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Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Latest on the Coaching Rumors

Today, we come to the end of the regular season. Tomorrow, we're likely to start a whole new whirlwind of activity.

The rumor mill on the fate of Georgia's assistant coaches has been swirling for two full years now, and it's about to reach a fever pitch. It's hard to say what will happen, when it will happen or how dramatic the effects will be. But I can tell you two things for certain:

First, there will be changes. That doesn't necessarily mean that coaches will be gone, but while fans have taken much of Mark Richt's unflinching approach to this year's problems as a tacit endorsement of the status quo, I'm told that what has gone on behind closed doors is not so calm, cool and collected. Again, I have not been told that any changes are definitively in the works, but those fans who thinkRicht will not take a hard look at his program are underestimating him.

Second, a new set of assistants will not be an instant fix. A cursory look at the history of programs that have had massive coaching overhauls on one side of the ball or the other reveals as many instances where the head coach has been gone within a year or two as it reveals situations in which the problems were solved. Most fans look at coaching changes as a necessity, but there are drawbacks in terms of recruits being lost, the time it takes for players to adjust to a new system and the time it takes for the new coaches to adjust to their surroundings. In many cases, it's a situation of being careful what you wish for.

Beyond that, there isn't much that's set in stone for next week. If changes are going to be made, they could come quickly to avoid a lot of negative recruiting during the all-important contact period next week. Or coaches could stick around for the bowl game. Or changes could me made, then more happen among the assistants after a new coordinator is brought in. Or nothing will happen at all.

But while we're waiting to find out, here are a few issues I've come across in recent days...

What will happen with Rodney Garner?

In the discussions about Willie Martinez's future, Garner's name invariably comes up. The assumption is that if Garner isn't going to be offered a coordinator job, he might choose to leave rather than settle for being passed over for a promotion. This is worrisome for fans who have seen Garner turn Georgia's recruiting into a juggernaut during his tenure.

Garner was a hot commodity last season, interviewing for Auburn's head coaching job and being offered spots on the staff of both Lane Kiffin at Tennessee and Gene Chizik, after he was eventually brought in as the head coach at Auburn.

Even beyond recruiting, Garner's potential departure could cause other problems. Much was made a few weeks ago about Montez Robinson's potential transfer, and that issue would no doubt rise again if Garner left. The two are extremely close, and Robinson told me that had Garner left last season, he would have followed. Robinson is hardly the only Georgia player with close ties to Garner, so it could certainly shake things up if he leaves.

But there's more on Garner…

I spoke with Garner earlier this week about his interest in potential head coaching vacancies throughout the country, of which there will be more than a few at both theFBS and FCS levels. He was a bit reserved in his comments for obvious reasons, but he said he would not rule out pursuing another head coaching job regardless of any changes at Georgia. Beyond that, however, he was keeping quiet.

"My whole focus is Georgia Tech," he said. "Let’s get this behind us and we’ll deal with whatever comes.”

But there's even more on Garner...

Dean Legge at Dawg Post ($$$) submitted a Freedom of Information request for all the assistant coaches' contracts last week. UGA reported back that Garner, in fact, didn't have a contract.

This seemed odd, so I asked Garner about it. His response was short and sweet:

“Ask Mr. Evans."

I then asked if that meant that it was not Garner's decision not to sign a contract.

"Someone else would be in a better position to explain it,” he said.

Well, I took Garner's advice and talked to Damon Evans about it. Here's how that conversation went:

Me: Why is it that Coach Garner doesn't have a contract?
Damon: "He just hasn't signed one."
Me: So did he have a problem with the contract that was offered?
Damon: "No, he just hasn't signed his contract."
Me: So is that something you would have liked to have seen happen?
Damon: "I'll just leave it like this: He hasn't signed a contract."

Sounds like a great relationship, eh?

Of course, that leads us into our next big issue regarding potential coaching changes...

Will Damon Evans open up his wallet to bring in a top guy if a job opens up?

While most fans seem to be upset with Richt for his lack of interest in making changes, it might be fair to wonder what kind of resources Richt would have to work with should changes be required. I have had a couple of sources tell me they aren't sure how much money Georgia would be willing to spend to lure away a top defensive coordinator, let alone buying out a contract that might add to the overall price tag.

(NOTE: According to USA Today's recent analysis of coaching salaries, Georgia currently spends $2,029,816 on its assistant coaches, which ranks sixth among the 11 public institutions in the SEC. Florida ranks seventh, $65,000 behind Georgia, and Kentucky ranks eighth, $80,000 behind theDawgs.)

Hearing this struck a chord with me. I had actually talked to Evans in the spring about this very subject. After Lane Kiffin broke the bank to bring in a staff of heavy hitters at Tennessee, I asked Evans if he thought that might change the landscape of what assistants at Georgia make. Here's what he said at the time:
"My philosophy is this: We want to keep up with the marketplace. Three institutions don't set the marketplace from my standpoint. They have to do what they feel is appropriate for them, but what I like to do is look at the big picture and see where everyone is big picture and ask, where is Georgia in that marketplace: Lower, middle or upper? Wherever we are, do we feel comfortable with where we are? That's the question I have to answer every day. I tend to believe that we have kept our coaches in a good position in the marketplace.

"Do I think that marketplace is going to change? Yes, I think it's going to change. Will we at Georgia do what's appropriate for the University of Georgia with regard to that marketplace? Yes, at the right time, but I'm not going to overreact to what a handful of schools have done."

Of course, that's what Evans had to say this spring, long before Georgia was a 6-5 team and surrounded by coaching rumors. So, to be fair, I asked him again this week if he had changed his philosophy at all, and I didn't exactly get the response I was expecting.


"First of all, I never gave a philosophy with regard to that, and I don't know if right now is the appropriate time to be talking about that," Evans said. "We've got coaches that are under contract and are paid what they're paid. When you say 'philosophy,' I'm kind of lost when you say 'philosophy.'"

I then proceeded to explain exactly what I meant by "philosophy" and here's what Evans said:


"Let me say this: I never gave you a philosophy with regard to what we would do salary-wise," he said. "I said that I'm not going to overreact to what one or two institutions do. So I always say, what we'll do at Georgia is what we believe is appropriate for that particular coach and for that particular time."
Now, maybe I'm way off base here, but it seems to me when your comments begin with "My philosophy is this" and you go on to explain a philosophy, I don't see what's particularly confusing about me referring to that as a philosophy.

And just to be clear, I had emailed Evans the full quote for him to read, but he said he did not receive the email. Regardless, it seemed silly to argue over semantics.

Still, I think we can parse what he did say a bit:

-- "I'm not going to overreact to what one or two institutions do."

What this tells me is that anybody who thinks money won't be an object is not going to be pleased.

-- "We'll do at Georgia is what we believe is appropriate for that particular coach and for that particular time."

What this tells me is that a bump in the overall salary structure won't necessarily be ruled out for the right guy.

As to which of those two statements takes precedent, should a vacancy arise, will likely be the biggest factor in who Georgia would bring in to fill out the staff.

Will Mark Richt even make a change?

A year ago, Richt was definitive in saying that he would not be making any changes to his staff. This year, he has largely avoided the topic, save a few minor examples. When asked this week about how he would handle things, he said he wouldn't be letting public sentiment dictate his evaluation process.

“You can’t let public opinion run your program is probably the best way to say it,” Richt said.

That didn't exactly engender a ton of excitement in fans hopeful for changes, but Richt also alluded to possible moves earlier this year in what was perhaps his most damning statement about the staff, way back in mid-October.

"I think a lot of people expect blood," Richt said after a loss to Tennessee. "They want somebody to be let go or fired or that kind of thing, and maybe that's what needs to be done, but at this point right now, we're going to do what we know is the best thing to do and that's to focus on this game this week."

Well, in the two losses since then -- both of which involved Georgia allowing more than 30 points -- the blood lust from fans has hardly dissipated. And regardless of how muchRicht has avoided the topic in favor of a bunker mentality the past few weeks, he must be aware of the public opinion.

As for how likely changes might be, Dean Legge notes that at least one change ($$$) has come on Richt's staff in all but one season since he's been in Athens.

2001: Entirely new staff save Rodney Garner
2002: Tony Pierce dismissed
2003: Ken Rucker
2004: None
2005: John Jancek, Kirby Smart
2006: Tony Ball
2007: Stacy Searels
2008: John Lilly
2009: Bryan McClendon

Of course, it should also be noted that, of all those changes, Pierce's dismissal was the only one that wasn't voluntary.

What role will Damon Evans have in deciding what changes will be made?

I posed this question to Evans this week, too, and while he offered more support for Richt, he stopped short of saying that he wouldn't be involved in making those decisions.

"Like with everything, all programs are evaluated at the end of the year," Evans said. "As I've stated before, I have confidence that Mark will evaluate his program and do what he feels is appropriate, just like he does every single year. Right now I think our focus should be on the Georgia Tech game, and whatever we deem or CoachRicht deems appropriate, we'll handle at that time."

That's what we'll all be waiting for, no doubt. It should be an interesting week, regardless of what happens tonight.

And while you're waiting, here are a few more tidbits on the coaches that might interest you…

Per the USA Today report, here are the contract terms for each of Georgia's assistants:

CoachSalary
Max Bonus
Nat'l Rank*
Willie Martinez
$325,815 $92,150 34
Mike Bobo
$325,000 $92,150 35
Stacy Searels $290,000 $92,150 68

Rodney Garner

$290,000 $92,150 70
Jon Fabris
$202,041 $76,852 196
John Lilly
$165,480 $62,882 312
Tony Ball
$165,480 $62,882 312
John Jancek $163,000 $57,650 332
Bryan McClendon
$90,000 $34,200 657


*National rank also includes other income from things like shoe and/or apparel contracts, TV and radio appearances, speeches and public appearances or camps. ForUGA's staff, that amounts to $1,600 per coach, with the exception of Garner who is not eligible due to his lack of a current contract.

** All coaches are on one-year contracts, except Garner.

And finally, here's an email from John B. that I figured I'd pass along...

David,

I was searching the internet tonight for any info on the rumor that Willie has turned in his resignation effective after the Tech game....

I found this site for a petition to fire Willie.

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/3/fire-willie-martinez

Its been signed 517 times. The last one coming on Feb 19th. I couldn't help but reading some of these comments. It seems like they were ripped from this years head line. I particularly like #453. It seems like it is pointing to this year's defense.

# 453:
2:09 pm PST, Dec 5, John McCarthy, Georgia
For UGA fto ever challange for a National Title they must do the following: On offense, quit being nice to your opponents...GO FOR THE JUGULAR AND PILE UP THE POINTS! Otherwise theBCS will keep saying Georgia Who?. On defense, pull out some old film and learn how to play REAL defense without mistakes. Last but not least, Defense winschampoinships and has forever. Put your coach on notice...win here or go lose somewhere else. Earn your salary for a change! Coach the players to stop making key dumb mistakes. Quit giving the momentum back to the opponent. Theupperclasmen make to many freshman mistakes.

As a side note I wonder if that is "Big John" McCarthy from UFC fame making comments on the dawgs.

23 comments:

Matt said...

Based on this article, it sounds like garner is out of here. If that's the case, georgia will fall dramatically in the recruiting field. Not good news at all. Hope I am wrong.

Erik C. Kriebel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Randall said...

Nah, Big John would have said "LET'S GET IT ON!!!!".

If Rodney leaves, that would be sad, especially for his 5 girls. Georgia football is bigger than 1 guy and will survive. Have faith Dawgnation.

Anonymous said...

The sky is not falling, If Rodney Garner goes then he goes. Is he a helluva recruiter? Yes. But stop and think about his coaching for a second. Was he offered a coordinator position by anyone last year? From what I recall he was offered lateral moves. If you ask me his ability to coach might be something that people are weary about. Which is one of the reasons he was and will likely be passed over for the DC spot at UGA.

Here is one thing I think people are overreacting to in regards to Coach Garner. Two years ago John Lilly was brought in, he came from FSU, he was the Recruiting coordinator from 1998-2007. Most will agree FSU brought in a load of talent during that time. Problem was the likes of Jeff Bowden calling the offense.

Garner was going to leave UGA eventually. Why? In my opinion CMR knows he isnt coordinator material and was going to do what he could to keep him for recruiting purposes for as long as possible.

So if Garner gets a DC position out of this good for him. But don't be surprised if he is not that effective in that role.

Anonymous said...

Most fans don't want "blood," they want a fair evaluation of the coaches based on their results. Over time, a succesful coach sees beyond pledges of loyalty and determines which coaches translate their philosophies into performance on the field and which coaches cannot keep up. Those coaches who don't cut the mustard leave. So far, it appears Richt prefers to reform from within than to replace from outside. In a highly competitive SEC, one doesn't have a lot of time for inhouse reform. If no changes are made, we'll see if Richt can right the ship or if he merely puts patches on the holes.

S.E Dawg said...

My philosophy is (did I say that), if anyone is to be let go, then it should be after signing day in Feb.

As far as Coach Garner, he has learnd to play the game on how to get a pay raise. But also if the right situation presents itself he would probably leave.

If coach Richt doesn't think public opinion should dictate the direction of the program, public dollars will if you get my drift.

Ant123 said...

David, Does it seem to you that Mr. evans might not have been to happy about Garner's continually looking for lateral move jobs? Also as much as Mr. Garner is known for his recruiting. He is by no means the only recruiter. Coach Richt is usually the one that closes the deal after the other coaches have done their respective jobs. I would say we are blessed to have another coach on staff that has been a Recruiting Cordinator at a major program.

Anonymous said...

David, Thanks for asking the tough questions this week in Athens. I am sure you were not popular with Mr. Evans and possibly Mr. Garner. Let's hope MR learns from you and makes the tough calls regarding his program. Do you have any predictions? Based on the early part of your post, I get the feeling that Willie stays as DB coach and either Garner or Jancek get promoted. That would be the equivalent of putting a band aid on a laceration. Demoting a boss and putting a subordinate in charge of him is never a good idea.

Anonymous said...

I think that after all these years, Richt (and especially Evans) have grown tired of Garner's almost annual "holding us hostage" tactics regarding the DC position at other schools. If there is a contract on the table, obviously it was drawn up by the Athletic Association's Legal Department along the lines of what the other assistants work under. If Garner has chosen not to sign, this smacks of more "hostage" tactics. Lilly has been here long enough to take over his position. While CWM needs to be gone, at least he is loyal.

Anonymous said...

You guys act like Garner is "the only" recruiter on the planet. Ask yourself: What good does it do to have great recruiting with poor assistant coaches?

If Garner leaves, fine, he leaves. UGA will get another good recruiter.

But if they don't get another star recruiter, and we end up with a bunch of scrappy, 1star, no-star, 'no-names', if we have great assistant coaches, they will teach them how to be winners.

Billy Barou said...

In my opinion, Garner is the least expendible defensive coach we've got. That being said, if he leaves (and I think he's going to take the head coaching job at Georgia Southern FWIW) I think we go balls to the wall to get Travis Jones...

Anonymous said...

I agree with the other poster's here...I think John Lilly is the 'recruiting coordinator in waiting'...he certainly proved his ability to run recruiting while he was at FSU...

I wish Willie had taken the DC job at South Florida a year or so back...(he may not have been extended the offer)it sure would have made his current situation here moot...

later,old dawg

dawgjammin said...

i keep hearing willie will take the demotion to db coach and tubs is coming in...from good sources might i add...

Dawg4Life said...

I agree with everyone else, the fact that Gardner has not signed his contract just seems like he is waiting for something better in his mind. I would be more than happy to take a hit this year in recruiting and turn it over to Lilly. Hope the best for him but as stated earlier the program will move on without him.

Anonymous said...

Just a rhetorical question. Why do people start rumors?

Sam said...

Who was Tony Pierce?

Anonymous said...

David, you start by saying "There will be changes", yet not necessarily to the coaching staff. If not the coaches, then what are you referring to? Schemes, discipline, eating habits?

David Hale said...

Any of the above. I just don't think there's any chance we'll see the same approach to 2010 that we saw to 2009. That may mean some changes to discipline and scheme or it may mean real personnel changes. But I don't think there's any chance that Richt treats this season as simply an aberration.

Anonymous said...

If they are only one year contracts, I don't see the significance in whether he signed one or not. I mean, it doesn't make sense in most cases to fire someone mid-year, so whether he had a contract or not, he would be free to leave at the end of the year irregardless (love that word).

Anonymous said...

it seems like UGA has been doing a lot to keep garner and some of the other coaches around like naming people co-coordinators. if they don't want to get with the program and don't really care about the future of the program than they need to leave. they are a cancer that needs to be cured and we don't need them. we have the money to go after whoever we want and its about time time we spend the money to do it. florida was our only real competitor now we have big money tennessee and alabama to pass us. its step up and compete financially.

Will said...

Just an FYI for people who are rationalizing losing Garner because Lily was FSU's recruiting coordinator: When has FSU been down? Under Lily's recruiting, when they missed on a huge number of guys that normally would have gone there. And when are they coming back (getting Greg Reid etc.)? Not under John Lily.

Let's not be too thrilled about losing a guy like Garner.

Anonymous said...

Rumors are made because people just like to talk.

Ben in Georgia said...

Bryan McClendon makes $90,000 already??????