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Greg McGarity’s Mixed Legacy at Georgia

Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity is retiring. Credit: Greg Poole

Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity is retiring, so it’s time to assess his legacy in Athens and determine whether we can call him a “Damn Good Dawg.”  

McGarity started working in the athletic department at 10 years old as a helper for the legendary Dan Magill. He lettered on the tennis team and served as a student assistant. After graduating, he moved up the ladder in the athletics department, from a sports information director to the women’s tennis coach to an administrative assistant and assistant athletic director before heading to Gainesville to serve as associate athletic director at Florida for 18 years. After the Damon Evans scandal, McGarity was brought home to serve as athletic director.

By looking at that biography, it appears he’s done more than enough to earn the coveted status of “Damn Good Dawg” by the Georgia faithful. However, a dive into his work as athletic director—which is all the hoi polloi will remember him for—shows a few accomplishments, but plenty of missteps and mistakes.

The thing he will be most remembered for is hiring Kirby Smart. So far, that’s working out splendidly. Speaking as a guy who said on many occasions that I wanted Texas coach Tom Herman (then at Houston) over Smart, I’m more than happy to eat my crow and say that I was dumb, and McGarity was right.

He also oversaw a significant increase in the budget. Considering that what the powers that be at Georgia want to see from the person sitting in the big chair at Butts-Mehre is more cash coming in and conservative fiscal management, let’s give him a win on that one, too. Some would even give him credit for the improved facilities we’ve seen on campus in the last decade, but I’m not quite as charitable in that regard.

Which brings us to the aforementioned missteps. He brought a load of cash into the athletic department, but he refused to make any use of it for far too long. Some will praise him for the vast improvement of the football facilities under his watch and for bolstering the infrastructure surrounding the football team since Smart arrived in Athens. But Georgia didn’t get an indoor practice facility until 2016, well after all the other power players in college football had them. Jeremy Pruitt, then UGA’s defensive coordinator, had to go to the media back in 2014 to push the idea to make sure the thing got built. (Though, to be fair, talks were already well underway about constructing one at that point.) It’ll be 2021 when we get the new $80 million football facility that will finally bring us level in the college football arms race.

There’s also McGarity’s dalliance on renovations for the Dan Magill Tennis Complex, a crown jewel for the athletic department for decades. His failure to spearhead renovations sooner lost Athens a regular spot in the rotation to host the NCAA Tennis Championships, which we’ve hosted 29 times. When we finally get it back in 2026, it will be nine years since we last hosted them. That’s the largest gap since we started hosting in 1972, the year before McGarity lettered in the sport as a student.

Even the hiring of Smart is a double-edged sword. Smart is a good head coach, but he wouldn’t be nearly as good without the financial resources provided to him—resources Mark Richt never got.

Then there’s the litany of other missteps I don’t have the space to go into in full detail: making Richt sit in on the press conference announcing his firing, capitulating to the NCAA when it suspended A.J. Green and Todd Gurley, capitulating to the SEC when it forced back-to-back away games against Auburn on us and getting nothing in return, overseeing the fall of the Gym Dogs dynasty and retaining Mark Fox for far too long while the rest of the SEC lapped us in men’s basketball.

McGarity managed the budget and hired Kirby Smart. That was enough for the powers that be at the university to keep him around for a decade and allow him to leave on his own terms, but not enough to endear him to many fans or garner much goodwill. In my mind, his tenure was filled with too many shortcomings and not enough accomplishments to anoint him a “Damn Good Dawg.”But spending most of your life working in the Georgia athletic department, lettering in a sport as a Bulldog and serving for a decade as the athletic director—the most powerful position at the university outside of president and head football coach—and not being considered a “Damn Good Dawg” by large swaths of Georgia fans? Now that’s an accomplishment.