SEC: Greg McGarity

Let's not sit here and act like 2014 wasn't a disappointment for the Georgia Bulldogs. There's a reason head coach Mark Richt sat so comfortably in a hotel meeting room in Hoover, Alabama, and delivered a confident decree about having the SEC East's best team.

And by all accounts, he was right ... well, for the most part. Talent-wise, no other team really should have touched the Bulldogs in a year in which the East was more of a punchline than anything else. But that's why they play the games, and Georgia didn't take advantage of the rest of the league's misfortunes, losing to South Carolina and Florida. Those teams finished the regular season with a combined record of 12-11, and Florida will have a new head coach in 2015. The regular season then culminated with a face-palming overtime loss to rival Georgia Tech.

The Bulldogs then watched as third-year SEC darling Missouri -- a team Georgia housed 34-0 on the road -- waltz into Atlanta and lost to Alabama.

[+] EnlargeTodd Gurley
AP Photo/John BazemoreGeorgia lost Todd Gurley, got him back, then lost him again in a seesaw season. But the Bulldogs can still get a 10th win with a Belk Bowl victory.
So the SEC fell out of the Bulldogs' paws and the College Football Playoff became an afterthought once November got going. Nobody around the Georgia program will say that the 2014 season worked out the way it should have, and 9-3 isn't a record this program envisioned back in August.

But that doesn't mean that getting to 10 wins isn't important, and this team has a lot of pride to play for, especially with their chips down at the moment. A victory in the Belk Bowl over Louisville, which just happens to have old defensive coordinator Todd Grantham on its payroll, on Tuesday would be a big win for a program that has seen more positive days.

It's almost as if the Bulldogs are dealing with a handful of issues all at once. The season ended in tumultuous fashion, but then Georgia lost longtime offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, who is now the head coach at Colorado State. Offensive line coach Will Friend will also leave for CSU after the bowl game.

The Internet is also ablaze with rumors concerning the idea of defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt leaving after just one year. Oh, and dynamic freshman Isaiah McKenzie has been suspended for the bowl game.

In a season that featured the unceremonious end of stud running back Todd Gurley's career in Athens, getting to 10 wins would be considered a major accomplishment at this point. And it's an accomplishment that should be an important goal for the Bulldogs.

Getting to 10 wins would give Richt nine 10-win seasons during his 14-year tenure in Athens. It would also give the Dawgs at least 10 wins for the third time in the last four years. Ten wins is a feat that rivals Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee didn't even come close to sniffing this season. Ten wins would help in recruiting, and it would inject some momentum into this team heading into the offseason and spring.

There should be plenty of motivation on the Dawgs' sideline this week. Quarterback Hutson Mason, who had the tall task of replacing record-setting starter Aaron Murray, wants to erase some of the pain of that Georgia Tech loss with a win over a solid Louisville squad. There's no doubt that Pruitt would love to win the defensive battle over Grantham, who is no doubt licking his chops at the opportunity to face Georgia's offense. And then there's just the simple fact that Georgia is a program that should enter the 10-win realm because it's, well, Georgia.

Athletic director Greg McGarity has already talked about the importance of 10 wins for the Bulldogs and Richt. What's coming down the tracks in Athens is unknown, but this program needs some momentum going into 2015. There will be a new offensive coordinator and a new quarterback taking over. With enough solid talent coming back on both sides, the expectations will continue to be high, but entering 2015 with a more positive outlook internally wouldn't be so bad.

SEC's lunchtime links

May, 28, 2014
With the SEC spring meetings in full swing in Destin, Florida, there is plenty of league-related reading material floating around the Internet. Let's take a look at some of the headlines coming out of Destin.
Remember Steve Spurrier's crack last year about preferring to face Georgia early in the season because you could usually count on a few of the Bulldogs' key players being suspended?

Well, it looks like the Bulldogs could be without another key player to start the 2013 season.

Place-kicker Marshall Morgan was arrested this past weekend and charged with boating under the influence (BUI) on Lake Sinclair. UGA athletic department policy calls for an automatic suspension from competition for all alcohol-related arrests. A DUI arrest mandates a suspension from 20 percent of competition dates, according to UGA’s student-athlete handbook. But it’s unclear if a BUI will be meted out the same way. Georgia opens the season at Clemson on Aug. 31 and then faces South Carolina the next week in Athens.

Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity told Chip Towers of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that “BUI” is not addressed in the student-athlete handbook and he is not sure what guidelines might apply. McGarity said the case would be reviewed by the “comprehensive action committee,” a panel of senior administrators, which would make a disciplinary recommendation to McGarity and coach Mark Richt. Morgan is the Bulldogs' only scholarship place-kicker.

Georgia was already going to be without starting safety Josh Harvey-Clemons in the opener against Clemson following Harvey-Clemons' role in a marijuana-related incident that occurred in a dormitory this spring.

SEC lunch links

June, 11, 2013
Hitting the SEC links on a Tuesday:
DESTIN, Fla. -- As the SEC bigwigs meet in sunny Florida for this year's spring meetings, talk continues about the league considering a conference-wide substance abuse policy.

If passed by the presidents this week, the SEC would be the first conference to have its own uniform drug policy.

Here's a little from our newser:
The penalties for a first, second or third positive test would be the same for each conference school and not determined by the individual schools.

It is not definite that the presidents will have enough support to bring it to a vote, but the fact it's even being discussed at the president level is significant, Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said.

"I don't think it's necessary to get down into the weeds as far as how many times you test, what are the measurements, what are the minimum [levels for a positive test]," McGarity said, "but we believe there should be some type of consistent penalty [for each positive test]."

Based on the substance-abuse policies obtained by ESPN from the schools' official websites or through public records requests, a student-athlete at Alabama, Arkansas, Florida and LSU is dismissed after a fourth positive test, while the remaining 10 SEC schools dismiss a student-athlete after a third positive test.

The schools' substance-abuse policies are for recreational drugs – such as marijuana, heroin, cocaine and ecstasy. Each university determines the punishment for each positive test.

This is a tricky situation for the presidents because schools have vastly differing opinions about drug testing and what they deem is the right way to do it. As ESPN colleague Brett McMurphy points out, it shouldn't be as difficult for the schools to agree on punishment, but the amount of testing, type of testing and what is considered a positive test could all be viewed differently by each school.

There's also a sense that some schools are too lenient when it comes to testing, and maybe some schools think a new uniform policy could be too much.

"Even if nobody else does [testing], we're going to do what we think is the right thing to do," Texas A&M athletic director Eric Hyman said. "If another school wants to do it a certain way and regulate it a certain way, that's their prerogative. What are we trying to do anyway? We're trying to help young people. I don't want another school to tell me how to do it."

Lunchtime links

May, 14, 2013
Wash that chicken salad sandwich down with some refreshing SEC links!

Lunchtime links

May, 3, 2013
TGIF! Now get that fancy Kentucky Derby attire ready!
The head football coaches in the SEC are some of the highest paid in the country.

Eight of the 14 head coaches in the league make $3 million or more per year.

The athletic directors in the SEC aren't exactly going poor, but many of the other athletic directors at traditional football powerhouse schools are making more than their SEC colleagues.

USA Today did a study Wednesday of athletic director salaries at the 124 FBS schools. According to the study, Vanderbilt's David Williams was far and away No. 1 on the list at $3,239,678. As is pointed out in USA Today's piece, Williams wore several different hats at Vanderbilt during the period covered by the university's most recent available federal tax return. He was vice chancellor for university affairs and athletics, general counsel and university secretary for Vanderbilt and its medical center as well as a tenured law professor. As of July 2012, Williams' title changed to vice chancellor for athletics and university affairs and athletics director. He no longer had the roles of general counsel and university secretary, but remains a tenured law professor.

After Williams, Florida's Jeremy Foley is the highest-paid athletic director in the SEC at $1,233,250. He's the only other athletic director in the league who makes $1 million or more in salary.

However, according to USA Today's study, Louisville's Tom Jurich ($1,411,915), Wisconsin's Barry Alvarez ($1,230,000), Nebraska's Shawn Eichorst ($1,123,000), Texas' DeLoss Dodds ($1,109,041), Ohio State's Gene Smith ($1,099,030), Notre Dame's Jack Swarbrick ($1,026,942) and Oklahoma's Joe Castiglione ($1 million) are all at $1 million or more. Michigan's Dave Brandon makes $900,000.

The Big Ten obviously values its athletic directors.

Below is a list of what the SEC athletic directors are making, according to USA Today's figures:
  • David Williams, Vanderbilt: $3,239,678
  • Jeremy Foley, Florida: $1,233,250
  • Jeff Long, Arkansas: $903,900
  • Dave Hart, Tennessee: $817,250
  • Eric Hyman, Texas A&M: $800,000
  • Joe Alleva, LSU: $725,000
  • Ray Tanner, South Carolina: $675,000
  • Mike Alden, Missouri: $674,317
  • Mitch Barnhart, Kentucky: $654,000
  • Jay Jacobs, Auburn: $615,000
  • Mal Moore, Alabama: $600,500
  • Greg McGarity, Georgia: $525,000
  • Scott Stricklin, Miss. State: $450,000
  • Ross Bjork, Ole Miss: $400,000

Missouri's Mike Alden ($347,915), Alabama's Mal Moore ($255,000) and Kentucky's Mitch Barnhart ($240,000) have the largest maximum bonuses in their contracts.

Richt's new deal leaves door open

June, 8, 2012
Now that Georgia coach Mark Richt’s contract has at last been finalized, what’s it mean for all parties involved?

For starters, Richt – who’s entering his 12th season at Georgia – no longer has a buyout if he chooses to walk away or decides he wants to go coach elsewhere or maybe even go into missionary work full time.

[+] EnlargeMark Richt
Jeff Griffith/US PresswireCoach Mark Richt has renegotiated his contract with Georgia.
Keep in mind that Richt has said repeatedly that Athens is his home, and he has numerous family members living within minutes of him. Plus, his two younger kids are entrenched in their respective schools, and Richt in no way wants to uproot them.

Richt’s salary will essentially stay the same ($2,811,340 per year), so he didn’t get any more guaranteed money despite playing in the SEC championship game last season. His opportunity to earn more money will come in the incentives part of his financial package. He can make up to $800,000 in incentives for such accomplishments as winning the SEC championship, winning the BCS national championship and appearing in BCS bowl games. That’s double from what he could have made in incentives under his old deal, which was set to expire following the 2013 season.

Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity, who did get a raise, emphasized Thursday to reporters that the new contract was a win-win for both sides.

And from a recruiting standpoint, it’s good that this thing was finally put to bed after six months of discussions. Of course, when you look at the way the Bulldogs are recruiting right now (No. 5 nationally in ESPN’s early rankings), it’s hard to say they’ve been negatively affected in any way.

What I read into this new deal is that the door has been left open for both sides to walk away in a year or two if they see fit. When you look at all the numbers involved and how they break down, it almost looks like post-2013 is when Richt will be re-evaluated the closest.

It would take a dreadful season in 2012 for Georgia to fire Richt, and I think we’d all be shocked if the Bulldogs aren’t right there this November competing for the Eastern Division title.

But once we get past the 2013 season, the buyout money Georgia would owe Richt if he were to be fired starts to go down dramatically.

Georgia would owe him $4.8 million if he were to be let go after the 2012 season, and it drops to $2.4 million following the 2013 season and then decreases by $800,000 each year afterward.

One thing we’ve learned in the SEC is that schools aren’t hesitant about paying truckloads of money to send coaches packing if they’re convinced those coaches aren’t the long-term answer.

Tennessee paid Phillip Fulmer $6 million to walk. Auburn paid Tommy Tuberville $5.1 million after he “resigned.” Sylvester Croom pocketed a $3.5 million buyout to “resign” at Mississippi State.

And just this past season, Houston Nutt walked away with $6 million after being fired by Ole Miss. Nutt also collected $3.5 million when he and Arkansas parted ways following the 2007 season.

So schools in this league will clearly pay whatever they feel like they need to pay to get it right in football.

We’ll see where Georgia and Richt are in a year or two. McGarity acknowledged Thursday that this new deal would cost Georgia less money and Richt less money if the two sides decide it’s time to go their separate ways.

There’s also the flip side. If the Bulldogs go on to win the SEC championship in 2012 and have a great season, this is all a moot point. Georgia would then have to pony up and sweeten Richt’s deal considerably.

McGarity said he didn’t see “anything negative here at all” regarding Richt’s new contract, which now runs through 2016.

I wouldn’t call it negative, either. To me, it’s more reality.

And that reality is that McGarity and the Georgia administration simply aren’t ready to throw a lot of guaranteed money at Richt right now because they don’t want to be stuck with a pricey buyout if they decide two years from now that Richt isn’t the answer long term.

SEC lunch links

June, 7, 2012
A little SEC linkage on a Thursday:

DawgNation links: Recruiting mailbag

May, 31, 2012
Kipp Adams writes Insider: The DawgNation recruiting mailbag this week covers several questions that all seem to branch from one potentially cataclysmic recruiting event: Four-star commit Derrick Henry could jump ship and roll to the Tide.

Radi Nabulsi (Video): Lifelong Gators fan D.J. Smith talks about his latest offers, from Florida and Georgia.

David Ching writes: For UGA's Athletic Association staff, finding new and innovative ways to keep fans coming back -- and coming back happy -- is at the forefront of the school's ever-expanding spectator amenities.

DawgNation links: SEC meetings loom

May, 28, 2012
David Ching writes: A mountain of decisions stretching far beyond the obvious conference football schedules awaits SEC coaches and administrators at the SEC meetings this week in Destin, Fla.

Kipp Adams writes Insider: ESPN 150 athlete Vonn Bell is in no rush to make a decision on his college career, and he’s soaking up plenty of attention in the process.
GREENSBORO, Ga. -- The Mark Richt contract news out of Thursday’s University of Georgia Athletic Association Board of Directors meeting is that there is still no news.

“We are so close to getting the final T's crossed and I's dotted,” athletic director Greg McGarity told the board. “We’re there. It’s just a matter of legal wording that needs taking care of and deal points that have all been covered.”

McGarity informed the board that Richt’s $2.8 million base pay “basically stays where it is right now,” although the two sides are finalizing several changes to Richt’s deal.

UGA announced on March 12 that it was adding three years to the football coach’s contract, extending his deal through 2016. McGarity said Thursday that while Richt’s base salary will remain the same, his contract incentives -- pay bumps for accomplishments like BCS and SEC championships and bowl appearances -- will double.

“All the important performance bonuses, which means bowls, which means BCS championship appearances, they really increased 100 percent,” McGarity said. “One of the things was basically rewarding excellence. I don’t think anybody has a problem at all when we do great things as far as competing for SEC championships, participating in BCS bowls, so there is a lot of incentive in that.”

McGarity added that “there will be some adjustments” to Richt’s buyout and that the language in the document will be much simpler than in the coach’s current contract.

McGarity said he hopes to have versions of contracts for Richt and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham -- who he confirmed is in line for a raise to his $750,000 salary -- available for public consumption in the near future, but the legal wrangling over final details prevented them from being completed in time for Thursday’s board meeting.

He said the holdup is not the product of contentious negotiations between UGA and the Richt and Grantham camps.

“We all agree on everything,” McGarity said. “It’s just a matter of going through that process of our legal counsel. I don’t know what their caseload is like. As long as it’s all agreed upon, everybody is sort of in a good place.”

McGarity first revealed that UGA would revisit the coaches’ contracts nearly seven months ago and has insisted for months that negotiations moved along smoothly. UGA president Michael Adams reiterated McGarity’s point that the lack of resolution is not a source of frustration on his end.

“This is simple nitpick lawyering at this point,” Adams said. “If it was something else, I think I would tell you. But these things sometimes just take more time than when you get into them you think they’re going to. They’re complicated. These are high-profile people. They have a lot of obligations to us and we require a lot of obligations to them.”

No raise for Georgia's Mark Richt

May, 24, 2012
When is a brand new contract not exactly a ringing endorsement of a coach?

When that coach, heading into his 12th season at the school and coming off that school’s first appearance in the SEC championship game in six years, doesn’t get any more guaranteed money in his new deal.

Some of the details of Georgia coach Mark Richt’s new contract started to trickle out Thursday following the UGA Athletic Association board of directors meeting in Greensboro, Ga.

[+] EnlargeMark Richt
AP Photo/Wade PayneMark Richt's new deal will keep him in Athens through 2016.
The headline grabber was that Richt’s salary would essentially stay the same, according to Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity, although Richt’s incentives package will be sweetened.

Richt’s annual salary is right around $2.9 million.

These contract talks have been ongoing for nearly six months, and McGarity said Thursday that the deal, which will keep Richt under contract through 2016, was still not finalized.

McGarity also said that Richt’s buyout would be adjusted, and it will be interesting to see how that buyout is adjusted.

Extra years on a contract do not amount to much if there isn’t guaranteed money attached to those extra years.

If you’re looking at this whole thing from Georgia’s perspective, it’s understandable that they’re hesitant to load up Richt’s contract with a bunch of guaranteed money. After all, there was considerable rumbling prior to last season that Richt was teetering coming off the Bulldogs’ 6-7 finish in 2010.

It only got worse after the Bulldogs started 0-2 last season before reeling off 10 straight wins and playing their way into the SEC championship game.

So here we are, and the position of the Georgia brass is pretty clear at this point: They don’t mind paying more money to Richt, but only if he wins SEC championships and goes to BCS bowl games.

As McGarity was quoted as saying, it’s about “rewarding excellence.”

But it’s also a telltale sign that McGarity and the movers and shakers at Georgia aren’t convinced that Richt is their coach for the long-term future.

Otherwise, this deal would have been done a long time ago.

SEC lunch links

May, 15, 2012
A check of what's shaking in and around the SEC:

Missouri quarterback Corbin Berkstresser is arrested and charged with leaving the scene of an accident.

Arkansas receiver Kane Whitehurst has been granted his release and plans to transfer.

Vanderbilt is off to an early start on the 2013 recruiting trail.

Auburn defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder is looking to stock up at safety.

Auburn's Gene Chizik says his young Tigers are growing up.

The SEC is making officiating adjustments with Missouri and Texas A&M coming aboard.

The Florida influence is apparent in the management style of Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity.

Florida could have as many as nine players selected in next year's NFL draft.