Coach Mark Richt will survive the storm and isn't leaving Georgia anytime soon
Spoiled Georgia fans have no idea how good they have it with Mark Richt as their football coach, so it’s a good thing the adults in the school administration do.
Newsflash, folks. Richt is one of the best in the business, and he’s not going anywhere.
Yes, a Bulldogs team loaded in talent has underachieved this season to the point where a 27-3 thumping of hapless Kentucky on Saturday was actually a thing to be celebrated. And nobody is more aware of that than the man running the program in Athens the last 15 years.
But fire him? Really?
Simply dismiss the guy who made the Dawgs nationally relevant again after taking over a program that hadn’t won an SEC title in 20 years before his arrival? A guy who’s won two SEC titles (2002, 2005), five SEC Eastern Division titles and tied for another? A two-time SEC Coach of the Year whose career record of 142-51 ranks him 5th-best nationally in winning percentage (74 percent) among active coaches? A guy who has graduated 238 of his players?
Richt is one of only seven coaches in history to have claimed two SEC titles within his first five years and one of only seven head coaches in conference annals to have recorded four straight 10-win seasons (2002-05).
But critics say that he can’t win big games, that he’s plateaued at Georgia and there’s no more left that he can accomplish in Athens. They likewise argue that he’s too nice, that his strong Christian faith prevents him from being the hard-nosed tyrant that consistently gets the best out of his players to win SEC titles and compete for national championships.
In short, they rue the fact that he’s not Nick Saban.
Yet, it was these same critics who were once maligning Richt a few years ago following a spate of arrests of Georgia players for various reasons, saying that he was recruiting the wrong kinds of athletes and sullying the school’s good name.
Funny how Alabama, LSU and Florida winning national championships within the last decade or so changed all those priorities for Georgia fans eager for one of their own. None of the school’s current students and young alums weren’t yet even a glimmer in their daddy’s eyes when then-freshman Herschel Walker led the Dawgs to the national title in 1980.
Now it’s win at all costs or bust. Never mind that those elite programs they seek to emulate in Alabama, LSU and Florida are pretty good, too, and also blessed with great players and coaches.
So let’s just dump Richt after one relatively “bad” season in which he lost tailback Nick Chubb, his team’s best player and legit Heisman Trophy candidate, to a season-ending knee injury early in the Oct. 10 game at Tennessee (keep in mind the Dawgs could still have a nine-win season and play in a significant bowl game).
Just not happening, folks.
Georgia’s big money people were understandably upset after the 27-3 beatdown in Jacksonville at the hands of rival Florida a few weeks ago and reportedly have tried to force Richt’s ouster, only to be rebuffed by athletics director Greg McGarity.
I’ve known McGarity for a number of years now and recall all too well how passionate he is about his alma mater. But he’s also wise enough to know that knee-jerk reactions in the heat of the moment rarely turn out well.
Have there been mistakes and recruiting misses that have haunted the Dawgs this year? No question, but that’s always the case for any other program as well, Alabama included. But Georgia will again be loaded in talent next year following another recruiting bonanza in a state full of talent. Plus, it’ll be armed with a healthy Chubb to fuel a potent ground game.
Hotshot quarterback recruit Jacob Eason may or may not be the savior many are projecting him to be, but that’s OK. Georgia will be very good next year anyways.
In many ways, the storm currently surrounding Richt mirrors the growing impatience nationwide as soaring coaching salaries and facilities arms races further push the onus to win right away.
Richt is making $4 million annually, even as school officials continue hitting up wealthy donors to fund a future $30.2 million indoor practice facility.
Those disgruntled donors are acutely aware of the banners hanging up in Tuscaloosa, in Baton Rouge and in Gainesville and likewise want the best facilities and the best coach available to be the face of the Bulldogs’ program.
They already have him in place, even if they don’t necessarily appreciate him.
The Dawgs could do a lot worse.