As it turned out, the McGaritys received an unexpected cash offer on their Athens’ home while visiting their son, Alex, in Jacksonville in May. They ended up finding a home nearby in Ponte Vedra Beach that weekend, and Sheryl relocated there in June.
Alex McGarity also works for the Gator Bowl, so Catlett was well aware of the situation. McGarity’s last official day as Georgia’s AD was Dec. 31. That ended a career in college athletics that spanned five decades.
“Rick had always said, ‘whenever you hang it up, give me a call,’” McGarity said shortly after a mid-afternoon virtual news conference in Jacksonville. “I really hadn’t thought about it much. Then he called me right after my retirement announcement and asked me what I was thinking about it. We met on Dec. 22 along with some trustees, and it all just kind of came together. The stars just aligned.”
In Jacksonville, McGarity won’t be handling the complicated day-to-day intricacies of a 21-sport, Power 5 university athletic department. Gator Bowl Sports is a division of the Jacksonville Sports Council and oversees the annual TaxSlayer Gator Bowl, which pits an ACC team against an SEC team each year.
Gator Bowl Sports’ purview at one point included the Georgia-Florida game. But McGarity said negotiations for the annual regular-season game played Jacksonville every year but two since 1933 are now handled by mayor’s office. The contract between UGA and Florida is set to expire in three years. McGarity said he won’t be involved in negotiations.
At UGA, McGarity oversaw an athletic budget that grew to more than $150 million during his tenure. He also managed more than $300 million worth of new construction and facilities renovation projects, including the indoor practice facility, the west end expansion at Sanford Stadium and an $80 million football facility project that’s scheduled to be finished in 2022 but will be partially in use by late spring.
McGarity is looking forward to a slightly slower pace.
“I didn’t have to work, but it was just too good to pass up,” he said. “Rick’s been here almost three decades, and this is not a job that opens up (often). There’s a lot of familiarity just because of my relationship to the (Georgia-Florida) game, and I know so many people on both sides. And so it was a good fit.”