Greg McGarity says he understands Georgia fans’ frustrations over the Bulldogs’ recent failings on the football field.
Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity asked for fans to stay supportive of the Bulldogs despite the recent losing season Thursday.
However, he asks those who have threatened to pull their academic support – in response to Georgia’s first losing football season since 1996 – to consider how such action would affect the athletic department as a whole.
“You’ve got a certain faction of fans out there that are just disappointed and if they don’t have change, then they’re gonna drop out of the program,” McGarity said Thursday afternoon. “I know they’re frustrated with football right now, but what is so important is the contributions go to support every sport that we sponsor. If you have some that are pulling out of the program, in essence, I know they’re frustrated, but they’re basically pulling out of making a contribution that helps us in every facet of our operation.”
McGarity said he received plenty of feedback from fans – and noted the split was close to 50-50 between supportive and negative responses – after the Bulldogs lost to Central Florida in last week’s Liberty Bowl and finished the season with a 6-7 record.
He reiterated on Thursday a couple of points he has often made since his arrival in Athens last fall:
► He will not specify a number of wins a team must achieve for a head coach to keep their job: “Our first meeting that we had with all of our coaches back in September, that was one point that was made very clear. All our coaches know what’s expected of them. They’re expected to compete for championships, to be in the hunt and that’s an expectation that we all have, so I’m not here to put a figure on number of wins and everything. We just want to see improvement, we want to see a program that’s headed in the right direction – all of our programs.”
► He will not require any head coach to make changes within his or her staff: “That’s strictly a head coach’s call, in every sport. We do not get involved in evaluating assistant coaches.”
McGarity did, however, say he expects changes within Georgia’s football staff – including that other staff members will assume administrative duties that Richt has handled himself in recent years. Former strength coach Dave Van Halanger is taking over as the team’s character education leader and director of player development John Eason is taking over as the program’s academic point man.
Their assistance will help Richt refocus on the on-field aspects of his job, after McGarity believed the head coach had spread himself too thin in recent years.
“Every coach, every person, really, has strengths and weaknesses, and I thought one of Mark’s weaknesses was he was trying to do so much himself,” McGarity said. “He was the point person with so many issues, whether they be academics, discipline, things of that nature, to where it’s so time consuming to find out exactly what’s going on. And I think with some reorganization that we’ve had, as far as the leadership council, character education, Mark had his hand in so many things that it was almost impossible to focus really on the X’s and O’s of the game and every phase of the game.”
At his end-of-season media session Wednesday, Richt spoke of how he felt revived and rejuvenated after conversations with McGarity on how to get the football program back on track.
McGarity shared a similar sentiment Thursday, adding that he hopes Richt’s chance to focus more on the football aspects of his job will result in fans seeing the same passion from Richt that he has shown in their recent meetings about the future of the football program.
“In conversations that we’ve had all through the season, especially the last two or three days, his passion has really come through in our discussions,” McGarity said. “I think that started to show and I think that’s something Mark needs to do more of – to show his passion and express it in ways that perhaps he hasn’t done before. I encourage him to do that.”