Greg McGarity is clearly enjoying being back home.
After being an assistant athletic director at the University of Florida for 18 years, McGarity, an Athens native and University of Georgia graduate, is finally getting settled in after being in the role of Bulldogs athletics director for five months now.
On Monday, McGarity spoke to the Gainesville Rotary Club at First Baptist Church and discussed all the principles he’s put into play as the head of all sports programs at Georgia. He commented that it was his first trip to Gainesville since his days as a tennis star at Athens High in the early 1970’s.
Not only did he speak about what it takes to get back on the winning track in football, he also spoke about all the principles it takes to run an ethical business, including being kind, transparent and accountable to the fan base.
“I always want to be square and be fair,” McGarity said during his address.
Before speaking to the Rotarians, McGarity answered questions from the media, including Times sports writer Bill Murphy, about his thoughts on Wednesday’s National Signing Day, his first few months on the job, and the performance of football coach Mark Richt.
Question: Since this week is big with National Signing Day on Wednesday, what do you thing about all the hype that surrounds this one day for college football fans?
Answer: I’ve never really gotten caught up in it. You see all these accolades that are awarded to these young men and young women in all sports, so you really have to wait and see how that group does after Year 3 and 4.
There’s a lot of things that have to happen to know if they’ve been successful in the classroom and on the field. The true test will come this fall and years down the road in football.
It’s really hard to tell because some of your greatest athletes have been those that are the non-publicized and really, really want to be at an institution and end up developing after a while.
It’s kind of hard to know, but it’s the culture here in the south, but I don’t see Stanford, TCU and Boise State at the top of the food chain as far as recruiting goes. So it’s an inexact science to say the least, but something that, obviously, attracts a lot of attention.
Q: What is your take on the football program at Georgia right now and the direction it’s headed?
A: Well, it wasn’t too good when we were going 1-4. I don’t think there are many people associated with our football program that have been 1-4 at any time.
But I’ve said it before, I think the Monday of the Tennessee week was huge for our program. I think there were several things that changed there. (Georgia coach) Mark Richt was proactive there.
I think the steps that (quarterback) Aaron Murray made as our leader were off the chart. He came close to setting a lot of school records. The way we’ve started offseason conditioning has everything really on an upward swing.
It’s an endless cycle. But this is the first time I’ve seen our team work in the offseason, so I don’t have anything to compare it to in the past.
And I won’t have anything to compare spring football to either. So it’ll be a good experience to see how we go about our business.
Q: What have your first few months on the job as AD been like?
A: It’s been really exciting. It’s been sort of a learning process since I came in on Sept. 1, because it was already game week. It was hard to do an evaluation of a lot of things because your head is spinning.
In football season, heck we had 11 games in a row, so you really didn’t have time to catch your breath. We’ve just really started to scratch the surface of what we want to do as an athletic department, but I think we’re off to a good start.
Q: How has your success recruiting top players for next year made you feel about being able to move past last season?
A: I think Mark and his staff have done a great job as far as being aggressive. I haven’t hardly seen Mark at all, except on the weekends, so he’s out on the road and been very active at recruiting.
We like how things have been with our coaches out on the road and we’ll see how things go this Wednesday. But, then again, Wednesday is just a part of the process.
It’s an important part of the process, but we’ll see how things go in the summer and in the spring before that. We start out the football season with two really tough games with Boise State and South Carolina.
Both games are in the state of Georgia and both in primetime. It ought to be two really good starting weekends to start the season.
Q: Considering coach Richt’s overall record at Georgia, do you think fans have been too critical of Richt and his ability to coach?
A: People will have their opinions. When I was at Florida, we really didn’t pay attention to Georgia. We really didn’t pay attention to really anybody else, because you were worried about your own business.
We had a 60-minute snapshot with one game every year against Georgia. Georgia has always been competitive with Florida. Maybe some years not as much as the other.
But you have to give credit to Florida. When you have it going there with players like Tim Tebow, great leaders and two national titles in the past four of five years, that says a lot about them.
Mark’s had a phenomenal record at Georgia. He hasn’t forgotten how to coach. Part of my job as athletic director is to help him focus on the things that relate to winning.
I think we’re off to a good start there and those are the things that will add up in the end to help Georgia be successful.
Q: What do you see as the pulse of Georgia fans?
A: Well, I think everyone is on the upswing. Our staff is getting on board with things we’re trying to do as far as customer service and just certain essentials and certain principles.
You want to be kind, but you also have to be stern in certain situations. You want to be able to work with people, and I think we’re making strides there. Basically, the program is in good hands.
We’re going to do things the right way. We’re not going to cut corners and we’re not going to cheat. We may not win every game, every tournament, or every event, but we’re going to do things the right way.
We have a group of coaches that truly understand that and are going to do things the right way, they’re accountable and transparent.
There are things about a program, you just want to run it the right way and people can take pride in that. We have to do some work in our conduct across the board and that is a huge emphasis as well.
We want to avoid all the knucklehead decisions our kids were making earlier.