LORAN SMITH COLUMN: McGarity was just what UGA needed

Albany Herald Guest Columnist Loran Smith

Albany Herald Guest Columnist Loran Smith

The Georgia sports teams often bring smiles to our faces and make us puff out our chests with pride -- the fans sing hosannas to the highest when the Red and Black prevails. And being a fan of Bulldog sports teams is a prerequisite if you want to work for Georgia's athletic program.

Georgia's homegrown athletic director, Greg McGarity, whom I am motivated to pay tribute to, is no exception to this rule. It's been a little more than year since this son of Athens became the leader of the Bulldogs -- a great day for all who swoon to the ringing of the chapel bell.

Let's focus on the positives of who McGarity is and what he means to the Bulldog program. He is of Irish decent but has no idea who his forebears were -- dating back a century or two -- and cannot tell you anything about the clan from which he came -- their sheep, their shamrocks or their tartan. He is preoccupied with seeing championship banners wave over Georgia facilities annually. Some day he may be attracted to genealogy study, but developing, upgrading and maintaining the Bulldog infrastructure and bringing multiple championships to campus are his present priority.

He has never been to Ireland and has no interest in going there at this juncture in his life. He doesn't want to sit on any boards, he has no desire to speak to the State Legislature. All he wants is to be the day-to-day athletic director at the University of Georgia, focused on bringing championships to all sports and providing the best in service to the Georgia constituency.

Collegiality is important to him. He wants the coaches and staff to be friends and work for common goals. He wants football to support baseball and volleyball.

He wants track to cheer for soccer and vice versa. He aspires for men's basketball to celebrate when the equestrian team wins a championship. For the staff to become collegial, there must be congeniality, and he underscores that emotion every day. He is about peace and goodwill internally. Tranquility can only come with success and cooperation.

His unspoken modus operandi is to determine from head coaches what they need to win. Once that is established, he considers it his job to provide what is needed and then focus on this proviso: you now need to win. He believes in high expectations, his office included.

At Florida, where he was an integral part of the operation with a substantial role in the decision-making process, he was associated with one of the most successful runs in the history of college athletics -- multiple national championships in the sports that bring about funding for the entire program: football and basketball.

Under A.D. Jeremy Foley, there was success and harmony across the board. Coaches were given the resources to win championships. Secretaries and custodians were made to feel part of the achievement. McGarity wants the same model in Athens, insightfully aware that leadership is what leads to abundant success in athletics.

Georgia has resources. There is no better recruiting base. Facilities are not just adequate -- in most cases they are championship level. Compared with Florida? Just as good, just as competitive. The conclusion then rushes front and center that with leadership, the Bulldogs can accumulate as many championships as any team in the Southeastern Conference.

While you can't go out and buy a championship, there is a need to invest in your program if you want to win championships. Greg McGarity understands all that. Yet he believes in sound fiscal management. He also has a cogent understanding of the business. The best example is his view of scheduling. Georgia had a home and home series with Oregon. He got out of that contract quicker than T. Boone Pickens would pull out of a dry oil well. Georgia and Louisville playing home and home. Find the advantage there? You won't because there isn't one. As part of the arrangement to schedule Boise State, he was able to shuck the Louisville series.

You schedule to give your team the best chance to win a championship, which is why you have to bring teams to Sanford Stadium that don't require a return match to their campus.

Clearly, the constituency is providing the support, which generates the resources for championship-contending teams across the board.

To get there takes vision and leadership. And, not to be overlooked, McGarity expects everyone to play by the rules.