ST. SIMONS ISLAND — Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity, while acknowledging and taking responsibility for the underperformance of Georgia teams, urged his athletic board to “not be distracted by those who seek to divide us.”
UGA ranks 24th in the NCAA Director’s Cup all-sports standings, updated on Thursday, and fifth in the SEC. The school is in danger of finishing out of the top 20 nationally for the first time in nearly two decades, and has seen a drop in the number of teams winning championships.
McGarity, in his annual athletic director’s report to the UGA Athletic Board, addressed the situation.
“The responsibility to enhance our strengths and address our deficiencies lands on my desk,” McGarity said. “I know our program is not reaching its full potential.”
McGarity didn’t mention specific sports as struggling, though did highlight the track teams doing well. He also spoke confidently about better days ahead.
“Our stated goal is extremely ambitious of having every one of our sports competing in their national (tournament). To date, 16 of our 21 sports did just that,” McGarity said, reading from a prepared speech. “As in every year, some teams met and exceeded their expectations. Some experienced uncharacteristic results. Eight of our 21 teams finished among the top 10. …
“I feel confident that you will see marketed improvement in numerous sports in the near, if not immediate, future,” McGarity said. “Administratively we continue to be committed to providing the resources necessary to make that happen, and the fiscal year 2018 budget will reflect those commitments.”
McGarity has come under fire from critics, in the fans and media, for the performance, from baseball’s continued struggles this year, and his record of hirings and firings. McGarity has now hired two coaches that he has since fired: Gymnastics coach Danna Durante after five years, and volleyball coach Lizzy Stemke after five years.
Then there’s the women’s soccer program, which went to the NCAA tournament the year (2014) that Steve Holeman was fired. The Bulldogs have failed to return to the NCAA tournament, or even come close, since Billy Lesesne was hired as the replacement.
The women’s golf team just missed qualifying on its own course for the NCAA national tournament, while Kelley Hester, the coach who McGarity did not retain three years ago, led her Clemson team to qualifying in the same tournament.
In his address to the board, McGarity finished with a message.
“Our institution is a very birthplace of higher education in this country. We have a legacy unlike any other. We have a college town unlike any other. So many have committed to the G. And we are now asking everyone who believes in all the good that Georgia does, not only throughout our state, but around the country, to commit to Georgia.
“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.”
Asked later what he meant by “distracted by those who seek to divide us,” McGarity declined to elaborate.
“Better not say right now,” McGarity said. “I’ll wait to comment on that later. I’ll be careful how I phrase words.”