New Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said yesterday that he understands the frustration of angry Bulldog fans. (No word on whether or not he bit his lip and stuck out his thumb as he stated that fact.)
“You’ve got a certain faction of fans out there that are just disappointed and if they don’t have change, then they’re gonna drop out of the program,” McGarity said yesterday. He was referring to Bulldog backers withholding donations to the university… which is something that we’ve pointed to for two years as the sure-fire “tell” that Mark Richt is in trouble. Now that “tell” is being told.
“I know they’re frustrated with football right now, but what is so important is the contributions go to support every sport that we sponsor. If you have some that are pulling out of the program, in essence, I know they’re frustrated, but they’re basically pulling out of making a contribution that helps us in every facet of our operation.”
Following a Liberty Bowl loss to UCF, McGarity said that feedback from fans was close to 50-50 in terms of supportive/negative toward the football program.
A few other interesting notes:
* McGarity said that Richt “started to show the passion he has for the job” in his season-ending press conference this week. “I think that’s something Mark needs to do more of — show his passion and express it in ways that perhaps he hasn’t done before.” This falls right in line with a post from The AJC’s Tony Barnhart earlier this week. Either Barnhart had already queried McGarity about his feelings regarding Richt or McGarity is paying close attention to what the SEC’s top scribe opines.
* McGarity said that he expects to see “improvement in all areas” of the football program next year. “We want to see improvement in discipline; we want to see improvement in leadership; we want a passionate football team. We want every member of our staff, regardless of what sport it is, to be passionate about being here.”
Let’s interrupt all this talk of passion to ask a simple question: Has anyone ever questioned Bill Belichick or Tony Dungy because they aren’t as “passionate” as someone like a Bill Cowher? Some guys pump their fists, spit or kiss their players. Cowher did all three. But some guys look like statues on the sideline and sound half-dead in their press conferences. Belichick and Dungy have done alright for themselves minus the theatrics. No one worried about Richt’s passion as he led Georgia to a #2 national ranking in 2007. And he looked like an escapee from Disney’s Hall of Presidents then, too.
If the spark has left your relationship, you don’t ask your partner to make googly eyes with you just for show. That’s akin to what’s happening at Georgia. “In lieu of wins and losses, we want you to scream and yell like a fan.”
But the passion thing won’t work anyway. If Richt “passionately” loses, fans will still worry about the loss than any new, more-animated sideline gestures. And if Richt displays more emotion some will no doubt suggest that it’s a sign that the pressure of a declining program is getting to him.
* McGarity said there’s no set number of wins that Richt must record to insure a return in 2012. “All our coaches know what is expected of them; they are expected to compete for championships, to be in the hunt. So I’m not here to put a figure on a number of wins and everything.”
* UGA’s new AD also said that he believes one of Richt’s “weaknesses was that he was trying to do so much himself.” Therefore, McGarity has helped take some administrative duties off Richt’s plate.
Final question: How many times has a college coach reached this level of turmoil and survived?
Let’s say Richt wins 8 games next year. That would be an improvement over 2010, but would fans pull out their checkbooks again?
What about 10 wins? Sounds good, but if the losses are to Florida and Georgia Tech — for example — what would be the result?
Heck, let’s say Richt reaches Atlanta in 2011, but falls back to 6-6 in 2012. What then? (Ex-Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer could probably give him a hint.)
Richt has been a very successful coach in Athens as well as a tremendous ambassador for the school and the conference. But when fans stop making donations and your boss asks to see more passion from you, you’re time is running out.
Last month we said that Richt should have pursued the openings at Colorado and Miami and tried to get out of Georgia while the getting was good. He didn’t.
Eventually he’ll regret that.