April 22, 2013

McGarity Q&A

On Monday, Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity sat down for 30 minutes with UGASports to conduct an exclusive question and answers session with questions provided by site subscribers.

Questions were direct, and in many cases, right to the point.

Below, see what McGarity had to say.

Is it realistic to expect that Georgia's basketball program can be transformed into a national contender? If so, what is a realistic time frame given today's college basketball landscape and short of winning the NCAA Tournament, how does Georgia define success for its basketball program?

McGarity - "Well, I think success measurement is different in every sport. In our case in basketball, we have to consider where we've been and where we're trying to go. We all know you can't build it overnight, although there are examples out there of some quick jumps that you see over time where you see some schools jump in. But for those who are consistently among the top, that are consistently in the NCAA Tournament, consistently on the bubble, you don't want to go to a coach and give them an ultimatum that if you're not in this place or get this amount of wins, then you're not going to be retained. I think what everyone wants to see in every program is constant improvement. So what does that mean? Really it would have to rest with the leadership levels of the institution, whether it's the President or the AD, we all have to make a judgment on that. So, you don't want to say if this doesn't happen, then the person won't be around, but I do think you want to see these youngsters getting better every year in every sport and basketball is no different. In that evaluation piece as far as are we improving every year, sometimes things are out of your control as far as a kid leaving early. I think Mark (Fox) said, and I think the media acknowledged, if Kentavious comes back, which he's not, then we would really have a chance to be a difference maker, so how do you make up for that if you don't know whether or not he's leaving? But I think this time around, I think Mark has admittedly said he did have a better Plan B than we did when we lost our other two kids (Tray Thompkins and Travis Leslie) a couple of years ago.

"It's just constant improvement. If you ask Mark the same thing, he'll say he just wants to get better every year and in our case, we need some consistency in that sport, that would be the first goal to have a level of consistency there, but you know, Coach Fox and his staff know that improvement is something everyone expects. I don't think there's anything unrealistic there."

Do you believe Georgia has created a set of parameters with how the basketball program is run that makes it difficult to sign top talent? If not, and we are playing within the same set of parameters as everyone else, what's it going to take to make the program more attractive to kids?

McGarity - "I think it's got to be the popular thing to do. Right now, when you are competing against the storied programs in college basketball and Georgia has had such a fertile recruiting ground, you need someone to take that leap. Kentavious took that leap. I'm not really sure where Charles (Mann), Kenny (Gaines) and Brandon (Morris) … I know there were a lot of schools involved in their recruitment, so they kind of took a chance on Georgia. They had an opportunity to go somewhere else, but I do know you're not going to get every player in the state of Georgia. If you got all the great ones, they're probably not going to be around for long because everybody wants playing time. You also have to understand that I think over 400 young men transferred (nationally) last year, so playing time, teammate environment, chemistry and all that stuff, there's just so many parameters to consider there but I don't think anything holds us back. Tubby (Smith) certainly had a level of success here in a short amount of time, Jim Harrick had success on the court over a period of time so having been on the receiving end of watching Tubby's teams and Jim Harrick's teams against the University of Florida, those were very difficult games, so it can be done. So although we may not have that basketball culture here, I think it's been proven that if you field a competitive team, that's fun to watch, that plays a brand of basketball that produces wins, people will show up."

What is your answer to the loyal Georgia booster who spends his/her time and money on our men's basketball and baseball programs and has lost faith in the commitment of the University to our success in these sports given the prolonged mediocrity of each?

McGarity - "I think in baseball we have showed signs of national prominence, but you're right. But you're right, our SEC record over the past few years we've been around .500 at best. The only thing I can tell people is that I'm aware and it's my responsibility. At the end of the day it all rests with the athletic director, so people just have to trust me to make the best decisions for our Athletic Association. If I don't do a very good job of that I'm sure there will be another AD in my chair. So I understand the responsibility there. I think what I would ask people to consider, I live it 24-7, that's with 15 head coaches and you want all of them to do well. It's like you have 15 children. So while we've had some disappointment in both those programs (basketball and baseball) recently, it's my responsibility to manage those the best I can. You want to ask for people's patience, and I understand they have a choice to make which causes us to hope people will support the institution during the good times and the bad times. What we can do on the flipside, while we may not be winning every event, we can try to make everything else meaningful as far as making it worthwhile to come to the event as far as everything off the floor. I know a lot of our fans and donors say we're going to be there thick and thin, because we love Georgia, but we also know we have some who say the only reason I'm going to come is because I want to watch a winning team perform. You try to balance that, but at the end of the day that's my decision. The buck stops here."

In regards to the football program, what can Georgia do to achieve more success on the field? Can Georgia hire more non-coaching assistants to evaluate recruits, break down film, and develop players (i.e., team psychiatrist, etc.) as Alabama has reportedly done.

McGarity - "Well, first of all there's only a few things that these individuals can do legally. They can't recruit, they can't break down tape, and they can't analyze respective student athletes. It's against the rules. The only thing these individuals - regardless of what you call them, player personnel, director of player development, offensive analyst - can do is they can help coaches create game plans. But as far as the recruiting end when everybody talks about these things, they're really not informed on what these people can do. At the end of the day, the most important role they play is when a young man comes on campus. They can escort this person around, they can form a relationship with these young men, their parents and everything, but they cannot analyze any tape. They cannot say 'Coach A, you need to take a look at Greg and Roger, and all these people because they're great players.' They can't do that, it's against the rules. What you have to focus on is your business, you can't focus on what others are doing. I don't think there's any question that Mark Richt has every resource that he needs."

Where does creation of an indoor practice facility currently rank in terms of priority for UGA athletics?

McGarity - "It's not really on the map right now. I do know back when the decision was made to renovate the building (Butts-Mehre) as I understand it, if it was going to happen it was going to happen then. Right now, the amount of green space we have here would not allow for it. We would be giving up way too much. What people have to realize, that it's a tremendous dedication of green space, not just the field but the area it takes off of the field. For us to do that, we would have to give up one of our playing fields - and then some - to support the building. So, if we did it, it would have to be off-campus, so right now with the artificial turf fields that we have, that allows us to practice year round in any condition, except lightning. I think that's the only weather-related event that would cause you to move inside. If the lightning storm passes, you're able to get right back on the field. If we did not have flexibility there with the artificial turf, we would probably be having a different discussion, but we are blessed to have the best of both worlds and right now that's really not on our map."

Has Georgia ever considered a first-come, first-serve student ticket policy where Georgia students swipe their card to get in the game and can then choose upper/lower by way of a wrist band or something similar to improve student attendance and on-time arrival?

"With first-come, first-serve there would still have to be some measures in place because we charge for tickets. There would have to be some measure of finding out how many are going to be there. If we just said first-come, first-served, sit where you want to and 10,000 students show up, which we've had before and we allocate 16,000 tickets for them, we cannot be in a situation where we're hoping everyone comes. We have a system now which is probably the easiest of all and it's all done electronically. The student does not have to show up in person to do anything, so the system we have right now is a situation where people, if they're not coming to a game, can simply go online and default out of a game. They're issued a strike or anything like that, but what you can't do is hope everyone shows up. You've got to have some level of response there of people who will actually show up. Will this new system solve that problem? I don't think so; it's going to certainly help. I don't know how much easier it can be for a student. Right now if you come to the gates, when the gates open and you don't want to sit in the lower section, you can go upstairs or go to the end zone."

It's been reported that the recent "Dawg Bite" video featuring Coach Richt and his son, is Georgia's official anthem. Has the video been adopted as an official anthem and will it be played on Saturday's in Sanford?

McGarity - "I'm not aware of any talk of that becoming a Bulldog anthem. I've seen it one time. I thought it was kind of cool, but no, there's been no discussion of anything like that."

Will there be a change in the head coach position (baseball)?

McGarity - "I think the way we answer that is like we do with all our other sports. You have a review at the end of the regular season, you'll go through that process. It would be unfair of me to say anything one way or the other. People know how I feel about the dreaded vote of confidence so I don't want to make any statement that could be read as support or non-support. I just don't even go there, but we review that at the end of the year and we'll do the same this year."

Sanford Stadium is not using all of its concession stands within the stadium anymore. Some have been closed for the last few years. This is causing inconvenience for fans. What is the reason for this?

McGarity - "The only ones that we have closed are on the first level. We closed a concession stand at the top of Section 131 because of the problem that was causing, since the concourses are too narrow, when we had the concourse there, it prevented fans from flowing through the stadium. The only other ones we have closed are on the North side in the same area. Once you get to Row 60, what was happening the line for people going to the restrooms, which are right there, caused so many problems. But what we did, on the North Side, we created all of the new concession stands in Reed Alley. On the South Side, there are new concession stands which have been in place for years that are at the ends of the 'old stadium' so to speak. We closed those down that have really eased up traffic congestion at some very narrow concourses where there's nothing we can do about the width of those concourses."

Why has there not been a concerted effort to change our very strict drug policy for student athletes at Georgia. Is the UGA administration so myopic as to not realize the obvious deleterious effects it has on our football program without any seeming benefits? Ask Steve Spurrier, he laughs about it every year as we will have two to three players out for the South Carolina game with first-time marijuana offenses where the same offenses at South Carolina will not result in a suspension.

McGarity - "Each school has to set their own parameters and we don't apologize for anything we do in our drug education program. We're focused on what's best for the young person. Some people argue that we're at a disadvantage. No, we're at an advantage. Me, as a parent, if I knew there were strict consequences for my child if they did something illegal - and what we're talking about are things that are illegal. We don't have anything to apologize for. What I think we'll see in the future is see more schools adopt what we do, and make consequences a little bit tougher. At the end of the day, our goal is to educate and help these young people and help them realize that if they do make a mistake, there are consequences, so we have nothing to be ashamed of. I don't think it has anything to do with competitive advantage or disadvantage. Everybody knows the rules. There's nothing hidden here. When you come to the University of Georgia, if you elect to break the law, there are going to be consequences. This is what we're talking about - breaking the law. Those that argue we should not be as lax or not as strict, I don't abide by that at all and I think the policy that was adopted well before I came here to the University have illustrated we do have severe consequences for breaking the law."

What can be done to level the playing field in college recruiting with the seemingly lack of oversight and authority by the NCAA? Does Georgia as a program actively report violations against other schools?

McGarity - "When we have issues that coaches bring to our attention we do send that to Birmingham. We always want to have a level playing field, but the first question is, the best method we can use to create consistency in football in general is to adopt the legislation that has already been before us in Phase 2 of this is limiting the number of people who can be associated with the football team. If that NCAA legislation - which is on the table for discussion - if it does become adopted legislation then we'll all be on a level playing field. Let's say the number is 25, the clerical help, your audio-visual staff, your director of player personnel, whatever you want to call these people, then deregulate that portion of it. But that would say across the board the schools who compete at this level have the same number of people. We've done that in strength and conditioning, so there's five, everybody's been good with that and everybody's on equal ground. But I think that would be the first thing, to put a cap on the number of individuals for football."

Do you as the AD understand the level of frustration many fans have with the overall football game day experience in Athens, specifically the expense and hassle that now come with driving into and out of Athens, parking, tailgating, long concession and bathroom lines in the stadium, etc. Do you understand how this may have negative impact moving forward on fans' desires to come to games in person, especially given the enhancements in technology and game availability that make watching games from home more attractive than ever?

McGarity - "That's one of our top priorities. But it's important for fans to let us know where they are experiencing problems. We do have a system where everything that's addressed to the athletic director, game operations, we deal with it. But people have to understand there are 90,000-plus, a large segment who just come to our campus on game day. Everybody would love to be able to pull right into a parking space. We try to do the best job we can of creating that atmosphere. Can we improve? Absolutely. We can improve everything we do. But as far as saying can we add more restrooms, I think everybody knows the layout of the stadium right now and if somebody sees areas where we could add some things, if we're blind to those and we're open to those. We want to be responsive. If someone is having a problem with a certain area, let us know and we'll certainly try to address it. We may not be able to solve it, but it will certainly have our attention."

Is your goal in regard to our football scheduling for us to simply win games, or to give fans exciting, compelling matchups? For example, do you favor sticking with eight SEC games and playing three out-of-conference "cupcakes" each year (in addition to Georgia Tech), which may lead to more wins, but usually result in four to five non-competitive, non-compelling home games each year, or either moving to a nine-game SEC schedule and annually playing another BCS conference opponent out of conference each year in place of a directional school?

McGarity - "I think a lot of that will be determined by what the strength of schedule means with the new BCS model. Does that mean the SEC goes to nine games? I'm sure we'll have that discussion. I don't foresee us dropping Georgia Tech, but I do think if you went nine games and played Georgia Tech, to play two more BCS schools is going to be pretty difficult to do. I think your student-athlete welfare sometimes gets left out of the discussion here. If you had 12 games you had to prepare for at your highest level, that's a pretty good grind. We're talking about kids who have to go to school, maintain their grades. Every now and then they need a game where you can work in some of your subs. One reason you like those games as a student-athlete, if you've been a third or fourth stringer, those may be the only games you get to participate in. So you've got to have a blend there. Fans would love us to play 12 BCS games a year, I understand that, but I think if you did that, then obviously it's going to have an effect on your won-loss record and at the end of the day, the name of the game is to win games, that's going to help you be in better position to win your conference games."

Can you give a specific list of priorities for funding for future UGA Athletic Department projects, as I'd like to know if an IPF is even on that list, and if so, how many other projects take precedence. As a long-time GEEF contributor, I'd like to know where my money is being designated.

McGarity - "Well, right now the GEEF money is going to scholarships. If we have a building or facility that needs funding assistance of the members of the GEEF, then we would solicit. For instance, with baseball right now, if a member of our donor group wants to contribute to that, this is where that money will specifically go, but all donors need to know that all their money goes into our scholarship endowment. We don't have a strong funding store for track, or equestrian, or tennis. When people do donate to the GEEF they are not only helping us with scholarships but they are helping us fund our other sports. Hopefully they understand when they do contribute, they are contributing to all our 21 sports. They're helping equestrian, etc. So, it's more or less that I'm giving to help the overall program at the University of Georgia. Those, if they want to donate toward a certain facility, then I'm sure we'll have a long laundry list of things we can do. But as far as new brick and mortar, there is nothing right now on the horizon. We are focused on the new baseball project. If we did have a huge donor step up for equestrian there's some things we could do out there, but as far as our other sports we are in great shape with their facilities. We'll always tweak new scoreboards and be heavily involved in preventative maintenance of facilities, but I can't think of one sport that we haven't mentioned earlier that's in need for a facility upgrade.

"Facilities are not holding us back from anything. I can promise you that. I just came back from UCLA and I've seen their facilities. I've seen Stanford's facilities. Trust me, they're not winning national championships strictly because of their facilities. Facilities have to be nice and functional. I've seen a lot of facilities at tremendous campuses and in some cases you're asking yourself how are they getting it done because their facilities are not as nice as school A or B. It all gets down to people, it all gets down to relationships of people, coaches and it all gets down to having a great institution that's got a great academic reputation which ours does. Facilities are important, but no way are they the end all."