Greg McGarity has tough decisions to make on some of Georgia coaches

Georgia tennis-Towers Take-McGarity has some tough decisions to make on some Georgia coaches-Georgia Bulldogs
Georgia women’s tennis coach Jeff Wallace talks to reports after the Bulldogs bid to win another national championship fell short in the finals against Stanford. (UGA)

ST. SIMONS ISLAND — This is the time of year that Georgia Athletic Director Greg McGarity starts to have his postseason meetings with the Bulldogs’ spring sports coaches. Two of those conversations promise to be quite difficult, and for different reasons.

McGarity will meet with women’s tennis coach Jeff Wallace upon his return from Orlando and the NCAA Tennis Championships this weekend. The No. 2-ranked Bulldogs made quite a run there as a team, reaching the finals before falling to perennial powerhouse Stanford 4-0 in the championship match. It was only the second loss of the season for Georgia (28-2), which went undefeated in winning the SEC regular-season title and also won the National Indoor championship in 2019.

As it turns out, it’s a significant year for Wallace. The contract for the 59-year-old coach, who has been coaching women’s tennis at Georgia for the last 35 years, expires on June 30. McGarity would like to fix that.

“Sure we would,” McGarity said after the athletic board’s meeting at the King & Prince Resport this week. “Jeff’s still competing, so we’ll talk when he gets back. … We’ll certainly talk about an extension. He’s done a great job. He’s got everyone coming back from this year’s team and I know he’s really excited. We’re looking forward to that. Jeff had a great this year.”

Wallace has had a lot of great years. The four-time National Coach of the year has led the Bulldogs to six national titles, two outdoor and four indoor, including this year’s national indoor title. Georgia has also won 14 SEC titles (8 regular season, 6 tournaments), been to every NCAA tournament and reached at least the Final Four 12 times.

Of course, McGarity knows that. After all, he was once the women’s tennis coach at Georgia.

Yet, despite that long history of success, Wallace is not among the higher-paid coaches in his sport. His salary of $185,000 annually (not including camp income) is well below Florida’s Roland Thornqvist ($246,000), who’s has a comparable overall resume (though much more recent success). Most of the top coaches in women’s tennis make more than $200,000. Even Mark Beyers of Ole Miss, who has never won a championship of any kind, makes more ($190,000) than Wallace.

Wallace does do well via UGA’s bonus structure. He earned an extra $64,750, or 35 percent of his salary which was based on 10 percent for winning the SEC and 25 percent for reaching the NCAA finals. But none of that would be considered if and when he decides to retire.

Wallace also makes nearly $100,000 a year less than Georgia men’s tennis coach Manual Diaz. Diaz has a similar resume to Wallace, with four outdoor national titles and two indoor, but has had more sustained success within the conference (28 championships).

Georgia is preparing to undergo an Title IX review, so such a difference could come up.

Wallace declined comment Friday. He remains in Orlando with Katarina Jokic, who was to compete in the NCAA single semifinals Friday night.

McGarity’s probably not as excited about his exit interview with women’s golf coach Josh Brewer. Brewer hasn’t done awful in his seven years at the helm of Georgia’s program, but he hasn’t been able to sustain what had been a long history of sustained success in that sport.

Under Brewer, the Bulldogs have not won an SEC title and have advanced to the NCAA championship rounds only once, finishing 18th in 2016. Previously, Georgia’s women have won an SEC-best 19 titles, including 11 team crowns. The program has also produced four individual national championships and one national team title (2001).

“We haven’t sat down yet,” McGarity said of Brewer, who has a year remaining on his contract. “Chris Haack serves as our director of golf and I haven’t talked to him on that. But we’ll talk about those things when the season concludes.”

Football, basketball, baseball and gymnastics are the most popular sports at UGA and draw the most fan support. But McGarity said he gives all 21 of Georgia’s sports programs equal thought and consideration. He said he meets monthly with each one of the head coaches in their offices.

The stated goal is for the Bulldogs to finish among nation’s Top 10 teams in the Learfield Directors’ Cup standings for all-sports excellence. They were eighth last year. That’s probably not going to happen this year.

Georgia is currently 35th, seventh among SEC teams. But it’s expected to surge with tennis, golf, baseball and track and field still to complete their seasons.

“It won’t be Top 10,” McGarity said. “That’s our goal every year, but this year it’s probably out of reach. We’ve had some oddities on a national scale. I don’t want to name sports, but some that have traditionally been in the Top 10 aren’t. Across the board, that measurement is lagging a bit, but we expect a surge at the end.”

Georgia has two other sports that have traditionally slowed it down when it comes to national all-sports prominence. Soccer, now under the direction of fifth-year coach Billy Lesesne, remains a mystery as far becoming competitive in the SEC and nationally, which it currently is not. And Tom Black has made strides with Georgia’s women’s volleyball program in two short years, though it also is not nationally competitive.

But McGarity has made it clear that making it into NCAA postseason play is the Georgia standard. The Bulldogs are doing a good job of that in most sports.

That includes football, of course. So Georgia fans aren’t generally worried about anything else.

It’s McGarity’s job to worry about them all.

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