McGarity Expresses Unwavering Support For Fox
Once again, University of Georgia Athletic Director, Greg McGarity, has stated his support for Coach Mark Fox in a Question and Answer session for Georgiadogs.com staff writer John Frierson. In a somewhat odd format, Frierson began by summarizing McGarity’s views of the program before ever repeating his interview. Frierson stated McGarity sees progress and stability, as well as great potential, in the men’s basketball program. Frierson then observed that McGarity, like most fans, wanted more out of the season than Fox was able to give, which was 18 wins against Division I opposition and an NIT bid that ended in a loss to Belmont in the first round of the NIT (admittedly under trying circumstances). He then noted that McGarity saw progress with the program because it finished 9-9 or better in each of the last five seasons, while the preceding five seasons had been an horrendous 26-54. Frierson pointed to Fox’s overall record in Athens of 145-118 and two NCAA bids. He concluded with McGarity observing that some “next step” was needed in program development.
In a grand total of four softball questions (which makes this a rather short and lame Question and Answer session), Frierson asked his boss what his thoughts were on the 2016-17 Season, Mark Fox’s standing and progress, what stood out to him about the program, what he would say to fans who might be wondering what the future held and, finally, what Stegeman Coliseum will be like next season. These are not exactly insightful, probing queries of the J. Reid Parker Director of Athletics, but John Frierson is not doing his best impression of Tucker Carlson, he’s interviewing his boss. Toe the damn line. Kiss the ring.
To summarize McGarity’s responses:
- McGarity supports Fox, who has attained a level of winning that he feels establishes a foundation from which to build.
- After 8 apparently “dry run” seasons, Fox now needs wins against top RPI teams and regular appearances in the NCAA tournament.
- McGarity acknowledged the level of disappointment with the program by some fans, though he shrugged it off without much comment.
- Finally, he spoke briefly of the cosmetic changes that will be made to Stegeman before next season.
These are not exactly surprising responses from Greg McGarity as he is a man who seemingly has no vision for the future of Men’s Basketball (or any competitive sport) at UGA. Anyone would acknowledge that UGA is in better shape in hoops than when Fox took over. The comparison of the last five years to the previous five seasons is disingenuous and strange to say the least. Let’s consider that Dennis Felton had a miraculous SEC Tournament run in the 2007-08 season and the following season was a lame duck season that had to take place because former UGA Athletic Director, Damon Evans, was stuck between a rock and a hard place due to poor timing of a personnel decision. Let’s also not forget that Dennis Felton, dealt with the aftermath of the Adams/Dooley/Harrick/Tony Cole debacle and was never able to put the program on firm footing.
It is easy to argue that during the “previous five seasons” referenced, Mark Fox, had his best team in Athens and it was comprised primarily of Dennis Felton sourced players. This is the 2010-11 Georgia Basketball Team with Trey Thompkins, Jeremy Price, Gerald Robinson Jr., Dustin Ware and Travis Leslie. It took Fox two seasons to reach an NCAA Tournament with Dennis Felton’s guys, and they beat Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia Tech and even won at Arkansas.
During the “last five seasons”, the teams were comprised of talent that Mark Fox had brought into the program. Georgia went to one NCAA Tournament during this time. Most interestingly, this is the time that Georgia Basketball was rising while the rest of the SEC was declining (except for the latter end).
Fox has been credited here and elsewhere for recruiting good kids who attend class, graduate, rarely get in any trouble and are great representatives of UGA. That is certainly part of what a major college coach should do. But these factors should not overshadow his lack of accomplishment on the court. He is paid big bucks, not to graduate players, but to win ball games at a pretty high clip. That? Fox has not accomplished in any meaningful way.
The SEC Is Better and UGA is Falling Behind
What McGarity fails to note is the trend – UGA’s record in the SEC has declined each year for the last 4 – from 12 to 11 to 10 to 9. Fox achieved just 9 SEC wins in a year when he was blessed with a pair of First Team All-SEC players.
Why the decline, you might ask. One might surmise that the SEC’s coaches have gotten better, as there has been an influx of new coaching blood into the conference in recent years – Anderson at Arkansas, Howland at Mississippi State, Pearl at Auburn, Johnson at Alabama, Barnes at Tennessee, Martin at USC, White at Florida, and now Cuonzo Martin at Missouri and Will Wade at LSU. The SEC as a whole could be argued to have improved, as evidenced by the conference placing 3 teams in this year’s Elite Eight, with South Carolina reaching the Final Four. Yes, UGA has fallen behind South Carolina, among others, as it finished ninth in the SEC for the 2016-17 season. Fox is the only coach in a Power 5 conference with a tenure of at least 8 years who doesn’t have an NCAA tourney win – let that sink in…. And Fox is 3-33 in his last 36 contests with Top 50 RPI opponents – an almost unbelievable stat. Yet, that is apparently good enough for McGarity, who is expressing his unwavering support for Fox. One has to wonder what it would take for that support to waver….
In his tenure at UGA, McGarity has proven to be one who reacts, rather than one who gets ahead of the curve, one who lacks imagination or foresight. UGA had the last Football Program in the conference to construct an indoor practice facility; UGA waited for years before upgrading the baseball facilities (and even then arguably went cheap); the indoor tennis courts badly need upgrading; Stegeman Coliseum went years before the improvements to the concourses and the glass additions (even then, when some of the glass panels broke, UGA went through two seasons with scaffolding enveloping the Coliseum); Lizzy Stemke had to be truly awful for two seasons before resigning from her post as Women’s Volleyball Coach (McGarity did not have the guts to fire her; she was his first hire); Danna Durante has failed to bring the Women’s Gymnastics to the glory of the Suzanne Yoculan era; and on and on…. McGarity brags constantly about his $77 million “rainy day” fund. Is he expecting a flood of biblical proportions?