The decision to say goodbye to the past was made Wednesday. Now the questions surrounding Georgia’s future begin in earnest.
With the dismissal of defensive coordinator Willie Martinez and defensive assistant coaches Jon Fabris and John Jancek, the Bulldogs and head coach Mark Richt are now in the market for replacements, and athletics director Damon Evans said they’ll be given every resource necessary to land the right men for the job.
“I told Mark to go out and try to find the best coaches possible and that we’ll be very competitive and help him out and do what we need to do to attract the top candidates here,” Evans said. “I’ve always said I want us to be competitive salary-wise in the marketplace, and that’s not going to hold us back.”
While Georgia hasn’t necessarily been conservative in the salary structure for assistant coaches, the marketplace has shifted during the past few years.
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Martinez earned $325,815 for this past season as a base salary, and all of Georgia’s coaches have worked under year-to-year contracts. That has been competitive in the SEC, but the dynamics shifted when Tennessee and Auburn brought in new staffs with lofty salaries last year.
Georgia ranks sixth among the 11 public institutions in the SEC for which salaries are available. Bringing in a top-flight defensive coordinator may not mean the Bulldogs need to drastically adjust their outlay of $2,029,816 on assistants. But with vacancies at top programs such as Florida State and Notre Dame and more openings on the horizon as head-coaching jobs get filled around the country, Evans said he understands that Georgia will need to be competitive in whatever offer it makes.
“Obviously, with all these different jobs that may be opening up we want to be extremely competitive,” Evans said. “We want to position ourselves where we’re an elite institution and we’re going to do that. I believe if you have to pay to get certain individuals, then that’s what you have to do.”
The names churning through the rumor mill offer a bevy of possible candidates, both in terms of credentials and salary demands. Long-shot candidates such as Will Muschamp, the defensive coordinator at Texas or Brian Van Gorder, a former Georgia coach now with the Atlanta Falcons, might require enormous increases in salary over what Martinez earned. Lower-tier names at smaller schools might see the $400,000 benchmark as a windfall.
At this point, however, the names have gone little beyond Internet message-board speculation, and Richt said he hadn’t spoken with any candidates before he informed Martinez, Jancek and Fabris on Wednesday that their contracts would not be renewed.
While Richt isn’t setting a timetable for new hires, however, he is setting a standard for the type of coaches he expects to bring on board.
“The bottom line is we want to get back to the top of the Eastern Division and the top of the SEC,” Richt said. “That’s the ultimate goal, that’s what we’re going after, so we want to bring in the finest coaches and men we think we can.”
The parameters for just who that might be remain broad, although Richt said the future defensive coordinator would have to share his general philosophy on coaching and how he wants the program to be run. Beyond that, the possibilities seem endless, and Evans said he won’t be helping to narrow the candidates.
“This is Mark’s decision,” Evans said. “I’m there to counsel and provide advice.
“I want to trust our head coaches to know what they need to do with their assistant coaches. That’s my philosophy.
“That’s part of his job responsibility is to be able to hire and fire his assistant coaches. My job is to deal with the head coaches, and that’s what I’m going to stick with.”