If I’ve read it once I’ve read it a thousand times, “But Mark Richt is such a good guy.” That has been the response to calls to fire the University of Georgia’s head football coach each time he has been on the hot seat.
Richt defenders felt like their guy made up for any shortfalls as a coach with the way he carried himself and represented his university.
Those defenders couldn’t stop Richt’s departure from UGA on Sunday, which according to a statement from the university was a mutual decision. ESPN reported earlier today that Richt was fired, however.
Whether coach Richt was fired or the two sides did agree that it was best for him to step down, the fact is that UGA will start the search for a new coach immediately. Kirby Smart, a former Dawg player and current Bama defensive coordinator, looks to be the front-runner.
Richt ends his 15-year campaign at Georgia with a 145-51-0 record, a 74 percent win percentage, which is fifth best among active FBS coaches. Good, very good actually, just not good enough to keep his job this time.
The problem Mark Richt faced was two-fold, unrealistic expectations from Dawg fans and playing in the most competitive conference in the nation.
Let me handle the first part. I have no idea why UGA fans expect Georgia to win the national title on a semi-regular basis. The last time the school won the championship was 1980. Since that time Georgia has seen hated rival Georgia Tech win the title, Bama has won it four times, while even BYU and Washington managed to win it all. It should be clear to all rational football fans that Georgia isn’t a national power. UGA just does not win national championships.
It didn’t happen before Mark Richt rolled into Athens and it didn’t happen on his watch either.
That said, Richt did do a great job of recruiting top players and UGA ranked fourth (tied with Alabama) in the number of alumni on NFL rosters at the start of the 2015 season. So he should have done more with his talent, but UGA fans just were unrealistic about winning a national title. Instead of seeing it as an expectation, they should have seen it as a bonus.
It’s hard enough to just win the SEC East, much less get through the obstacle course of votes needed to be in a BCS title game. Richt won the SEC title twice, which was two more than the two coaches preceding him. Still that wasn’t enough for some Georgia fans.
Schools like Ohio State, Florida State, and Oklahoma have a big advantage over SEC schools. They don’t have to play in the slaughterhouse that is the SEC. These ACC schools and teams from the Big 12 can just cruise through their weaker competition and hope to get a win in one big game at the end.
No way in hell Ohio State would ever go undefeated in the SEC. Never.
It may sound like I’m making excuses for a guy that was making nearly four million dollars a year. I’m not. If the fan base wants more out of their program, then I’ve no problem with his firing or him agreeing to step down as head coach.
Go find someone who can get over the hump. Just don’t expect to get over that hump with a guy with a heavy sack of morals. Mark Richt was a good guy trying to run a franchise that’s part of a dirty business. Filthy actually.
Examples are easy to find. FSU has competed for a national title the past couple of years as their players’ rap sheets stretch ever further. Mark Richt wouldn’t even defend Todd Gurley for signing a few autographs for pay, yet Jimbo Fisher stood by his QB Jameis Winston, who shoplifted, embarrassed his school with idiotic antics, and was accused of rape.
Morals and college football do not mix. Getting the axe at Georgia may be the best thing that has ever happened to Mark Richt in the long run. It had to be a lot of stress going to work every day knowing he had to compete against the dirtiest players in the game if he wanted to get to the top of the mountain.
The statement from UGA states that Richt will be offered another position at the school if he desires that option. I don’t see that happening. If the point is to win at all costs, UGA doesn’t need Mark Richt and his morals in the way at any level. Maybe a cushy job in the American Lit department until he can draw a full pension would work best.
The folks that have defended Richt in the past have been defeated by the fans that would chip in for hookers and cocaine parties if it meant UGA getting the best recruits each year.
Gone from Georgia is a good guy trying to win a game that’s rigged against good guys. Let’s watch what happens over the next four years to see if it was the right decision. If Georgia isn’t being investigated for violating major NCAA rules, then the right coach has not been hired. If the Dawgs do find themselves in hot water with the NCAA, then that means they have had a real shot at the national championship under the new head coach.