Jan. 19, 2005
SportsLine.com wire reports

ATLANTA -- Georgia assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Rodney Garner said Tuesday he has canceled plans to interview for a position at LSU.

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Georgia coach Mark Richt on Monday withdrew from his coaching position in the Hula Bowl college all-star game this weekend in Hawaii to address the situation with Garner. Richt said Garner received a raise to remain in Athens.

Losing Garner could have created chaos in Georgia's recruiting efforts, with the Feb. 2 signing date only two weeks away.

"I can tell you coach Garner staying here at this moment is huge for this recruiting class, but it goes way beyond that," Richt said. "Him not being here to mentor his players and to be a part of our overall disciplinary system and being part of the team, we would have certainly felt it for some time."

Richt said Georgia athletic director Damon Evans and University of Georgia president Michael Adams acted quickly in approving a raise for Garner, the Bulldogs' defensive line coach since 1998.

Richt did not say if Garner would receive a new title with the raise.

"We'll just say certainly there has been a raise," Richt said. "We'll talk about those other details in time. For right now that's for certain."

Garner said he canceled plans to fly to Baton Rouge Tuesday night for an interview Wednesday.

Garner said his interest in an unspecified position at LSU was not the result of being passed over when Richt picked another Georgia assistant, Willie Martinez, to succeed Brian VanGorder as Georgia's defensive coordinator.

"There was never a time I didn't feel like I was comfortable at the University of Georgia," Garner said, adding he is "100 percent committed to Coach Martinez."

Garner said it was just "bad timing" that new LSU coach Les Miles called soon after VanGorder left Georgia for the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars and Martinez was promoted by Richt.

"I've always said Coach Richt has been real good to me and my family," Garner said. "He's been a pleasure to work for. When you look at the situation, it's all about people. I feel comfortable with Coach Richt and the direction in which he wants to take the program with Damon and Dr. Adams."

Richt called Garner "one of the best coaches I've ever been around" and "one of the best people I've ever been around."

Garner, 38, was retained by Richt from former coach Jim Donnan's staff at Georgia. Garner is regarded as one of the top recruiters in college football, but he wants to be respected as more than a recruiter so he can move up to be a defensive coordinator and head coach.

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Some of Garner's former Georgia linemen currently playing in the NFL include Richard Seymour, Marcus Stroud, Johnathan Sullivan and Charles Grant. Seymour and Stroud are Pro Bowl picks this season.

Garner previously worked as an assistant at Auburn and Tennessee.

Richt said "we were already in the process" of giving Garner a raise from his 2004 salary of $155,166. Richt and Garner did not reveal the amount of the raise. VanGorder was Richt's highest-paid assistant at $210,000.

"The thought of possibly losing him, we turned it up a little bit more to let Rodney know what we think of him and his family," Richt said.

Richt joked he already has a suggestion for how Garner can use his raise.

Said Richt: "He owes me a trip to Hawaii."