Mark Richt will be back next season — and he deserves to be

The sideline hasn't been as enjoyable a place for Mark Richt the last two seasons as during his first eighth. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

The sideline hasn't been as enjoyable a place for Mark Richt the last two seasons as during his first eight. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

ATHENS – It’s probably best that we start with the latest indication of Mark Richt’s future employment.

“Mark’s going to be our coach in 2011,” Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said. “I haven’t seen anything in 11 games that would lead me to any other decision. I’d be stunned.”

The thinking is, it’s always best to end such declarations with even the smallest of escape routes. Because if for some reason Georgia were to lose to Tech 42-10 Saturday, finish the season 5-7, not go to a bowl game and later that evening 17 players find themselves in handcuffs for whatever reason – well, let’s just say you want the escape route.

But Richt will be back. And he should be back.

Let’s be clear about something. There are significant problems at Georgia. There are problems that may not go away under Richt.

The team has disappointed and underachieved. The Bulldogs are 7-9 in SEC games in the last two seasons. That nearly equals their conference loss total in the previous four years (22-10).

Celebrated recruiting classes haven’t turned into celebrated teams, an indictment of the coaching. Changes in Richt’s staff have not significantly improved the defense. Physically and emotionally, the team too often still seems overmatched by good teams.

But we should judge coaches like we judge athletes – in fact, like we judge all people. Life is a series of credits and debits. Mark Richt has built up a lot of credits. He deserves a chance to fix this.

He won two SEC titles in his first five seasons. I know. That’s so yesterday. As even McGarity joked when alluding to the fact the program’s off-field issues have quieted somewhat: “You’re only as good as the last few minutes.”

It’s the same on the field, especially in the SEC. When Nick Saban, Urban Meyer and Les Miles are combining to win four straight BCS titles, and Gene Chizik is undefeated at Auburn and  – cover your eyes – even Mississippi State seems to have passed you by with Dan Mullen, nobody in the fan base is talking about that great 2005 season.

Greg McGarity said he and Richt are "brutally honest" with each other in their meetings. (AP photo)

Greg McGarity said he and Richt are "brutally honest" with each other in their meetings. (AP photo)

The more likely response is: Fire the coach.

But dial it back for a moment. Richt was 82-22 overall and 44-15 through his first eight seasons in Athens. There were some bad performances in 2006, hiccups in 2007 and the smack downs by Alabama and Florida in 2008 that quickly extinguished any national title hopes. But the bottom line numbers are too overwhelming to ignore so quickly.

McGarity hasn’t been in his job for long. He said he understands “that everyone is frustrated.” He added, “The bottom line is we’re 5-6 and nobody is happy with that. Nobody is pleased, and nobody should be.”
But he has spent the past several weeks analyzing various aspects of the program, particularly since the Colorado game – “That’s when things began to slow down for me,” he said — and doesn’t believe a change is warranted.

“We’re dealing with a team that’s competitive every week,” he said. “I know people don’t like to hear phrases like, ‘We’re competitive’ and, ‘We’re giving it everything we’ve got.’ Trust me, I get that. We all want different results. But I also see a program that is not in disarray.

“The bottom line is we need to close games better and I also believe this is a critical recruiting class for us. I feel like there are a lot more positive signs than negative signs, even though it hasn’t shown up in the win category.”

McGarity and Richt have a standing meeting every Friday. McGarity said the two have a great and open relationship. “We’re brutally honest with each other,” he said.

He declined to discuss specifics of their discussions but said: “We both want the same thing. The question is how we get there.”

It’s justified for anybody who follows the Georgia program to be upset about the record, about the loss in Colorado, about the fact the team hasn’t been a player in the SEC East for two years. It’s justified to wonder about direction. But Richt deserves another season to figure it out. His resume has earned him that.

706 comments Add your comment

first

November 23rd, 2010
10:50 am

gator hater

November 23rd, 2010
10:50 am

2-8 vs, Uf . Enough said.

Van Dammit

November 23rd, 2010
10:51 am

Dawg94

November 23rd, 2010
10:51 am

Although I concur with your synopsis Jeff, I think a sentence should be added that states, ” He should be back at Georgia under the realization that its his job to fix what is wrong and he agrees that it will be up to him and McGarity to make that happen.” We have seen Richt do things his way. I am afraid he is going to need some “help” to make some tough program changing decisions this off season. Time will tell and we shall see. Now lets GATA on Saturday and Wreck Tech!!

time to go

November 23rd, 2010
10:52 am

Cant even beat the bad Florida teams!!!!!

Richt is done

November 23rd, 2010
10:53 am

ITs all about UF and we are a joke in Jax EVERY YEAR!

Herschel Talker

November 23rd, 2010
10:53 am

Schultzie;

This is ridiculous. The man has watched over a program in decline for multiple years now. He kept (and continues to keep) his assistants far too long. He has no clue. McGarity obviously also has no clue. I thought he was going to be a winner, but it looks like that that is not the case

HT

trupert

November 23rd, 2010
10:55 am

UGA is very close and Mark Richt will turn it around. Go Dawgs!!!

John, a true Dawgs fan

November 23rd, 2010
10:57 am

Couldn’t agree with you more. Support the team and the school or move on!!!!!!!
I really respect mcGarity and his bluntness. He says it like it is.
Go, Dawgs!!!!!!!!!

DawgGirl32

November 23rd, 2010
11:01 am

Wow, Mr. Schultz. For once I agree with you. Great article.

juvenal

November 23rd, 2010
11:01 am

brass tacks-what’s the buyout?

DawginLex

November 23rd, 2010
11:02 am

Next year, the seat is flaming.

McGarity wanted the Boise game to let coach Richt put up or shutup.

I hope he succeeds. I would love for Richt to turn this thing around.

Brian

November 23rd, 2010
11:05 am

Nice job Jeff. Good journalism rather than throwing jabs to support this blog. I only wish you would ask one questuion and write on it: If UF has had an open date for 17 of the last 20 years in front of the UGA game, why have we (UGA)not been more diligent to move ours to match?

Bubba Grunt

November 23rd, 2010
11:05 am

Preparation-H the official sponsor of Georgia football. Serving thousands of pain the azz mutt fans for over 50 years.

trey

November 23rd, 2010
11:06 am

I’m confused by how many people believe that the simple way to fix any sports issue is to fire the coach. There are not many great coaches out there and who’s to say we will get one of them if you let go of the man who helped rebuild this program. All of this “fire CMR ” talk will deter some of these recruits and then these people will say he can’t recruit anymore. How about shut up for a while and allow this Coach to do what is necessary to fix this thing. There are no less than 90 college programs who would love the opportunity to have this coach. Kudos on the Boise St. game!! CMR what do you have to lose? If you lose and these season goes wrong again the big mouths get what they want “your job”. You can get another gig if you so choose, but win that game and the confidence this team needs that they can win against good teams may catapult you back to one of the top programs in the SEC.

gabeaux

November 23rd, 2010
11:06 am

Wow, more of same next year. Can’t wait.

Dawg_Uno

November 23rd, 2010
11:07 am

Serious Dawg fans need to start organizing and demanding that Richt be fired. Otherwise, sports writers will be asking the same question this time a year from now.

Richt represents mediocrity. Saban and Meyer represent excellence and championships. Richt simply isn’t in their class, nor will he ever be. Richt would have to be incredibly lucky to win the division, and the odds against him winning the SEC championship would be at least 50:1.

Those are the simple facts, and there’s no amount of enthusiasm or cheerleading or Top 5 recruiting classes that can get around it.

As they say in poker, “Read ‘em and weep.”

UGA Insider

November 23rd, 2010
11:07 am

I like the vote of confidence from our AD. Maybe that will help this recruiting class progress because right now it is in shambles. We need some positive momentum going into February or UGA will be a SEC lightweight for the next 5 years.

Also, a change must be made with our strength program. ALL games lost this season were lost due to lack of conditioning in the second half. Look back at the replays in those games and our players look winded and exhausted in the 3rd and 4th quarters which lead to mental breakdowns. I was on the sidelines during the Auburn game and the kids were getting oxygen and taking B12 shots at halftime. That’s how out of shape we really are folks.

Mike

November 23rd, 2010
11:07 am

It’s florida or else to me. We can go 11-1. If the 1 loss is to Florida, he has to go. Period. End of story.

mon

November 23rd, 2010
11:08 am

fans that want him fired are not prepared to pay the buyout for richt and his assistants which is around 8 million..bottom line

Sanford Drive

November 23rd, 2010
11:08 am

(((((48-13))))) hahahahahahaha!!!!

oops….. 5 days early.

Tucker T

November 23rd, 2010
11:08 am

I agree that Richt has to have a good season next season. I say at least 8 wins if not 9. If he repeats this performance then I gotta say he is likely done.

59bulldawg

November 23rd, 2010
11:09 am

So how many wins does CMR need to next season to be the coach in 2012???

Washed-Out Ealey

November 23rd, 2010
11:10 am

2-8 vs, Uf . Enough said.

Yep.

learn something everyday

November 23rd, 2010
11:11 am

Hey Schultz,

When are you gonna bring back the count?

Captain

November 23rd, 2010
11:11 am

Highly ranked recruiting classes which turned out to be void of Playmakers and Game changers, combined with keeping Martinez and Jancek one year too long are the reason the Georgia program is where it is today. Some of those highly ranked recruiting classes, even though top 10-15 ranked nationally, were still 4th, 5th or 6th amongst SEC teams. Four years ago Martinez and Co missed on the top four ranked Def players from the state – Eric Berry, Morgan Burnette, Cam Heyward, and Alan Bailey. Berry was a 1st round pick, Burnette a high choice, Heyward and Bailey are projected to be picked in the top 20. Where would Georgia be had it signed those players?

It appears Richt lost focus, drive, intensity, or maybe he wasn’t hungry any longer. He most certainly is recharged. Coaching changes were made, one more could come in a few weeks along with some support staff changes. The new staff is working hard on the recruiting trail. There have been no blowouts this year as with Martinez. Were it not for key fumbles inside the opponents 5 yd line, or 25 in the Colo game, were it not for TD negating penalties, and if someone on the Def could make a play against Fla, this team could be a 1 or 2 loss team today. It’s been close. Reality is, Georgia lacks top tier talent on the DL, CB, LB, and RB. Dawgs are close, plug a few holes and watch out in 2011.

Russ555

November 23rd, 2010
11:11 am

Mark should be back next year. But — I can remember the fifties with Wally Butts. How many years can you go 6-6 during the regular season without changing coaches. There is a limit, and Georiga is getting close. Dooley almost got fired after a number of 7-4 seasons in the seventies. He saved his job by getting Hershel and Scott and a few more.

Bubba Grunt

November 23rd, 2010
11:11 am

You idiots have one of the premiere coaches in the country, but that just isn’t good enough for the flea bag nation. Here’s hoping you do run him off. You don’t deserve him. Bring in a mediocre coach who can recruit more thugs and see how that works out for you.

Spokesman for the SEC East

November 23rd, 2010
11:12 am

Thanks for the great news Jeff old boy!!!!! We hope he stays forever!!

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Patrick Ochs, GamblingIQ (Dirty) and Charlie Newman, Jeff Schultz. Jeff Schultz said: Greg McGarity says it and — yes, I'm saying it: Mark Richt deserves to come back at Georgia. #UGA. #Dawgs http://bit.ly/gbSnUt [...]

Brutally Honest

November 23rd, 2010
11:13 am

If Georgia loses to Georgia Tech and ends up 5-7,
the Yellow Jackets will be very happy.

Muck Richt

November 23rd, 2010
11:13 am

If Mark Richt had one ounce of integrity, he would do the honorable thing and resign.

But we’ve already established that Richt has no integrity or honor.

Ouchie

November 23rd, 2010
11:13 am

Those mean old Auburn tigers hit us too hard. I’m telling mommy.

DawginLex

November 23rd, 2010
11:14 am

Jeff,

If Richt loses to Tech by any score, I bet McGarity runs him.

That is why he said “I see nothing now to make me think otherwise”.

Maybe what he needs to see hasn’t happened yet…………

Bubba Grunt

November 23rd, 2010
11:15 am

I’d say Brad Childress would be a good fit for you. Maybe Favre has some more elgibility left.

Russ, the Unemployed Mascot

November 23rd, 2010
11:15 am

Well, I don’t think I was the problem after all . . .

They got their new mascot. Big Bad Bruce sleeps through the games. They could have given me some of Grantham’s $750,000 and I could have had my a$$ cosmetically corrected. At least I don’t bump into the furniture when I walk.

dawgssux

November 23rd, 2010
11:15 am

Gators fans are partying now. We love Richt is staying.

jasont13

November 23rd, 2010
11:16 am

Captain- First off Eric Berry and Cameron Heyward did not want to go to school in state. Its funny how you bash UGA about having top 15 recrutign classes. If I am not mistaken Texas had the best overall recruting classes the past 5 years and will probably not go to a bowl game this year.

digitdawg

November 23rd, 2010
11:16 am

If Richt were to be replaced who do you think we could hire that would be an obvious trade up?

UGABugKiller

November 23rd, 2010
11:16 am

Mark Richt doesn’t deserve a damn thing. Who in this life does?

What has Richt done in the last 5 years that warrants yet ANOTHER year for him to waste OUR program’s resources further tarnish this University of Georgia with his soft on discipline approach?

He WILL NOT make the REAL changes that NEED to happen.

He MUST fire VanHallinger. Team discipline BEGINS in the weight room. VanHallinger is not getting it done.

The program is SOFT. That’s the absolute worst thing you could say about a football program. But they are. They’re SOFT.

And it ALL goes back to VanHallinger and the S&C staff. But Richt is closer to VanHallinger than he ever was with SoftWillie.

And we know Richt puts his personal relationships over the good of the football program, so expect VanHallinger to be back.

It is beyond time for Richt to go.

McGarity is making the SAME mistake Tennessee made! Tennessee waited TOO LONG to fire Fulmer. And NOW look at the mess they are!

If they would’ve fired Fulmer after his 5-7 year, they would NOT be in this bad of shape.

People who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

jasont13

November 23rd, 2010
11:18 am

Since a lot of people want Richt gone, who do you want? I’ve asked this question so many times on these blogs and I get zero realalistic answers. So if you are going to say he needs to go then you need to have a replacement and an argument as to why this person should be the new coach.

Brutally Honest

November 23rd, 2010
11:18 am

Georgia Tech deserves to be 7-5 saturday night.

Mean Machine

November 23rd, 2010
11:18 am

I really like McGarity’s approach, and I think he will do what’s best for UGA. Richt and his staff has done nothing but underachieve for the last 5 years. At some point you have to say “enough is enough”. But I do recognize the benefits of keeping Richt. As frustrated as I have been this year, as well as the 2 previous seasons, I am willing to give him one more year. However, two things must happen next year, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Georgia must beat Florida, and they must win the SEC. Anything less, and Richt needs to be fired after next season. I don’t care what needs to be done to do it, just get it done. I’m tired of the excuses.

Bubba Grunt

November 23rd, 2010
11:19 am

@jasont13 — Joe Paterno

jasont13

November 23rd, 2010
11:19 am

UGAbugkiller- Vanhallinger is retiring after this year.

Bubba Grunt

November 23rd, 2010
11:19 am

@jasont13 — Dig Up Bear Bryant

Bubba Grunt

November 23rd, 2010
11:20 am

@jasont13 — Brad Childress

Bubba Grunt

November 23rd, 2010
11:20 am

@jasont13 — Jan Kemp

Paul H

November 23rd, 2010
11:21 am

We will blow out Tech as expected and then blow out whatever lame team we face in Bham or Nashville or wherever. These will both be glorified practices that will prepare the Dawgs for next year, when it’s on.

GTBob

November 23rd, 2010
11:21 am

I don’t think you can fire Richt yet if you are McGarity unless Richt pulls a Damon Evans or something. This is McGarity’s first year, Richt just hired a new defensive coach, was starting a freshman QB and was coming off a lackluster season from last year. Even though some UGA fans had unrealistically high expectations, this was a rebuilding year. Next year is the really telling year for Richt. If UGA goes 7-5 or worse again then Richt is probably gone.