ESPN writer says he knows what got Mark Richt fired at Georgia -- but is he right?
Heading into last season — as kings of SEC East preseason hype — Georgia was the consensus preseason pick to win the East division. Of course that didn’t happen and the Bulldogs finished the season behind both Florida and Tennessee in the SEC East.
According to Mark Schlabach of ESPN, when Richt ceded the division to a first-year Gator coach Jim McElwain quarterbacked by sophomore Treon Harris, that was the final straw in his Athens tenure.
"The fact that Mac won an SEC East title with Treon Harris got Mark Richt fired, there's not a doubt in my mind," @Mark_Schlabach
— 1010 XL / 92.5 FM (@1010XL) July 11, 2016
While that’s a good quote from Schlabach, it’s not entirely accurate.
When Harris entered the lineup as the starter under center, the Gators had already compiled a 5-0 overall record and a 4-0 SEC record under redshirt freshman Will Grier. Two of those conference wins were against Tennessee and Ole Miss, which proved to be the difference between winning and losing the division.
Harris’ biggest win of the season came did come against Georgia, but he only completed eight of 19 passes against the Bulldogs for 155 yards and a touchdown. The real factor in that game came from the Bulldogs’ sideline, as junior quarterback Faton Bauta threw four interceptions and completed only 15 passes on 33 attempts. The game was Bauta’s only start of his Bulldog career.
Once Harris took over the offense, Florida finished the season with a 4-4 record with losses to LSU, Florida State, Alabama and Michigan. Harris’ wins included a two-point home win over Vanderbilt, a 10-point win at a 3-9 South Carolina team that would lose to The Citadel the following week and a six-point home win in overtime against Florida Atlantic.
Grier clearly did the heavy lifting for the Gators’ offense last season and put them in a position to capture the division. Saying Harris led Florida simply doesn’t give Grier his just dew.
Although Schlabach sees it differently, Richt deciding to insert the unknown Bauta for such a critical game likely played more of a factor in his eventual dismissal from Georgia, not anything Treon Harris “accomplished” last season.