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As Georgia AD knows, shortcomings of Penn State provide valuable lesson

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Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity has one basic rule that every employee in his department MUST follow:

"If you see it, you own it," said McGarity, who took over at his alma mater in August 2010 after serving 18 years as Jeremy Foley's right-hand man at Florida. "No matter what it is, from a piece of paper on the ground to somebody breaking the rules. If you see it, you own it, and if it is serious you are obligated to report it up the chain of command."

The events at Penn State, where the chain of command did not work with horrible, horrible consequences, have college athletics administrators like McGarity taking a second look at everything they do. Penn State, the university and the athletics department, will probably never fully recover from the Jerry Sandusky scandal. It has scared a lot of people and it should.

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"First of all, the Penn State case is unlike anything we've ever had in college athletics and all of us hope that it never happens again," McGarity said. "But as horrible as it is, you have to learn from it. You have to use it as a wake-up call to go over your own organization to make sure you have the systems in place to deal with something like it."

When the 267-page Freeh Report, which detailed Sandusky's activities and the subsequent cover up at Penn State, was released on July 12, McGarity had copies made for his entire senior staff.

"I told them to go over it line by line and take notes on the things where we might improve," McGarity said. "We are going to get together after vacation, compare notes, and see if there are areas where we need to be stronger and where we could potentially have problems."

McGarity said there are a lot of lessons to be learned from the Penn State case.

"If you do not have the right structure in place from the President to the [athletics] board, to the AD and then to the staff ... if that's not in sync, then there are opportunities to fail," said McGarity. "It has to start with presidential leadership. If you have a president who has his priorities in order there is less of a chance that something like this [Penn State] could happen."

Georgia president Michael Adams, a former member of the NCAA's Executive Committee, has made some unpopular moves concerning athletics in his time at Georgia. He forced former athletics director and Hall of Fame football coach Vince Dooley to retire in 2004. He was the force behind the hiring of basketball coach Jim Harrick, who he later fired due to NCAA violations.

But Adams has shown a zero tolerance approach to coaches or employees who behave badly. When athletics director Damon Evans, Adams' hand-picked successor to Dooley, was arrested for DUI while with a woman who was not his wife, Adams immediately fired Evans. A short time later he hired McGarity to right the ship.

McGarity said that if he ever reported a situation to his president like the one Tim Curley reported to Graham Spanier in 2001, "it would have been over immediately. Action would have been taken."

McGarity said that he is going to use this opportunity to remind everyone who works at Georgia of the proper chain of command and their obligation to follow it.

Among the findings in the Freeh Report was that janitors at Penn State witnessed Sandusky molesting a young boy but were afraid to report it for fear of losing their jobs. That kind of atmosphere cannot exist, said McGarity.

"My job is to create an atmosphere where our people can come to me if they see something wrong or if they do something wrong," said McGarity. "There has to be a free flow of information. People have to feel free to express themselves and we have to create a mindset where our people are not afraid to bring anything up. People have to have the ability to walk into my office and speak their minds."

McGarity said the Penn State case is a reminder that everyone who works in college athletics must accept their roles on campus.

"You have to understand that athletics, while it gets a lot of attention, is no more important than any other unit of the university," said McGarity. "If you start feeling like you're the big guys on campus -- if you have that attitude it will eventually get you into trouble."

Lastly, McGarity said he is going to use the Penn State case to remind his coaches than no one, no matter how successful, is above the rules. "Our position has always been that people are going to make mistakes and do things they should not do," said McGarity. "We tell them that if they are honest in the beginning and admit their mistake we can help you. I just tell them that I need to know everything so that we can deal with the mistake. How many times have we seen situations, like the Jim Tressel case, that if everybody had been honest from the beginning things might have turned out differently?

"Our coaches know that if they fail to be honest, their time at Georgia will be very limited."

The Tony Barnhart Show begins on Aug. 28 on The CBS Sports Network.


Tony Barnhart is in his fifth season as a contributor to CBSSports.com. He is a college football analyst for CBS Sports and The CBS Sports Network. Prior to joining CBS he was the national college football writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for 24 years. He has written five books on college football.
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