The arguments for keeping Mark Richt as Georgia coach always start with this: He wins (this season notwithstanding).
But at some point the focus shifts to other matters — dare I suggest in SEC country, even more important matters than winning — and we’re certainly at that point now.
Bulldogs junior running back Caleb King was in jail in Clarke County Monday morning. He had an outstanding warrant in neighboring Walton County for failing to appear in court for a speeding ticket back in June.
Honestly, this arrest could stem from an unpaid candy bar theft when King was 6 and I’m not sure it would matter. This makes 11 arrests since the spring. That’s nothing short of embarrassment.
By the end of this season, the Dogs may have twice as many arrests as wins. (Right now, the score is 11-2.)
Please, no more excuses about how Richt can’t be faulted for kids who do dumb things, or the wonderful conspiracy theories about how police are just out to get Georgia athletes. Personal responsibility not withstanding, the arrests are a reflection of Richt and the Georgia program that he runs. He ultimately is in charge of screening, recruiting, counseling, coaching and disciplining the players. He creates the culture.
As for the “police are just out to get them theory”: Really? Tell me: How many of these arrests did not involve an illegal act? Because last I checked, it was zero.
If Mark Richt loses his job, it won’t be because his football team sunk to 5-7 or 6-6 this season. It will be because of the off-the-field issues. It will be because he can’t control his players. That’s a greater indictment of a college head coach than a win-loss record.
Georgia president Michael Adams is aware of the dinged perception of the program, nationally as well as locally. He wasted no time in accepting the resignation of athletic director Damon Evans following his arrest for DUI.
Adams said back in September, alluding to the football arrests: “We have had too much in the football team. We expect the coaches and the AD’s to provide role models and leadership for their players, and I told the whole Athletic Association staff that.”
Georgia’s reputation is equally important to new athletic director Greg McGarity, especially given the circumstances surrounding how he got the job. McGarity may not strike a lot of people as a fire-breathing guy but he’s not happy about the arrests. H also has no ties to Richt (whom he had never met before taking the job).
Richt recently has become tougher in these matters. After instituting a zero tolerance policy, he kicked freshman linebacker Demetre Baker off the team last month following an arrest for DUI and underage drinking. It remains to be seen if the zero tolerance policy will apply to King.
Regardless, the number of arrests should be considered more important than the number of wins. Ultimately, that could be Richt’s undoing.