ATHENS — The firing of Mark Richt is the seventh coaching change by Greg McGarity as Georgia’s athletics director. The school and its fans can only hope it turns out better than the first one — or most of the others so far.
McGarity was hired at Georgia in August 2010, when Richt was under fire, but McGarity’s first move was elsewhere: Less than three months into the job, he fired volleyball coach Joel McCartney in the midst of a losing season (15-17 overall). The volleyball team had a winning record (62-55) in three-plus seasons under McCartney, though it was 29-45 in the SEC.
The replacement: Lizzy Stemke, who had been a Nebraska assistant. The Bulldogs have had just one winning season out of five under Stemke (66-87 overall and 31-63 in the SEC). And the volleyball team just hit rock bottom this season: 5-25 overall and 0-18 in the SEC.
Football, of course, is a different animal. McGarity was asked during Monday’s news conference whether this hire would define his tenure.
“I think every hire does,” McGarity said. “That’s the role and the responsibility of athletic directors, just as other positions throughout the country like this. It’s just part of our job.”
Here, in chronological order, are the other changes McGarity has made since being hired:
- WOMEN’S GOLF: Kelly Hester’s contract was not renewed after the 2012 season and replaced by Josh Brewer. In the final three seasons under Hester, Georgia finished fifth, eighth and fourth among 12 SEC teams. But going back a bit further, Georgia finished in the NCAA Top 15 in 2009 and 2008 under Hester. In three seasons under Brewer, Georgia has finished second, eighth and fifth among 14 teams in the SEC.
- GYMNASTICS: McGarity inherited Jay Clark, who had been legendary coach Suzanne Yoculan’s assistant while the team won national championships from 2005-09. Clark was let go after three seasons in which his team didn’t make any Super Six appearances. McGarity hired Danna Durante, who had been at California, and in three seasons the team has made it to the Super Six twice, though its finishes in the SEC (fourth, fourth and fifth) have been lower than under Clark (third each year).
- BASEBALL: David Perno, who guided Georgia to three College World Series (2004, 2006 and 2008), was fired in 2013 following seasons of 21-32 (his final year) and 31-26 (his penultimate year). McGarity then hired Scott Stricklin, who the year before had coached Kent State to the CWS. Stricklin’s first two seasons at Georgia have been losing seasons, though this past year he did lose his ace, Robert Tyler, for most of the season.
- WOMEN’S SOCCER: Steve Holeman was let go last year after going 53-39-11 in five seasons, making the NCAA tournament twice. He was replaced by Duke assistant Billy Lesesne, who in his first year guided the Bulldogs to a 5-12-1 record.
- WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Longtime coach Andy Landers retired after last season, the first in 21 years without an NCAA tournament trip. After a nearly month-long search, top assistant Joni Crenshaw (now Joni Taylor after her marriage) was elevated to head coach. The Bulldogs are off to a 5-1 start, the lone loss at Michigan State.
These were all searches that were conducted with nothing like the attention and scrutiny that McGarity and UGA are about to go through. It’s also not clear that McGarity alone is making the decision. There are powerful boosters and influential leaders in his ear, some with more say than others. But they can stay in the background.
When it comes to judgment of this move — removing Richt and hiring his replacement — it falls squarely on one man.
“You’re right, we are judged upon the success of particular individuals,” McGarity said. “Particularly in football, due to the level of interest and the revenue it does generate for our programs. But sure, I know that I’m accountable for everything here. So I understand that and I accept that responsibility.”