegeman Coliseum, including the center-hung scoreboard.
Those were projects that Mark Richt had wanted, though he kept his push mostly private. They became a reality after Morehead took over, but they also didn’t happen overnight. The indoor facility might or might not have needed Jeremy Pruitt’s prodding in late 2014, depending on who you believe, and the west end-zone project got underway last year. And many believe Georgia still needs more to catch up in the facilities arms race, including an enhanced weight room.
Still, they happened after Morehead took over. So do you draw a direct correlation?
Defending Michael Adams carries with it the danger you will be buried in your comments section, but I’ll take a stab: Morehead has more money to play with than Adams did, thanks to the increase in the SEC payout and the stronger economy. Adams presided after the Great Recession hit in 2008 and before the arrival of the SEC Network, which saw UGA’s yearly payout jump from $20.8 million in Adams’ final year to nearly $41 million last year.
A few people I’ve spoken to have said that Adams quietly gave athletics the ability to get more academic exceptions. Adams tried to raise the academic profile of UGA, and he did, but that made it more difficult to get some athletes in school. Adams helped make up for it with the academic exceptions. (And a few of those exceptions resulted in players who subsequently graduated from UGA — on top of helping the team win.)
Adams was visibly active in athletics, as well as outspoken. Morehead keeps a lower profile but he’s still very active. The night basketball coach Tom Crean was hired, two UGA administrators got off that plane in Athens: athletics director Greg McGarity and Morehead. When the change from Richt to Kirby Smart was made, Morehead also was very much involved. It’s just not his way to advertise it.
Morehead also has had an easier terrain to deal with, though part of that was Adams’ own doing. The rancor of Vince Dooley’s “retirement” and the Damon Evans fiasco both loomed large during Adams’ tenure. The Dooley situation, in particular, made fundraising more difficult under Adams, and many would argue that was a self-inflicted wound. Either way, Morehead’s ascension was an opportunity for a fresh start.
There certainly has been more movement the last five years. But many people I talk to believe there’s still plenty more to be done. There’s facility improvements in football, a master plan for athletic facilities in general, and, of course, we could spend more bandwidth discussing the finances of athletics and the reserve fund. The argument I hear is there’s a need for dynamic, long-range thinking for UGA athletics — the kind that the new football coach has brought.
“Kirby is the difference,” one person told me when I shared this Question of the Day.
The one thing I think we can say is that both Adams and Morehead were big fans of athletics, and not just because of the visibility. Morehead is a regular at UGA sporting events, and Adams still comes around, especially at basketball games. Adams was very involved in athletics, and Morehead has been too.
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