ATHENS — Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity knew something was up when Jeremy Foley, his friend and mentor, buzzed him just after 6 a.m. on Monday morning. Foley wanted McGarity to know before it leaked that he was stepping down after 25 years as Florida’s A.D.

“It was a surprise, to say the least,” McGarity said on Monday afternoon. “I knew it was going to be at some point in time, but I don’t think anybody thinks it’s going to be immediate, as it was. It was a brief conversation, because he had a lot of people to call, and certainly I’ll catch up with him later and talk more about things.”

McGarity served under Foley at Florida for about 18 years, before returning to Georgia to become the A.D. in 2010. But the two remained close, sitting next to each other at SEC meetings and speaking weekly, whether it be about work, family or life.

Jeremy Foley, center, meets with the media two weeks ago at SEC meetings. (SETH EMERSON/AJC)/Dawgnation)

Several times, McGarity referred to Foley as “a giant in our profession,” well-respected within the SEC and nationally. Florida won multiple football and men’s basketball national championships under Foley’s watch, but also became the perennial first-place winner in the SEC’s all-sports champion.

“He feels like the time is right, right now,” McGarity said. “A quarter of a century is a long time in athletic administration. Twenty-five years especially as athletic director. I was fortunate to be a part of it for 18 years. That’s about half of my professional life too.”

McGarity, at 61, may not be on Florida’s short list. But given his history at the school his name will be mentioned in some quarters.

“Oh gosh. I’m fully focused on our responsibilities here,” McGarity said. “I’m a Georgia graduate, I’m a Georgia man. I love my job. That’s really, to be honest, that’s not part of anything – I’ve never thought about that. I wouldn’t even go there today. That’s a question for later on.”