JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Gator Bowl Sports is adding a well-known name to lead its organization.
Former University of Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity will become the president and CEO of Gator Bowl Sports this March. McGarity, who retired from Georgia at the end of 2020, is replacing longtime leader Rick Catlett.
McGarity, 66, will handle all aspects of the Gator Bowl Sports operations, including the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl, the JaxSports Council and the Gator Bowl Charities. He’ll also have a voice in the Florida-Georgia game in town as well as any other neutral-site games that the city will try and land.
Initially, though, McGarity’s focus will be on the Gator Bowl and making that game higher on the selection totem pole and bring better quality matchups to town.
The Gator Bowl just completed the first of a six-year affiliation with the ACC/SEC. Those conferences determine which team that the Gator Bowl will get, and this cycle, the SEC sent a 4-6 Kentucky team to Jacksonville. The Wildcats edged NC State 23-21 in that game on Jan. 2.
“I think you always like to be bigger and better. You’re always trying to improve your situation,” McGarity said. “I fully expect the bowl championship series or the football series here to expand. We’d love for that to include Jacksonville. I know there are a lot of things going on locally here that may enhance that opportunity. But certainly, we’d like to move up in the [bowl selection] process, and be able to be the destination for future, big time games.”
Beyond football, McGarity said that he would look at bringing other potential sports championships to the area. The SEC women’s basketball tournament was played in Jacksonville in 2016. NCAA basketball regionals have also been held in town four times since VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena opened in 2003.
McGarity said that events of that stature require significant partnership between the city and the Gator Bowl Sports wing to pull off, but it would certainly be up for discussion.
“There’s no question that Jacksonville has the facilities to do that within this quadrant here,” he said.
“I mean, the world class baseball facility, basketball facility that’s lights out. You’ve got this area, you’ve got the indoor facility. The advancements that have been made in this precinct here over the last decade or so have been just astronomical, and I think it lends itself to those opportunities. But it definitely takes a partnership to get those things done.”
McGarity said that the task in taking Catlett’s position means huge shoes to fill.
Catlett spent 29 years as the front man for Gator Bowl Sports and served in various capacities with the JaxSports Council and Gator Bowl Charities. He announced his retirement last summer, but will help McGarity during the transition.
“Rick was the glue that kept everything together. He’s a behind the scenes person, I have a lot of respect for people that work behind the scenes to make things work out but he’s been a guiding light he’s been someone that has always had the city of Jacksonville first and foremost as the priority there at the same time wanted to make sure that both institutions were taken care of,” McGarity said.
“… It’s a relationship that’s been fostered for many, many years. And just so glad that I can work alongside him here towards the end of his career.”