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University of Georgia president Jere Morehead, left, remains confident in an athletic program headed by Greg McGarity, right, despite a difficult 2016-17 year.

DOGGONE YEAR

Georgia failed to produce a winning SEC record this school year in any of the four major sports:

SPORT SEC MARK OVERALL

Football 4-4 8-5

Men’s Basketball 9-9 19-15

Women’s Basketball 7-9 16-15

Baseball 11-19 25-32

 

The University of Georgia has experienced mediocre seasons in multiple sports this school year, and athletic director Greg McGarity insists that will not continue.

Georgia did not have a winning Southeastern Conference record in football, men's basketball, women's basketball or baseball in 2016-17, with Scott Stricklin's baseball team bounced by Mississippi State this week in the league tournament to finish 25-32 overall. Even Georgia's gymnastics program, which leads the nation with 10 national titles, went just 4-3 in SEC meets and 11-9 overall.

McGarity addressed the difficult year during Thursday's spring meeting of the university's athletic association board of directors on St. Simons Island.

"The responsibility to enhance our strengths and address our weaknesses lands on my desk," McGarity told the gathering. "I know our program is not reaching its full potential. Our staff spends every day committed to moving our program forward, both collectively and sport by sport, and when we fall short of expectations, we are there to provide support, and when we win, we celebrate alongside each sport.

"Regardless of the outcome, we remain loyal and dedicated to fully supporting our student-athletes and our coaches, and I feel confident that we will see marked improvement in numerous sports in the near, if not immediate, future. Administratively, we continue to be committed to providing the resources necessary to make it happen."

Those resources will be part of a $127.59 million budget approved Thursday for the 2018 fiscal year, an increase of $4.45 million from this year's budget.

The Bulldogs ended their football season in the Liberty Bowl and their men's basketball season in the National Invitation Tournament, while the women's basketball program missed the NCAA tournament for only the second time since the 1994-95 season.

Georgia is 24th in the latest NACDA Directors' Cup standings and is on pace for its worst finish in more than 20 years. The university finished 10th as recently as 2013.

Both the men's and women's swimming programs remain top-10 powers, and the men's tennis team recently reached the national semifinals. The men's golf team has fallen off in recent years, though, and the softball team finished last in a loaded conference this year after advancing to the Women's College World Series last spring.

Fans and media have been critical of Georgia's athletic showings, but so have former athletes such as PGA Tour golfer Kevin Kisner, a 2006 Georgia graduate who is 17th in the FedEx Cup standings.

"When is the last time we have heard something positive from the UGA athletic administration?" Kisner posted on Twitter earlier this month.

McGarity recently hired 2004 Olympic medalist and four-time All-American Courtney Kupets to take over the gymnastics program she once led to NCAA titles as a performer, but there apparently will be no change on the baseball front. The Athens Banner-Herald reported Thursday that Stricklin, who is 104-119-1 overall and 43-75-1 in SEC play with the Bulldogs, will return for a fifth season.

Stricklin has yet to reach the NCAA postseason with a program that won the 1990 College World Series and finished runner-up in 2008.

University president Jere Morehead expressed his confidence in the athletic program last month, and it doesn't sound like the 62-year-old McGarity has plans to step aside any time soon. McGarity, whose biggest transaction as Georgia AD was firing football coach Mark Richt and hiring Kirby Smart after the 2015 regular season, is finishing up his seventh year in the role.

McGarity recently was asked by the Athens Banner-Herald how long he would like to work as AD at his alma mater.

"I haven't even thought about that," McGarity told the paper. "I don't think about that. I think once you start thinking about that, then you're focused on the wrong things. I don't really focus on that whatsoever.

"I tackle the next day. You try to plan ahead in your department as much as you can for down the road."

Football opener set

ESPN will televise Georgia's 2017 season opener against Appalachian State on Sept. 2 at Sanford Stadium, which will kick off at 6:15 p.m. Georgia's second game, at Notre Dame on Sept. 9, was previously announced as a 7:30 p.m. kickoff, with the game to be shown on NBC.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

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