GREENSBORO — For Georgia athletics, the events of the past couple of days fit together quite neatly.
On Wednesday night, Josh Brooks was feted in New York as a finalist for Sports Business Journal’s Athletic Director of the Year. On Thursday, the UGA Athletic Association’s board of directors approved a raise and extension for the Bulldogs’ chief athletics administrator.
The board offered unanimous approval of a motion by UGA President and board chairman Jere Morehead for Brooks to receive a six-year contract extension and a $300,000-a-year salary increase to $1,025,000 a year. Brooks also will have the opportunity to earn an annual incentive bonus of $100,000 based on top-20 and top-10 finishes in the Learfield Cup all-sports standings and academic performances.
Brooks, 41, is entering his third year as Georgia’s AD. It’s his second raise and extension.
Morehead pointed out that Brooks ranked among the lowest-paid at his position in the SEC, and he will remain in the “lower tier” of league administrators.
“He’s down to two years remaining on his current contract, and all of his peers in the SEC have longer pending contracts,” Morehead said after the meeting was adjourned. “I thought it was important to show to Josh our collective confidence in his performance and our desire that he remain the athletic director at the University of Georgia for an extended period of time.”
Morehead said it should not be considered a competitive raise because of Brooks being sought-after by other programs.
“He hasn’t told me that he was being recruited (laughter), but it would not surprise me,” Morehead said with a laugh, turning his gaze to Brooks, who stood next to him.
“I can assure you it is not,” Brooks replied.
“I’m extremely grateful,” he continued. “I got into this business 20-plus years ago making $20,000 a year as an operations guy. I never got into this business to make money. I got into it to help student-athletes and college athletics. Athens, the University of Georgia, has been great to me. I want to spend the rest of my career here. I want to retire here. I think it’s a blessing.”
Brooks’ new contract ended a long morning of business conducted by the board at its annual end-of-year meeting at the Ritz Carlton Reynolds on the shores of Lake Oconee. The second part of the session will be conducted Friday morning. For about half of 30-plus current and emeriti members, there was golf Thursday afternoon.
Brooks’ deal was one of two matters that sent the board into executive session for 42 minutes. The other situation involved “attorney-client privilege,” according to Morehead when he asked for non-voting board members to be excused from the room.
The athletic association currently is having to react to a pair of lawsuits that have arisen in the wake of the alcohol-related, double-fatality crash that took the lives of a football player and a staffer Jan. 15. UGA has not finalized its legal counsel for defending those suits, and that was thought to possibly be the subject of discussion. Morehead would not say.
“I really can’t discuss that,” he said. “I’d rather that come from Mike Raeber (athletic association legal affairs) since he knows what can and cannot be discussed. Our general counsel provides any information there, but I don’t think I’m at liberty to discuss the legal matters.”
Raeber was not available for comment.
Otherwise, the board meeting was very much a “bragfest,” as Brooks had hinted it would be earlier this week. Such as:
- Faculty athletics rep David Shipley, a UGA law professor, delivered a glowing academic report that revealed that Georgia’s 21 sports teams collectively recorded a record-high fall GPA (3.22) and the second-highest spring GPA (3.19).
- Brooks shared that 18 of UGA’s 20 NCAA-sanctioned sports – equestrian is not recognized – qualified for NCAA postseason tournament play this year. Men’s basketball and baseball were the only two to fall short.
- Accordingly, the Bulldogs are in position to finish in the top 10 of the Learfield Cup standings and possibly as the top SEC program. Men’s golf, softball and track and field have yet to complete their seasons.
- Thanks mainly to the success of football, which won back-to-back national championships, UGA Athletics raise a record $97.7 million in Fiscal Year 23, with a month still to go. The Bulldogs also are at $107.8 million for the five-year, $300 million campaign begun one year ago.
Coming up short of standards has repercussions, too. Brooks has replaced seven of the 15 coaches he inherited when he succeeded Greg McGarity in January 2021. Three of those were for sub-standard performance.
On that front, Brooks was asked about the status of baseball coach Scott Stricklin. Stricklin just completed his 10th season with the Bulldogs but missed the NCAA Tournament for the sixth time in the nine it was conducted and has never made it out of an NCAA regional.
“I have not had a chance to meet yet with Scott,” said Brooks, who added that he intends to in the coming days. “I look forward to meeting with him soon and talking about the direction of our program.”
But the overall tone of the day was decidedly positive. It included slide presentations of $90 million worth of ongoing construction projects at Sanford Stadium, building a new indoor tennis facility and the sharing of renderings for $83.5 million worth of improvements coming online next for baseball and softball facilities.
With continued success will come more improvements, Brooks said.
“We are to high achievement in academics, to young people graduating, getting involved in the community and winning championships,” Brooks told the board. “But at the end of the day, it’s about where (Georgia athletes) are going to be 20 years from now.”
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Credit: Clayton County Police Department