I haven’t met University of Georgia Athletic Director Greg McGarity, but I give him high marks for the way he has handled the blowback from the ludicrous Ludacris debacle.
Evidently, he heard from a lot of you who were appalled at the idea of giving the rapper $65,000 to perform for 15 minutes during the G-Day Game last month, and were stupefied at the additional demands contained in a "rider," which might not have seen the light of day but for an Open Records Act request by The Telegraph of Macon. I had a few choice words in this space a few weeks back about the ridiculous situation.
In addition to paying the guy $4,333.33 a minute, the UGA athletic department agreed to provide Ludacris and friends with dinner for 10 people, complete with grilled chicken, chicken wings, pasta, brown rice, mixed vegetables, fruit salad, mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes, a loaf of whole-grain bread, organic peanut butter and organic jelly, or, in lieu of fine dining, to pay the staff members $40 each.
In addition, Ludacris required a rechargeable toothbrush and toothpaste, two bottles of vodka, two bottles of cognac, two gardenia-scented candles, six white T-shirts, two cases of Snapple, two packs of batteries, one deodorant and a box of condoms. The only thing that seemed to be missing was a partridge in a pear tree.
In a meeting with the athletic association board of directors, McGarity said, "I do want to take this opportunity to apologize to our board for mistakes we made with certain aspects of the details of an entertainment agreement. Few things in my professional life have bothered me more than this situation. There are no reruns in life, so we need to turn the page, learn from our mistakes and do everything we can to make sure errors of this nature do not reoccur."
Words are cheap, but I think he means it.
One alumnus in Jacksonville, Florida, who saw my screed on the ludicrous Ludacris deal in the Brunswick News, wrote a stinging letter of disapproval to McGarity and UGA President Jere Morehead and sent me a copy. He later shared with me McGarity’s response back to him. It wasn’t your typical "thank you for letting us know of your concerns, which are important to us" kind of pap that usually comes out of our politicians’ offices when they get a constituent comment they never read. Not this one. It was a handwritten reply from McGarity and a straightforward apology. I don’t know about the reader, but I was impressed.
McGarity later said, "We just didn’t pay enough attention to the details, and that’s my job regardless of who signs it."
I recall a conversation with John Clendenin, the CEO of BellSouth Corp. when I was in his employ and before the company was suckered and sucked into the "new" AT&T.
"We have over 100,000 employees on the job today," he remarked over coffee one morning, "and I have no idea what most of them are doing right now. I am hopeful that they are doing the right thing, but if someone decides to commit a dishonest or immoral act and it is found out, I will be the one held responsible."
What happened at UGA was not dishonest or immoral — although I suspect some of you might disagree with the latter — but the decision to accede to the ludicrous demands of the rapper and his entourage reflected poorly on the university and reinforced the opinion of many that UGA is a "party school," despite being a leader among public research universities in the nation in the number of major scholarships received by students. (Don’t make me have to trot out the number of Rhodes Scholars, Fulbright Scholars, Goldwater, Truman and Udall scholars, etc., that the institution produces annually. You don’t have the time.)
McGarity chose to take the arrow publicly for someone else’s bad judgment and poor communications skills. I suspect that behind closed doors, he took care of the problem in such a way that when he says, "We need to do everything we can to make sure errors of this nature do not reoccur," you can pretty much be assured they won’t.
Greg McGarity could have publicly thrown someone under the bus, issued the usual "if we offended someone, we apologize" form letter, passed the buck or ignored the whole affair. He did none of these. Instead, he issued an unconditional apology. He did the right thing the right way.