Video/Transcript: President Morehead and AD McGarity Press Conference

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Video/Transcript: President Morehead and AD McGarity Press Conference

Morehead Opening Statement

MOREHEAD: “Thank you Claude. It’s good to see all of you even if it is at a distance these days. I look forward to us all being back together at some point, hopefully in the relatively near future. I think today should be about celebrating the legacy of Greg McGarity, and I am so pleased to see that many of the sports writers have already begun to do that because in my view, the last ten years under Greg’s leadership have been extraordinary. Some of you have already commented about many of his accomplishments. I think what I would like to say about Greg tells you a lot about what I hope we will have in the next athletic director, which is someone who is loyal to the institution and the athletic association ahead of his own personal interests, and someone who is focused on making things better. If you look back on Greg’s legacy in Georgia Athletics, he’s made things better. He’s kept the athletic association and the university aligned, and he has been incredibly loyal to the institution and to me and my role as president. I have appreciated this relationship, as I said yesterday, ‘I wish it had gone on a little longer,’ and even as late as last week I tried to once again talk him out of making this decision right now, but I am afraid Cheryl has a little more clout than I do. I think she’s ready for him to get on with the next stage of their life together. I just want to thank Greg for his extraordinary work, and I hope all of you will have an opportunity to write some great stories on what he has accomplished because I think he deserves that. When this pandemic is over, we will obviously then have an appropriate time to recognize him and Cheryl as they should be recognized.”

McGarity Opening Statement

McGARITY: “Thank you President Morehead. I am going to kind of throw it back on you. We have worked together for seven years now, and I can’t think of anyone better to lead this university. The president’s hobby is the University of Georgia. There is no golf, no tennis, and what he has done to elevate this institution and really to be a tremendous steward for college athletics with his service on the NCAA Board of Governors, Executive Committee, his SEC relationships with Commissioner Sankey. He is a true big-time player in college athletics. As athletic director, to have him represent the University of Georgia and SEC in all of these endeavors is invaluable. I can say we have had a lot of fun, a lot of laughs. We’ve gone through some tough times together. The relationship is stronger every day. I really appreciate his service not only to Georgia but to Athletics and our student-athletes. President Morehead, thank you for giving me the opportunity and letting me stay in this chair. Ten years is a long time for any athletic director to be in one place at one time. I appreciate the opportunity to serve, and it’s been a great ride. I have enjoyed working with almost everyone on this call, for the Hollywood squares here. But, hopefully you’ll recognize the job our student-athletes and coaches have done. I have just tried to lead and stay out of the way and let our coaches excel and student-athletes. I’ll end with that Claude, and we can just go to some questions.”

Greg McGarity
Greg McGarity

On what was different from the previous times he’s thought about retiring…

McGARITY: “Charles [Odum], when you come back to your alma mater, you want to leave a little bit better. There were some situations, we were ready to do things earlier, but COVID[-19] came along, and we just knew that wasn’t the right time to go through any change. The president had enough on his hands to navigate everything he has to navigate. I certainly didn’t want to add to that. We thought initially that COVID may be on the downturn by this time, but obviously it is still with us and everything. I just didn’t want him to have to worry about athletics and wanted to lead us through this time. I really appreciate Cheryl’s patience because as I have told all of our staff and everything, we relocated and bought a home in Florida and Cheryl has been down there since July fixing the place up and renovating some areas. I have been down there as often as I can. Once you’ve been married 42 years, life as a bachelor is not a lot of fun. The president is right, Cheryl trumped the president in this situation. Good things will be in store for the future.” 

On whether or not this will be a “try out” for Josh Brooks…

MOREHEAD: “Definitely not awkward because what I think is most important right now is to maintain stability in the senior leadership of athletics. I think one of the great things we have right now is a really strong leadership team, and by installing both Josh [Brooks] and Darrice [Griffith] into the two leadership positions on an interim basis, I wanted to send a signal to the entire athletic organization that we are strong, that we are stable. I have confidence in the individuals that Greg has put into senior leadership positions. I can give you an example. Will Lawler, in my opinion, is the best guy in America doing his job in compliance. We were lucky enough to lure him away from the SEC where he was doing that for the conference, to come to UGA. There is no one better than Will. I think Kirby Smart or Tom Crean or Joni Taylor or anyone would tell you that. I want to send a really strong signal to this senior leadership team that whoever is the next athletic director, I have great confidence in the people that Greg has assembled to run the athletic association.”

On where his home in Florida is and whether he will have any role in athletics in 2021…

McGARITY: “First question is Ponte Vedra Beach. Second question, I don’t know. Marc [Weiszer], I have been so focused on this role, and I really haven’t given much thought to other opportunities. I am not one that is going to sit around the house. Cheryl has already told me that. I have straightened up the closet and washed the windows to know that, that’s not a full-time job around the house. I am sure there will be opportunities in the future. I am not sure what areas, if it would be college athletics—I don’t know. I really haven’t had time to focus on that because we’ve been so tied up into things here in Athens and trying to keep the program afloat and moving in the right direction.”

UGA President Jere Morehead

On whether there have been potential candidates that have reached out already…

MOREHEAD: “I haven’t spoken directly or indirectly with any potential candidates. I am sure as this process unfolds that will happen. There are a number of channels where that will be possible to take place. Michael Luthi who heads the UGA search group will be managing this search for me, and we’ll certainly establish some channels of communication that will make that possible. I obviously have a lot of contacts serving not only in a leadership role in the SEC and working with Commissioner Sankey, but at the NCAA-level on the NCAA Board of Governors. So, I will use those contacts as needed to ensure those channels are made open. We will just see how the process plays out.”

On the timeline of when the position will be filled…

MOREHEAD: “I haven’t established a firm timeline, but I obviously want this to move along expeditiously. I don’t want this to drag out for months and months and months into the future. We need to have a sufficient enough timeline to make sure that the advisory committee is able to advise me on all of the significant candidates that have an interest in the job.”

On the importance of him staying around during the pandemic/whether there is anything he wants to do during his retirement…

McGARITY: “Oh wow. I’ll answer the last part of that first—there’s nothing, from a retirement standpoint, again I hadn’t really thought about those things, Chip [Towers], moving forward. We’ll just let things be dictated as they develop and everything. I remember the president and I were together in Nashville at the SEC Basketball tournament, as many of you were. Timing is everything in life, that just wasn’t the right time. Now is the right time. Again, I appreciate everything the president has done. We’ve had a lot of discussions on this, and I appreciate his desire to want me to stay on and everything, but it is just time now. Certainly, COVID stepped in and kind of messed up a lot of people with their plans and everything. Everything always turns out for the right reason and that’s where we are today.”

MOREHEAD: “If I could add something to what Greg has said. Chip, I really think it’s been extremely important to have had Greg in this role since COVID hit in March. I think if you talk to Greg Sankey, our SEC Commissioner, he would say the same thing because having individuals like Mitch Barnhart at Kentucky, and Greg McGarity at Georgia, seasoned athletic directors in the room on a lot of these calls with and without presidents, as we have had to make a number of difficult decisions and figuring out how we restart athletics, and how we restart it and when we restart it. It was important to have Greg, and then it was important I think for our own athletic department to have him as we had to implement the plan that the NCAA and SEC authorized us to move forward on. Yes, I would love to have had Greg stay longer, but it was really important to have him during this significant part of the pandemic. We can all hope that we’ll see a vaccine in the near future that begins to get distributed and that we begin in the coming months to turn the corner on this pandemic. It’s been a challenge for me at the university level, and I know it’s been a challenge for Greg, certainly been a challenge for our commissioner. I think having some seasoned individuals has helped a lot.” 

On some of the accomplishments he is proud of during his tenure…

McGARITY: “You know Mike [Griffith], it’s interesting that you bring that up because I was thinking about the top three or four moments. I think back to the concert in Sanford Stadium back in 2013. It was the first time and the only time everyone will leave Sanford Stadium happy. But, that night, that moment, was just magical. It was a rewarding experience. The top three had to be in my mind, Notre Dame in ’17—going to Chicago. I remember the president and I, we were together. Were in Chicago Thursday night. We rode to South Bend on Friday. We had a tour of the stadium, a nice lunch and then went up to our hotel, I think it was right on Lake Erie, one of the great lakes. That game was just remarkable. Then to be followed by the Rose Bowl, I think that was just something that was monumental. The whole week was just like fantasy land. To win the game and advance to Atlanta, and to be in the Rose Bowl and winning that game. The best was Notre Dame last year, in my mind. Kevin Butler and I were texting earlier about that experience because he and I were standing together in the West End Zone on the field—you had the National Anthem going, you had the flyover. You had just beautiful weather. You had the new lights—that day was so magical. I think all of us that were there knew that everything came together in a perfect way. It was one of that times where you shake your head and say, ‘We need to remember this.’ Because as I told Kevin, it was probably the most emotional I have ever been to be on the field during the anthem and see it all unfold. Those, the big-stage moments, that I’ll remember. There are so many others Mike. Just being able to work along side great people. To see what has happened recently with facilities. The way our donors have responded financially to really pay for everything has been really rewarding. There are so many things. We could take up the whole call with this, but those are a few of the highlights.”

On the type of pressure he feels with athletics from donors and fans and how important athletics are to the trajectory of the university…

MOREHEAD: “I hear about it a lot. You know, sometimes the criticisms are justified and make sense. Sometimes they come from a perspective of people not having the knowledge or background that Greg or I may have on the issue. To me, that’s one of the things that I am really going to miss when Greg leaves. He probably won’t miss it, but it’s having to deal with text messages from me at 11 p.m. or calls even on holidays when somebody is upset about something. He’s always been calm and steady and had the right information to give me that’s allowed me to explain and navigate some of these concerns that you hear from time to time. But, clearly I think when people are happy about the success of our athletic program, it tends to have a positive impact on the feelings that they have on the University of Georgia, and therefore the support that they provide to the University of Georgia. I don’t think it’s an inextricably length. We have a lot of donors that give to the university because they love the university. We have some donors that give to athletics solely because they care about athletics. Most people care about both, and they really like it when they see Georgia ranked in the Top 15 of the best public research universities in America. Then, they see our football team ranked very high in the national polls, as well. I think there is a certain pride level and it makes my job easier. Certainly, when we are able to be out and have these certain donor events that we’ve had many of over the last several years.” 

On what he would want his time and legacy at Georgia to be characterized as…

McGARITY: “Oh Jake [Rowe], just to make this place a little bit better. We all understand that we are just temporary holders of these positions. When I entered back in the summer of ’10, things were kind of messy. It took a long time to work with staff and try to reestablish some relationships, and try to get things back on track from an administrative level. That took some time and effort, but others will write what they want, but I haven’t really reflected much on that much Jake other than you want to come in everyday and give it your best shot and do the best you could and let the chips fall where they may. If you can leave and just say that you can leave it just a little bit better, I think that would be all that I would want on my, I guess, summary of my performance.” 

MOREHEAD: “I would add one important thing which was fiscal responsibility. I think Greg over the years, took some criticism for the fact that we had a reserve. Some of you may remember the presentation that Ryan Nesbit, our treasurer, made about the importance of a 501(c)(3) having reserves for a rainy day. Well, it’s been pouring the last eight or nine months, and having those reserves has put us in a much better position than many other major athletic programs in the country that chose to go deeply in debt and not to have anything in reserve. I appreciate the fiscal responsibility that Greg provided to the athletic association, along with many other things of course.”

On what has been difficult about leading the UGAA through the pandemic and what has been a positive…

McGARITY: “Well Augusta [Stone], I think the toughest part is you know athletics is all about teamwork, togetherness, huddles, locker rooms—we just haven’t been able to experience that. That’s been the most difficult thing because, I mean the president and I aren’t travelling this year because we’re not technically essential and in the bubble. Those are the difficult things. I remember the president and I were texting each other on the first road game—it was like we had never experienced that before. We’ve had to learn how to adjust and so has everyone else. You’ve had to adjust. Our students have had to adjust. Our facility. Being able to pivot as quickly as the university has done is really a great story to tell. But, everybody has had to adjust. I think it’s made it very difficult. The positive part of it is it’s made us realize that we should be really grateful and thankful for things we probably took for granted. Maybe waiting in line at the concession stand or at the restroom or maybe being in a parking jam. We would cherish those things right now or go to a tailgate. So, I think the positive this is when we do go back to normal, I think people will be more understanding, will be more patient. I know that is a wish. I don’t know if that will come true. I just hope people will sit back and realize and look back on their time and realize that the things we probably took for granted, just are not taken for granted anymore and will appreciate those experiences there. The only way we could really do that is experience what we are going through right now—which nobody loves. I am hoping that will be the positive out of this and that athletics in general will be a little bit more quiet so to speak in the world of social media and these things. Again, that is hopeful thinking. I am not so sure that that will happen, but I am just hoping that that will maybe lead into a different perspective on a couple of things. Thanks for the question.”

On Josh Brooks and Darrice Griffin and what he feels what they can do in their interim role…

“We had to get Josh back twice. I remember one time he was actually in Dallas, Texas, fixing to accept a job with Jimbo Fisher at Florida State. We had to call him back and get him back in the fold. Then he went back to be the athletic director at Millsaps College and later at the University of Louisiana-Monroe, and we got him back again because we knew he was a vital part of our program. When he wasn’t here, we really missed his enthusiasm, he was like a pied piper. He had a lot of followers. Great leaders have a lot of followers and he was able to cultivate a large group of student workers and others that just enjoyed being around him. His personality was contagious and we really missed that. He’s brought that back to our program and is very popular among the staff. He’s just wired the right way. Same with Darrice. I’m telling you folks, she is a super star on the rise. Darrice is so valuable to us and having served at Florida in a backup role, you realize how important those people are to your program to make the athletic director’s job a bit easier. Darrice is just absolutely phenomenal and I’m so glad the president [Jere W. Morehead] did what he did with the interim basis because that’s a great one-two punch. Josh has ascended to that role. I feel like that was important for him to receive that kind of recognition and that acknowledgment that he was the number two person here. The title goes with that, but his responsibilities grew. He represented me when I was not able to be at athletic directors meetings or things of that nature. Very much like Jeremy Foley did for me at the University of Florida. I wasn’t in the chair, but I was pretty close to it. I was able to experience a lot of things I was not able to experience unless someone had been a great mentor to me, and that’s all I wanted to do, really to all of our staff is mentor them and help them achieve their dreams and what can I do to help them out.”

On the poetry book that is propped up on his window…

McGARITY: “It’s the Norton Anthology of Poetry. I have it up there and I brought it out because I think it’s kind of interesting to have. Claude [Felton] and I were looking at it, and I rarely open it in all honesty. I found out my schedule for the University of Georgia in 1973, the spring quarter, we were on quarters back then. I had three exams on the same day and I was making an appeal to my advisor George Abney, back in the journalism school back in the day. So, I thought I would have a little fun with the Norton Anthology of Poetry back there.”

*All of the following are comments from McGarity.*

On what advice he would give to the next person to fill his role…

“Well, two things really. One, is to treat others with respect and dignity. Acknowledge and appreciate those from your custodial staff to your highest paid employees. Just be a regular person, be yourself. Probably more important is just to exercise patience. When I first got here, I wasn’t the most patient person in the world and I wanted to micromanage. I did some self-evaluations with our staff and those came back as, you need to relax a little bit. So I learned from my staff because I wasn’t afraid to find out what I needed to learn and listen to. I would just say, first and foremost, be nice to people. You don’t have to say yes to everything but when you say no, it’s how you say no. I think patience is something that is really missing in college athletics now, as we’re seeing across college football. Before you make a decision, you have to be 100-percent certain that it’s not going to work. We’re not perfect. No one has every batted a thousand in the hiring process. I will say this, I was talking to the president [Jere W. Morehead] about it earlier that even for those head coaches that we’ve parted ways with, they’re quality people. You can go down the list and there’s not one person we’ve had coach here that you can say was a bad person or did things the wrong way. One thing that we should be proud of is that we’ve had people represented Georgia in the right way and we’ve been so fortunate there. Patience is probably in short demand right now but it needs to be a strength of a program.”

On how difficult his decision to replace Mark Richt…

“Those are the worst parts of our jobs because you know it not only effects one person, it’s a whole network of people. I remember sitting in this office right here, Mark was sitting right behind meCarla [Williams] was with me, it was eight-o-clock on a Sunday morning. I was very emotional. I had a hard time talking about Mark [Richt] and sitting across from someone that is without question, maybe the greatest person you’ll ever meet. A person that was selfless, his story, the adoption of his children, my gosh. It’s so difficult. I really struggled with that and it wasn’t easy to do but that’s the tough thing about being in a leadership position. Sometimes, it’s not the best thing for the individuals, you have to do what’s best for the institution. At that time, I thought it was the best thing for us. Those are the difficult things about doing it. It’s not fun, trust me. You get no sleep the night before and you just dread it. I just thought things had to change. Jury will be out forever on those types of things. That’s sort of the things those things happened in that period of time.”

On his thoughts on the men’s basketball program…

“We’ve been to the NCAA tournament, since my tenure, we’ve been twice and we’re 0-2. You may not be in it every year but you need to certainly be in the discussion and that’s never been a consistent part of Georgia basketball ever. Coach [Hugh] Durham was awesome, but we consistently weren’t really a top-flight team. We’ve had periods of greatness, well not greatness, periods of really good teams, but it was almost like a yo-yo. You were up one year, down the next and I just felt like Georgia could hopefully be consistent in that manner. I remember Coach [Mark] Fox when I came that he had a long, long runway. I know President [Michael F.] Adams at that time, had a long runway with Mark because he had to turn the program around that was nine or 10 years. After that time, we reached certain points and I just felt like we weren’t getting there. It was time for a change. I just think it’s so difficult when you’re trying to do… it’s kind of like Tom Black and volleyball. You go down the hallway at the Ramsey Center and you walk down the right side of the hallway and you see Jack Bauerle with Olympic Champions and gold medals and everything. 30, 40 years of it. You go down the other side and there’s really nothing in volleyball and what Tom Black has done is absolutely remarkable here. Especially having a good fall. Tom [Black] is going to be remarkable and we need Tom Black to stay at the University of Georgia but I think some sports are so much more difficult when there isn’t anything to fall back on, as far as historically. I think that’s a challenge in basketball. It takes time and Mark [Fox] was given a long run way and I feel the same way with Tom [Crean]. It takes time to really establish a foothold and make things work. If you watched our second half, I know it was just our first game, but you saw a different team the first half and second half Sunday afternoon. I think things will turn out perfectly fine in basketball.”

On what has changed in his 30 years in the business and what he anticipates will change in the next 30…

“What’s really hurt our, not only our profession, but the lives of young people is the social media trend. Kirby [Smart] mentioned it yesterday at the presser with Demetris Robertson, about the pressure that young people feel because it’s sort of an instant reaction to certain things. People hide behind other names, back in the day you used to pick up the phone and call someone, or do things in a different way. The accountability is just not there. I think when you see the lack of accountability and people aren’t afraid to say things on a iPhone or things like that, I don’t think they would say that on the street if they passed you. So, I think the sad thing about it is so many young people are attached at the hip to these devices and there are so many bad things out there. Growing up, thank goodness when I was in college, we didn’t have any of that stuff. I think that’s probably been harmful in some ways, even though it’s the way of our society now and that’s how we kind of function now. I hate the negativity that’s in there.”

“I think moving forward, we have to get out of this pandemic or there is going to be serious problems in college athletics. We’re going to be okay this year but if we go through another year of 20,000 people in Sanford Stadium, 1,600 people in Stegeman Coliseum and 400 or so people in Foley Field, it’s going to be hard to make ends meet. We’re fortunate to be able to have the resources this year, but it’s certainly not set up to do it multiple years. I think the concern there financially going down the road to support everything you’re supporting is going to be really important. Down the road, who knows what the NCAA will look like. I just hope we all get through the pandemic sooner than later because it certainly doesn’t need to stretch into the fiscal year 2022 or there is going to be severe consequences to everyone, much more than they are right now across the college space.”  

On whether the voluntary retirement Incentive Program had something to do with his retirement…

“Well first no, we’re not eligible for the voluntary retirement. I sure wish that was in play but because we don’t receive state funds, we were not eligible for that. So, that has nothing to do with my retirement. I wish it had because I’m sure there are others that would have jumped on that in a heartbeat. That had to do with the reduction in state obligations institutions but because there are no state funds involved in athletics, it was not applicable to athletics.”

On what he would write in a letter of recommendation for Josh Brooks…

“Those of us that have come up through the profession, I call it the grunt stage, where you start by picking up trash and you’re doing the little things and you’re seeing what it takes to make an operation work. If you’ve been in the trenches, you have an appreciation for those who are in the trenches right now. So, I think his ability to see the big picture is outstanding. I think those of you who have worked with Josh, know that he’s really great to work with. He’s really easy to get to know. I’ve seen him in difficult situations where he’s had to handle situations that might have been pretty complex there. I think he handles those well. He’s very smart, very creative as you all know. I think he has a wonderful family. Lillie and the boys are dynamic and I see his boys running around the tracks and having our son grow up in a college environment, we know that being inside the ropes is a perk we all have. He’s honest as the day is long, he’s just a good person. People get along with him, he’s not a big timer, he’s not a helicopter supervisor. He realizes that we’re all in support roles here and while we have to say no at certain times. Our job is to make people better. We’re not in it for ourselves. What can we do to help coaches and student athletes have a great experience and do our best to make our staff feel supported and doing whatever it is we can to make their dreams come true. I think he’s wired in that manner and has tremendous respect among his peers.”

On whether there was anything he didn’t accomplish that he wanted to…

“There are always things that didn’t happen, or that you wished would be completed. I can’t think of anything off the top of my head, I really hadn’t thought about that. Sure, you’d like to have a few more rings and things of that nature. You realize how hard it is to win championships. Whether that’s a SEC Championship, or a National Championship and to come so close, so many times across the board in all sports, that’s something you wish you could have had happen. One thing I always despise is the should have, could have and would have environment. If only that ball had been fair, if only we had caught that. You know those things didn’t happen so why even go there? All it does is take up time and burn energy. You have to flush those situations down the toilet and move to the next. Sure, there are a lot of things that were left undone but there’s not much you can do about those now than learn from them and move forward.”

On how difficult it was to balance financial responsibility and knowing he had to upgrade facilities…

“That’s a great question because I received a lot of criticism for, maybe not doing certain things. What I think gets lost in the discussion is, a lot of times, athletic directors want to accomplish what the head coaches want to accomplish. Certain things are important to some coaches and some are not. It’s not the athletic director telling the coach what’s going to happen, it works the other way in my mind. It’d be like me going out to the golf course and telling Chris [Haack], ‘Hey Chris, we’re going to redo all the greens and sand traps out there, because that’s what I want to do.’ Chris Haack would say, ‘no I’d rather spend it at the practice green.’ So, I’d rather listen to coaches and articulate, what do they want, what’s important to them and then we’ll get it done. I think we can say, on the record, that’s happened probably 99-percent of the time. We’ve been able to react to the vision that the coaches have for the program. I think that gets lost in the shuffle. It’s not the athletic director making the decisions of what we do. It’s basically, get in with a coach, understand what they need, why they need it and then develop a financial structure to make it all work. Thank God the Magill Society is here. We’re up to I think 64-million dollars in gifts and pledges for the Butts-mere addition here for an 80-million dollar project. We’re still generation significant donations. To think our donors paid for the indoor building, the west endzone and then this eventually and they’re not taking on any long term debt, is a tremendous tribute to those members of the Magill Society. Otherwise you’d have to tell the coach, we can’t afford it now, we’ll have to raise ticket prices to do this. To get back to your question, you take the advice and the counsel from your head coach and what’s important to them and then it’s our job to make that happen. If things don’t happen, that’s our problem and we deal with it. We’ve been very fortunate to be good listeners and do what our coaches have asked us to do from a facilities standpoint and I’m really proud of that aspect of our program. Unfortunately, others think that you should drain and you have all this money sitting there, why don’t you spend it on x, y and z. It’s just like you and I, it’s like everyone else. We’re not going to dip into our savings unless we really have to do it. We’ve just been very fortunate, but it’s something we take a tremendous amount of pride in, is the amount of construction we’ve been able to do over the last decade.”

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