Ours are tumultuous times. SEC signal callers are preparing to be better wives, and non-AQ quarterbacks are marrying men---not that there’s anything wrong with that!---and the NCAA has gotten a tad more, shall we say, assertive lately, which adds another element of intrigue to the ongoing Mark Richt "hot seat" talk. Assuming the Georgia Bulldogs have a sufficiently successful season that Greg McGarity’s decision is not solely about wins and losses, but not one so superb that Coach Richt’s retention is automatic, to what extent will the final determination be influenced by the scandals now plaguing the Red and Black’s rivals?
Auburn is in the crosshairs, Georgia Tech has been put on probation, LSU has been put on probation, and the Volunteers put themselves on probation. Georgia, meanwhile, is enjoying an arrest-free offseason which, while not without casualties lost to team rules violations, academic ineligibility, or a general refusal to get with the program, nevertheless has featured no run-ins with the authorities over anything more serious than the possibility that a player accepted some plane tickets when he was with another school.
Bear in mind that, when Mike Slive succeeded Roy Kramer as SEC commissioner, he announced that one of his goals was to have every team in the league off probation within five years. Bear in mind, as well, that ESPN declared the 2010-’11 school year the most scandalous in college sports. That is more than a little bit of hyperbole, but, at a time when programs from Atlanta to Los Angeles, from Baton Rouge to Knoxville, and from Columbus, Ohio, to just outside Columbus, Georgia, either have been hammered or are waiting anxiously with the sword of Damocles dangling above their heads, we should not discount the value McGarity likely places upon the certainty that his head football coach will never, ever embarrass the program.
Remember the roundabout road McGarity traveled to reach the pinnacle of his career. He began in Athens, where he was mentored by Dan Magill, surely as straight an arrow as ever coached on a college campus. He went to work for Vince Dooley, and saw firsthand the damage that was done to the institution, and to the men who served it, by the Jan Kemp scandal. From there, it was off to Gainesville to become Jeremy Foley’s right-hand man. Foley took over a Florida program in turmoil after the Gators’ second NCAA probation of the 1980s, and he proceeded to turn it into a highly profitable, hugely successful, marquee athletics operation without ever once running afoul of the enforcers of intercollegiate athletics. McGarity came home when his predecessor resigned in the midst of a scandal.
Do you reckon that’s a guy who might be more patient than the average fan with a coach of unimpeachable personal character whose team is headed in the right direction, even if the trip from the outhouse back to the mansion goes a mite slower than the faithful would like it to go? Yeah, I imagine he might be, at that.