University of Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity has been a bit busy in recent days.
After attending Saturday's 42-10 loss to LSU in the Southeastern Conference championship game, McGarity flew to New York on Monday and was at the National Football Foundation's awards dinner Tuesday night. At the event, former Georgia safety Jake Scott was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame and current punter Drew Butler was among 16 players -- and the only representative from the SEC -- to receive a National Scholar-Athlete Award.
McGarity is heading back to Athens today for tonight's Georgia-Georgia Tech basketball game, and on his looming agenda is a visit with football coach Mark Richt to discuss contract amendments following a 10-2 regular season and an SEC East title. Richt was named Monday among 10 finalists for the 2011 Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year Award.
"He's got a big, big recruiting weekend this weekend, and we've just got to carve out some time," McGarity said Tuesday. "We'll eventually sit down."
McGarity discussed his thoughts Tuesday about a season that will continue in the Outback Bowl against Michigan State:
Q: What are your overall thoughts on the season?
A: "It was a season that obviously did not start off like we wanted it to, but 10 straight wins is something we all take a lot of pride in. We didn't have the outcome in the SEC championship game we all desired, but we have a chance to win 11 games, which very few Georgia teams have done. This gives us an opportunity to end the 2011 season on a high note and give us a good start toward planning for the 2012 season."
Q: What did you appreciate most about it?
A: "The resiliency of this team and staff to not dwell on the two losses but to focus on getting back on track. That allowed us to focus on each week, and as we started winning each week our confidence grew, and I thought I saw a focused team for the rest of the season. I think everyone has to give LSU credit, because they took advantage of some opportunities and did not afford us any opportunities and played a pretty mistake-free game, but we didn't back down from the top-ranked team in the country."
Q: Although player arrests were down, three tailbacks were suspended after three other tailbacks were suspended last season. Why is that area problematic?
A: "I don't really know how to read that. You've got 125 young men on this team, and you would like for every one to go through the season without any errors or mistakes, but we know that's not going to happen. Those suspensions would probably be the biggest negative that we experienced this year."
Q: Is there any regret to scheduling Boise State in the opener?
A: "No. I think what that did was allow us to be on the big stage and really focus all our offseason programs into knowing that there was a tremendous task at hand in game number one. It excited everybody, and we had so many steps of success during the offseason -- we had a great recruiting year and a very quiet spring, and the players came back in phenomenal shape. There were a lot of upward trends that were very positive, and we just stacked those on top of each other.
"I think the Boise State game was a great indicator. When you do that, and Virginia Tech bought into this last year after playing Boise State that first game, it tells you so much about your team very quickly. It really reveals your strengths and weaknesses against a top-flight opponent, so when we entered conference play, we were not searching and finding out about our team. I don't think there is any regret there at all."
Q: Considering all the "Hot Seat" talk surrounding Coach Richt before the season, what were those first two Mondays like for you when the team started 0-2?
A: "I would say it was around 50-50 in terms of people being supportive and those who wanted change. What you do is basically look at your program internally when you have situations like that. You see what the tone is out there at practice, and you sort of have a general feel on how things are moving. I think that there was no question that everybody was disappointed, but people weren't lethargic or feeling sorry for themselves. There was too much positive energy going on for us to get into a tailspin.
"Obviously winning helps, and getting back on the winning track was important for everybody internally and externally."
Q: So if it was 50-50 then, where does it stand now?
A: "You don't really hear anything. People will call me to say 'Congratulations' or 'I was wrong, and I'm sorry about the earlier e-mails about wanting change,' and things like that. We deal with a lot of managerial things that may have to do with seat location in the stadium or parking problems, which are things we deal with all the time.
"It's like everything else when things are going right. In customer service areas, very rarely do we call to thank them for the customer service. It's sort of an expectation. If there is not much noise out there, I sort of view it as good news."
Q: Coach Richt is praised for his character and takes missions trips in the offseason. How difficult would that be if you ever had to fire him?
A: "I think you could really say that about all of our coaches. There is a time and a place to have conversations with coaches and have evaluations with coaches. We've got 15 head coaches, and everybody knows all these coaches aren't going to coach forever, and the only way you can approach that is to have a feel for the program each year and good communication with your coaches at the end of the year and throughout the year.
"It's just part of our job, and it's not only Mark but the other 14 head coaches, too, as well as their staffs."
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...