UGA vows to do whatever it takes to stay atop the SEC

Georgia's west end construction at Sanford Stadium is nearly 100 percent complete and will be dedicated next month.

ATHENS — Georgia baseball coach Scott Stricklin just got a contract extension and raise, and he’s not the only “Head Dawg” who will make out well in 2018.

At least two other UGA head coaches can expect positive adjustments to their current employment agreements going forward. Men’s and women’s track and field coach Petros Kyprianou is expected to receive a contract extension and raise in the coming weeks, and softball coach Lu Harris-Champer will have “something done for her, too,” according to Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity.

And deservedly so.

All three coaches are coming off landmark seasons. Kyprianou’s teams won two national championships in the last four months. The men’s team won the NCAA outdoor national championship earlier in June, while the women’s team won the indoor national title in March and finished second by 1 point at the outdoor competition two weeks ago. Both titles are incredible achievements considering they came in just the third season of Kyprianou’s tenure. The former UGA assistant was promoted to head coach in June 2015 and since then, all his teams have finished among the top 10 at nationals.

Kyprianou, 40, just completed his third year of a five-year deal that pays him $335,000 annually. He is expected to earn bonuses for the national championships. He was just named national coach of the year in track and is considered one of the true rising stars in international track and field.

For that reason, a considerable extension and commensurate raise are expected.

“We’re working through all that right now,” said McGarity, who declined to discuss details of ongoing negotiations. “Let’s just say we look forward to having Petros for a long time.”

McGarity said there also are plans for more facility improvements for track. UGA completed a $1 million complex renovation just a year ago that included a complete rebuild of the track.

Georgia finalized a deal with Stricklin this week that will extend his contract by three years through the 2022 season and include a “modest” pay increase from his previous salary of $575,000 a year. Stricklin’s fifth team is coming off a 39-21 season that saw it land the No. 8 national seed but lose in the finals of the NCAA Athens Regional. That represented the first winning season in Stricklin’s tenure.

But the Bulldogs return all the position players and most of the pitching staff for next season, as well as a highly rated recruiting class that includes one of the top high school pitchers in America. More importantly, Georgia returns its entire coaching staff, with the considerable exception of volunteer coach Pete Hughes (who returned to the head coaching ranks at Kansas State). McGarity said raises are in the works for Stricklin’s staff, including acclaimed pitching coach Sean Kenny, who was hired before last season.

Harris-Champer led her team to the NCAA postseason play for the 17th consecutive season and to the Women’s College World Series for the fourth time in the 2018 season. The Lady Bulldogs (48-13) were knocked out of the tournament in two games.

“We’ll get around to that eventually,” McGarity said of an extension for Harris-Champer. “We’ve got a lot of stuff going on.”

Georgia sure does. Add all that to the tremendous year just logged by the Bulldogs football team, which reached the National Championship Game, and it has been a very good year for UGA. The school finished No. 8 in the Learfield Cup all-sports standings and second only to Florida in the SEC. And that came in relative down years for men’s and women’s tennis and swimming.

The financial cost of such athletics excellence is high, hence UGA’s record $143 million budget for 2018. Earlier this year, football coach Kirby Smart received a contract extension and pay raise that nearly doubled his salary to $7 million annually. Including the Bulldogs’ 10 on-field assistants, Georgia coaches will earn nearly $10 million 2018. That doesn’t include the bonuses earned by the staff for winning the SEC championship and reaching the finals of the College Football Playoff.

Meanwhile, Georgia is wrapping up construction of a $63 million locker room and recruiting lounge addition at Sanford Stadium. That comes on the heels of the $30.2 million indoor, 1-year-old Payne Indoor Athletic Facility. They’re already building new seating and luxury suites on the east end of Sanford Stadium. All that will be in play this fall.

McGarity said his department is not done there. Coming down the pike in the future are plans to expand the football complex in a project that “goes way beyond” enlarging the Bulldogs’ weight room and training facility, he said.

Beyond football, the athletic board just approved funds to plan the renovation of the Dan Magill Tennis Complex that will cost “at least” $23 million and include the construction of a new indoor facility. The university just completed $8 million worth of improvements to Stegeman Coliseum, extensive renovation projects for swimming and volleyball facilities, and $1 million for equestrian.

“That’s just the cost of doing business nowadays,” McGarity said.

The good news is revenue continues to pour in via donations, football ticket sales and television deals. The SEC recently paid Georgia a record $42.8 million in its revenue-sharing arrangement, tops among member institutions.

McGarity said the Bulldogs continue to focus on doing what they need to do to stay at the front of the pack of the ultra-competitive SEC. He said they have a plan for doing that, whether it means facility improvements, pay raises for coaches or continuing to pour money into the increasingly expensive world of student-athlete wellness and services.

“We have a long list of improvements we want to make for the future, and the priority is determined by a number of factors,” McGarity said Friday. “But the bottom line is we’ll always be looking to do whatever we need to do to improve and enhance all our sports. At the end of the day, we’re going to do what we believe we need to do to be competitive.”

If this last year is any indication, 2018-19 could be a very good year.

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