McGarity: Ten wins important for Richt, Bulldogs

Georgia coach Mark Richt blamed himself for Saturday's loss to Georgia Tech when the Bulldogs couldn't hang on to a three-point lead with 18 seconds remaining in regulation. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

Georgia coach Mark Richt blamed himself for Saturday’s loss to Georgia Tech when the Bulldogs couldn’t hang on to a three-point lead with 18 seconds remaining in regulation. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

ATHENS — Georgia Athletic Director Greg McGarity said he’s not ready to evaluate coach Mark Richt and his staff for the jobs they did this season.

The Bulldogs lost to archrival Georgia Tech 30-24 in overtime this past Saturday to finish the regular season with a 9-3 record. Georgia went 6-2 in the SEC to finish second in the Eastern Division behind Missouri (7-1). Losses to South Carolina and Florida — teams over which the Bulldogs were favored by at least a touchdown — ultimately cost them the East title.

“I’m not going to talk about anything else other than what we know we have to do to get our 10th win and finishing as high as we possibly can in the rankings,” McGarity said in an interview with The AJC on Tuesday. “We’ll evaluate our season when the season is over.  Our focus is on winning 10 games and having a successful bowl trip.”

The loss to Tech, in which the Bulldogs led by three with 18 seconds remaining in regulation, proved extremely costly both financially and from a perception standpoint. Instead of being in one of the six major, or access, bowls, which come with $4 million paydays, Georgia will be relegated to one of the SEC’s six “pool” bowls. Those are the Outback (Tampa), Taxslayer (Jacksonville), Belk (Charlotte), Music City (Nashville), Liberty (Memphis) or Texas (Houston).

There is also a scenario in which the Bulldogs could get into the Citrus Bowl, at this point their loftiest possible designation. Based on where Georgia’s resume’, where it has played in recent years and general proximity, the Outback, Belk and Music City Bowls would seem the most likely destinations. Selections will be announced on Sunday evening.

Getting knocked out of the major-bowl picture also cost Richt personally. Based on the contract extension Richt received in 2012, he would have received a $100,000 bonus had Georgia landed in one of the six access bowls. His assistants have a similar bonus structure.

Whatever the destination, it will be a disappointment for the Bulldogs, who as late as this past Friday had an outside shot at getting into the College Football Playoff.

McGarity said some fans have expressed their disappointment to him in the form of letters and emails. “But not as many as you might think,” he said. As for his thoughts on decision Richt made in the Tech game and throughout the season, McGarity said he intends to keep those to himself for the time being.

McGarity said he talks to Richt every week during the season. They’ll meet for a year-end review the week after the bowl game, as is standard operating procedure.

“Our total focus is on our bowl game and our efforts to win our 10th game of the year,” McGarity said. “That dominates all of our thoughts at this time. That’s all our focus, along with recruiting.”

Georgia has won 10 or more games just 20 times in school history. Eight of those seasons have come in Richt’s 14 years as coach.

“Winning 10 games is important to everyone,” McGarity said.

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