ATHENS — For Greg McGarity, becoming athletic director at the University of Georgia is a dream come true and practically a lifetime in the making.
University president Mike Adams introduced the Athens native Friday as Georgia's new athletic director, effective Sept. 1.
McGarity replaces Damon Evans, forced to resign July 5 after a DUI arrest June 30. The arrest was complicated by the fact that he had a woman who was not his wife in the car with him at the time.
McGarity began working for the athletic department when he was 10 years old as a helper for tennis coach Dan Magill.
"I didn't want to mention a lot of names because I knew I would never get through this speech," McGarity said, his voice cracking with emotion. "I am glad to see coach Magill here. He is like a second dad."
McGarity, 55, spent the last 18 years at Florida where he finished as a senior associate athletic director. He had originally applied for the Georgia job when Evans was hired.
"I felt like I had taken a shot to the gut the next day," said McGarity of being passed over in favor of Evans. "But that just makes you want to work harder. It would be easy to sulk and feel sorry for yourself."
Adams said that McGarity's ties with Georgia were just one of the factors that led UGA to select him to replace Evans.
"He is somebody who has been there at the highest levels," Adams said. "You could argue that he has not sat in the AD's chair, but he has been as close as you can be. People who come from good schools and good programs seem to have what it takes to know how to win."
Adams said that the circumstances of Evans' termination caused him to seek a person of high integrity.
"I ran background checks and talked to people all over the state," he said. "I got a little worried when I could not find anything bad. There is no question about his personal integrity."
Adams said that he felt McGarity would also help heal the wounds from Evans' sudden departure.
"I would like to say this was a slam dunk," Adams said, "but there were people of such caliber in the pool of applicants that I had to weigh it seriously."
Adams said that Georgia had 70 applicants, including 30 sitting athletic directors.
McGarity agreed to a five-year contract that could pay him $2,425,000. He will start at $420,000 a year, with a $20,000 annual raise. If he stays five years, he will receive a $125,000 longevity bonus.
Adams admitted that there was "postpartum" depression after the events of Evans' termination, when he said that Georgia would proceed carefully and might not name a new athletic director before the end of the calendar year.
"These things run in cycles," Adams admitted. "I began to feel that it was better if I could get this done before the start of the school year.
"And frankly, I thought he had suffered enough being at Florida 18 years," joked Adams.
McGarity thanked Florida AD Jeremy Foley for his time with the Gators.
Foley said in a statement that he was happy for McGarity and his family.
"Greg has been an invaluable asset to our organization over the years," Foley said. "He has been a key component of our success. Greg is extremely loyal and has great vision for the future."
McGarity admitted that his career path was "an odd story." He advanced from tennis ball boy to sports information statistic runner as a teenager. He earned a tennis letter at Georgia, though he seldom played for Magill.
McGarity worked in the sports information department and was the head women's tennis coach before moving into senior administration under Vince Dooley. He left Georgia in 1992.
McGarity said he has never met football coach Mark Richt, but that he already knew many of Georgia's head coaches, citing tennis coaches Manuel Diaz and Jeff Wallace, swimming coach Jack Bauerle, who was on the search committee, and womens basketball coach Andy Landers.
"We have the resources to get the job done. We will do things the right way," McGarity said. "Every sport will be expected to be competitive not only in the classroom but on the field."