Georgia AD search under way as Greg McGarity era ends

Georgia Athletic director Greg McGarity waves to fans that begin to enter the stadium before a NCAA football game between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Auburn Tigers at Sanford Stadium on Saturday.  Curtis Compton /

Credit: Curtis Compton /

Credit: Curtis Compton /

Georgia Athletic director Greg McGarity waves to fans that begin to enter the stadium before a NCAA football game between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Auburn Tigers at Sanford Stadium on Saturday. Curtis Compton /

ATHENS – Greg McGarity believes the fastest route to Jacksonville from Athens is south down U.S. 441, then to Macon, then Interstate 75 South down to I-10 East. He should know, because he has driven that route a lot lately.

He was driving that way again Friday afternoon, and for the last time for a while. Officially a retiree Dec. 31, Georgia’s athletic director is permanently relocating to Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., just southeast of Jacksonville.

In McGarity’s wake is one of the most tumultuous years in the history of college athletics. And that’s nothing, he said as he drove south on I-75 on Friday, compared with what’s immediately ahead for Georgia’s next athletic director.

“I think it’s safe to say there’s never been a period in college athletics with so many varied and critical situations to be handled,” said McGarity, who has been a college administrator for more than four decades. “Every now and then, issues are always going to come up. But right now, you can barely count those things on one hand – NIL (name, image and likeness), transfer legislation, Supreme Court decisions, COVID-19 pandemic, economic challenges, media rights, all those things at one time – trust me, it’s a lot to juggle. It was difficult for me and I’ve been at it for over four decades.”

As for the direction Georgia should go with for a new AD, those converging tides of change are why McGarity believes the Bulldogs need a seasoned veteran of athletics administration to succeed him. He said whoever takes over at UGA needs to have a strong understanding of the inner workings and processes of Power 5 athletics.

“This is no time for a learning curve,” McGarity said. “Whoever comes in next is going to have to hit the ground running.”

McGarity’s opinion mirrors the one offered by UGA President Jere Morehead when he charged UGA’s 11-person advisory with vetting candidates.

In addition to senior athletic administrators already on staff at UGA, Morehead said Georgia would “consider sitting athletic directors at other major universities who have significant experience managing college athletic programs.”

Josh Brooks, McGarity’s deputy the past few years, will assume his duties in an interim capacity after the new year. He has applied for the job.

Brooks, 40, has been associated with athletics since he attended college at LSU. But he has been in administration only since January 2011. Before that, he served the Bulldogs as director of football operations under former coach Mark Richt. Brooks had brief tenures as AD at Millsaps College and deputy AD at Louisiana-Monroe. But the bulk of his experience has come as McGarity’s right-hand man.

McGarity’s confidante before Brooks was Carla Green Williams. She left to become Virginia’s athletic director three years ago. A UGA alum and native Georgian of LaGrange, she was considered one of the favorites from the outset. However, the former Lady Bulldogs basketball star and longtime UGA administrator effectively withdrew her name from consideration on Friday in a social-media message expressing her loyalty and gratefulness to UVA.

“(Virginia) gave me a transformative opportunity to lead one of the nation’s premier athletic programs at one of the nation’s best academic institutions,” Williams wrote. “… I consider myself blessed beyond measure to be here and I look forward to the important work we have ahead of us.”

Otherwise, many of the candidates that have been bandied about don’t seem to fit the established profile. Individuals such as Billy Payne, Chris Welton, Matt Stinchcomb and Jon Stinchcomb, all former UGA football players, have worked in peripheral athletics-associated careers, but have not been involved in the inner workings of college athletics.

What’s unknown at this point is what athletic directors at other major programs might have an interest. With an operating budget of about $155 million and nearly $100 million in reserves (before the pandemic), UGA’s AD’s job is considered one of the top five in the nation. For that reason, interest is expected to be overwhelming.

Managing all the applicants and getting through the screening process will take time. Otherwise, Morehead said he didn’t want the process to drag out long.

“I have asked the committee to move with deliberate speed,” he said. But he added that is very important to get it right.

“In this day and age, an AD at a place like UGA must be able to negotiate media rights and complex contracts; raise private support; finance and lead major capital projects; promote the health, wellness, and academic success of our student-athletes; and work closely with the NCAA and SEC on a variety of difficult issues, such as name, image, and likeness,” Morehead said. “These responsibilities require someone with a broad skill set and background to effectively partner with me in continuing to advance our athletic program.”

As for McGarity, he will continue working for Georgia until the end of the year, but he’ll do so remotely from his new home near TPC Sawgrass. He also plans to attend the Bulldogs’ bowl game, wherever it might me.

After that, he’s happy to be riding off into the great unknown. McGarity said he plans to go back to work as soon as possible but insists he does not know what he’s going to do next.

Whatever it is, though, he said it won’t be in college athletics.

“I’ve done that long enough,” he said.