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McGarity has whirlwind first year

Staff Photo: David Friedlander. University of Georgia Athletic Director Greg McGarity speaks to the Rotary Club of South Gwinnett on Thursday at Northwood Country Club.

Staff Photo: David Friedlander. University of Georgia Athletic Director Greg McGarity speaks to the Rotary Club of South Gwinnett on Thursday at Northwood Country Club.

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Athletics directors at major NCAA programs seldom have much down time.

That was one of the first points University of Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity made when addressing the Rotary Club of South Gwinnett on Thursday.

"It's hard to believe the Boise State game (in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic) is just 76 days away," McGarity said opening his address to the dozens of Rotary Club members gathered at Northwood Country Club.

That the Bulldogs' 2011 season-opening football game is rapidly approaching just illustrates what a whirlwind year it's been for McGarity.

It was just more than 10 months ago he was selected to return to his alma mater after 18 years at archrival Florida following the DUI arrest and subsequent resignation of Damon Evans, and only about nine months since he officially assumed the reins.

Since that time, the 1976 UGA grad and former Bulldog tennis player has had little time to settle into his new job.

Among the positive things he's seen in his short tenure are the numerous strong finishes by Bulldog programs, including runner-up finishes by the men's golf team at the NCAA national championship tournament and the women's swimming and diving team at the NCAA meet, plus top-10 national finishes in men's and women's tennis, softball and women's basketball.

Of course, an athletics director is also responsible for the negatives that surround college athletics these days, such as recent NCAA investigations that have already or will included sanctions against big-time programs like football teams at Southern California and Ohio State, plus men's basketball and football teams at Tennessee.

And then there are brushes with the law from individual players from different sports, including several football Bulldog football players over the past few seasons.

McGarity vowed to remain vigilant to make sure Georgia's programs will have to deal with fewer negative issues in the present and future.

"I had the question this morning is, 'What are you doing as athletic director to make sure we don't have the same issues?'" McGarity said. "I kind of shook my head and said, 'One of the things that keeps you up at night as an athletic director is that there are over 500 student athletes with over 300 staff members and the boosters and supporters and everybody (involved in) our program, the numbers are hard to get your hands around.'

"You never know when you have a rogue booster, a rogue staff member, you may have a player that is not doing the right thing. And what you've got to do is just be persistent in your effort to maintain accountability. ... I don't think there's any question that at the University of Georgia, we don't need to cheat. We have all the resources, we're able to pay (coaches and staff members) good salaries, we have the tremendous support that we have. ... So, we just have to do the right thing and outwork everybody."

McGarity also touched on other issues during Wednesday's address to the Rotary Club, including making college athletics more fan friendly.

"No question the biggest challenge we're going to have moving forward is ... to really focus on customer service. ... So often in college athletics, we maybe take it for granted that (fans) are just going to show up.

"What we're starting to see is more emphasis on customer service. ... We're really going to be trained on that starting this summer. ... It ought to be an exciting time."

McGarity was also asked about his opinion of scrapping the BCS bowl system and going to a playoff for the highest level of college football.

"Well, I'm against that," McGarity said. "The only reason is because that would destroy bowl games as they are today. There are 35 bowl games. Are there too many? Probably so. ... I'm for maybe tightening that up, but I think the bowl experience -- at the end of the day, 35 teams end the season on a very high note, instead of one."

McGarity left a strong impression on many of the Georgia fans among the Rotary Club members and their guests in attendance, including Michael Sullivan, a Lilburn resident and attorney with the firm of Andersen, Tate and Carr, a self-described "double dog" who has his undergraduate and law degrees form UGA.

"I'm very excited about him being here," Sullivan said. "It's great to have a Bulldog as the athletic director. It looks like he's moving (the UGA program) in the right direction."