With a 10-5 league record following Tuesday night's thumping of Missouri, the Georgia Bulldogs are all but assured of being the pleasant surprise of Southeastern Conference basketball this winter.
If only Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity could express his thoughts.
"I'm not really commenting on anything until the season is over," McGarity said in a phone interview Wednesday. "I just want to wait until the season is over, and then we can talk about it. That's just how I would really prefer to handle it."
Two months ago, McGarity was getting asked questions of the job-security nature regarding fifth-year coach Mark Fox. The Bulldogs (16-11) had an underwhelming November and December, in which they went 6-6, suffering a double-digit loss to Davidson and a third consecutive defeat to Georgia Tech.
Georgia began SEC play with the worst RPI in the league, but the outlook for Fox and his program has brightened significantly. The Bulldogs have not been this good through 15 SEC games since Hugh Durham led the 1990 team to a 11-4 mark on its way to its one and only SEC title with a 13-5 mark.
McGarity said he refrains from comments during a season, citing an example of how a vote of confidence could mean different things to different people.
"I just don't want to say anything at this point in time," McGarity said.
Fox originally signed in 2009 for $1.3 million annually, with that contract running through 2015. After leading the Bulldogs to the NCAA tournament in his second season, he received a hike to $1.7 million and a one-year extension.
Georgia has just one senior, forward Donte' Williams, on its roster.
The Bulldogs thrashed the Tigers 71-56 before an announced crowd of 5,229 at Stegeman Coliseum, which is below Georgia's average of 6,638 for SEC home games this season. Missouri was the highest-rated SEC team that will visit Athens this winter, but Tuesday's game had a 9 p.m. tip on ESPNU.
"I think sometimes that is used as an excuse," McGarity said. "I know it creates hardships on people coming from Atlanta and that it absolutely affects them, but tickets were free for our students last night. We're not in an exam period, and I've always felt that with the student body, later is better."
All four SEC games with late Tuesday night tips drew below-average crowds this month, including Florida's hosting of Missouri on Feb. 4. Georgia played a late game Feb. 18 at Tennessee, with the announced crowd of 13,852 noticeably below UT's league average of 15,676.
"It doesn't help, but I don't think it should be used as an end-all excuse," McGarity said. "It creates hardships, but you still want your fan base there, especially your students and your locals."
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.