ATHENS — Greg McGarity wasn’t certain, but Tuesday’s quarterly meeting of the Georgia Athletic Association board of directors may have been one of the most uneventful of his tenure.
Well, unless you count the athletic director’s remarks.
McGarity ended up reading off a four-page prepared address to the full board at the end of the meeting. And it clearly was heartfelt.
“Navigating through this change in leadership was challenging and stressful,” McGarity said of firing Mark Richt on Nov. 29 and hiring Kirby Smart a week later. “So much was happening very quickly during the early days of December. We focused on the dynamics involving new leadership for our football program; announced our new head football coach; prepared and competed in the TaxSlayer Bowl against Penn State, winning the game under interim coach Bryan McClendon’s leadership; announced a new assistant coaching and support staff. And through it all, our student-athletes displayed a remarkable sense of loyalty and passion to the University of Georgia, as did those coaches who remained on board, along with support staff, who put their personal disappointment and concerns aside temporarily and did what was best for our players and UGA. I wanted to publicly thank our players for their attitude and dedication to UGA and their teammates during this time.”
McGarity also revisited the day that Southern University’s Devon Gales was tragically injured at Sanford Stadium, and the death of UGA’s bulldog mascot, Uga IX. He also recounted all of Georgia’s accomplishments, including record academic achievements, Hall of Fame and Circle of Honor inductions, the swim team’s 100th consecutive home meet win, the Indoor Athletic Facility groundbreaking and even Tuesday’s Puerto Rico Classic victory by the women’s golf team.
President Jere Morehead joked afterward that McGarity had “set a new standard for board reports.”
McGarity reiterated a special thanks to the Georgia football players’ attitude during the transition and the coaches and support personnel that chose to stick around without guarantees of future employment.
“I’m grateful to the members of the team who spoke with us about their concerns, who shared their ideas and who were extremely respectful and understanding throughout the transition to the new staff,” McGarity said. “I am also thankful to my staff that helped throughout this time, and especially during the details surrounding the transition.”
While little new ground was broken during the one-hour meeting, McGarity told reporters afterward he expects to see Georgia’s cost of attendance number increase in the near future. The Bulldogs’ numbers — $3,221 in-state and $3,746 out-of-state — ranks ninth among SEC schools.
“It’s a moving target,” McGarity said “I think you’ll see some movement around the conference. There can be no collusion. It’s against antitrust laws as I understand things now for conferences to get together and say ‘Let’s do this, let’s do that.’ We would love to be able to be there one day where we have consistent cost of attendance figures.”
McGarity said he expects “tweaks across the board” in the SEC. “You’ll see some change. I would predict all schools will see some movement.”
The highlight of the meeting was probably the brief 10-minute visit by the new head football coach. Smart hobnobbed with board members for a short time before the meeting started, then thanked the board for all the support it has provided him since he took the job. He also implored them to help him sell out Sanford Stadium for G-Day.
”I want to thank Coach Smart for taking the time in a busy afternoon to meet the full board for the first time,” McGarity said. ”He enjoys environments like this. He fully understands the importance of support from the board going forward. (Attendance at the G-Day game) is obviously very important to him and, truthfully, we as a staff were talking about it before he ever mentioned it.”
- Faculty athletics representative David Shipley provided a record-setting academic report: 521 student-athletes at UGA combined for a 3.04 cumulative GPA last semester, the highest ever in a fall term.
- UGA reported it has created a “wellness committee,” a group that is charged with ensuring that student-athlete’s get everything they need from support services to realize their full potential. Board members were informed of a new website, www.thegeorgiaway.com, which is described as “a multi-faceted resource center for current, past and prospective UGA student-athletes.” It is affiliated with the P.O. Network, the group named in honor of the late Paul Oliver by former coach Mark Richt.
”This (web site) is a great idea and will be a tremendous help for young people in their transition into life after athletics,” McGarity said. ”It took a long time to develop, but it takes time to do things the right way. This will be a great tool and a great illustrator for our student-athletes.”