Richt is coaching through pain as SEC East title nears

Mark Richt has been coaching through pain of a hip that requires surgery. (Bob Andres/AJC)

Mark Richt has been coaching through pain of a hip that requires surgery. (Bob Andres/AJC)

ATHENS – Over the past several weeks, Georgia has lost three senior starters to season-ending injuries, accumulated various ailments that left other players without a full-set of functioning body parts and played four games without its projected starting defense because of four player suspensions.

As it turns out, Mark Richt also has been playing – or coaching – hurt.

Richt, a few days away from coaching his potential second straight SEC East-clinching game at Auburn, likely will have hip-replacement surgery after the season. He is often in excruciating pain, particularly after standing and pacing on the sideline for three-plus hours on game day.

The injury is something Richt has managed to keep quiet for the past year. Even athletic director Greg McGarity wasn’t aware of his coach’s condition until last week, and McGarity only became aware of it because he was trying to schedule postseason meetings with Richt and he needed to check on his availability.

There are two reasons Richt wanted to keep this quiet: 1) No coach wants to draw attention to himself when it’s a health matter, particularly when a “play hurt” mandate is stamped on every player’s forehead; 2) The genesis of the injury is rather embarrassing.

An old football injury?

“No,” Richt said. “ I think it’s a swing set injury.”

When asked to tell the story, he initially balked, then said, “I might as well,” in that I-know-it’s-going-to-get-out-anyway tone.

It was a Richt family picnic in Indiana. Richt said he was in his mid-20s. His wife, Katharyn, recalls it being in the early 1990s, which would put Richt in his early 30s.

We’ll side with Katharyn. She has no football or swing set injuries, therefore is less likely to have a concussion.

Richt was “trying to show off” for his wife.

“I was trying to show her what a good swinger I was,” he said. (For most people, that comment would have a completely different context.)

“I was swinging really high on a big heavy swing set with those big heavy chains. Sometimes if you go super high, on the way back you get a little bit of that lag. You’ve got those big S-hooks on top, and you’re swinging, and I swung enough to where the one on the left came out. So it comes out, but I didn’t know. I’m still on the swing. So when I come back down, the chain on [on the right] stayed taut and the other one just goes. I turned sideways and the first thing that hits the ground is my left hip. Just smashed it.

“It was traumatic. I mean, when I hit I was like, ‘I think I broke it.’ I couldn’t hardly breathe. Sometimes with an injury like that you get a full-body sweat and a little nauseous. But the pain kind of went away and I went about my business, until about a year and a half ago.”

When asked if the pain just suddenly came back, Richt paused before answering. (More humiliation coming.)

“P90x,” he finally said, referencing the DVD set of workouts. “I thought I just had a hip-flexor injury. But I said if I quit now I’m just going to get fat. So I just kept doing it.”

The pain grew. Richt couldn’t sleep at night. He finally went to a doctor and was presented with a surgical option: “They said to just go as long as you can stand it, and when you want you can get a new one.”

The story is still a source of humor in the Richt house. Katharyn Richt laughs every time she tells it.

“That was typical of him,” she said. “Mark always has to win at something. Even swinging became a championship pursuit.”

The Bulldogs have been on such a pursuit. Since starting last season 0-2, they are 18-1 in regular season games (13-1 in the SEC). They followed last season’s 10-game winning streak with an SEC title game loss to LSU. Should they beat Auburn as expected Saturday, they will be underdogs to Alabama in a few weeks in the Georgia Dome.

The regular season success has been helped in part by a schedule devoid of Alabama and LSU. But a team still has to win games, and Georgia has. Players still have to overcome adversity, and they have. A coach still has to be doing something right, and Richt has. And he has done so with a hip in need of replacing.

Those swing set injuries just don’t go away.

By Jeff Schultz

194 comments Add your comment

Not Disappointed

November 6th, 2012
4:54 pm

That has to be painful! Once it’s done, Coach Richt will feel like a new man!

Ramblin Wreck out!

Stuart

November 6th, 2012
4:56 pm

The Grinch

November 6th, 2012
4:56 pm

I’m glad you beat me to that “swinger” comment. Injuries during that practice can be traumatic indeed.

Stuart

November 6th, 2012
4:56 pm

hope players and coaches are healthy for auburn..

mbrooks

November 6th, 2012
5:03 pm

Once question takes precedence over all others: How does this affect recruiting?

After further review...

November 6th, 2012
5:05 pm

Wish the best to him. Joint replacxements are no fun. Have known a couple of people – mostly oler than Coach Richt – who have had them and most have had a tough time. If he’s been prowling the sideline for a year needing the surgery, it tells you something about the grit of the man.

Bc

November 6th, 2012
5:06 pm

Beating the #2 team in the country isn’t a slouch win

joe jenkins

November 6th, 2012
5:07 pm

I hate that for richt…I feel bad for him

Smitty

November 6th, 2012
5:10 pm

I am still a Mark fan….lot of people are not but we win more with him than what we had before. Go Dawgs!!!

G-Dawg

November 6th, 2012
5:11 pm

I love that man! Selfless is a Christ like trait!

jaxdawgfan

November 6th, 2012
5:11 pm

This may explain his demeanor lately.

Voyager Dawg

November 6th, 2012
5:14 pm

Enter your comments here

Buckeye

November 6th, 2012
5:15 pm

There are plenty more Win With falls to come.

Buckeye

November 6th, 2012
5:15 pm

Hey Schultzy, blogging the returns tonight?

Voyager Dawg

November 6th, 2012
5:17 pm

I’ll enter my comments here…… Hopefully the entire coaching staff and team are focused on finishing the drill on the plains. Auburn has a lot of players from Georgia that would love nothing more than knocking them off and sending Florida to the SECCG. I think they need to get Auburn down early, which hasn’t really been this team’s m.o. this year. Work hard this week guys and come out with a solid game plan early. Go Dawgs!

Buckeye

November 6th, 2012
5:18 pm

Think I’ll drink early, snooze, drink more, pray.

Game Changer

November 6th, 2012
5:22 pm

Falling backwards off a 10m board into a pool can be dangerous.

Resident Georgia Fan

November 6th, 2012
5:22 pm

Buckeye … won’t you find a way to beat an SEC team in a bowl this year. Oh, shucks. I forgot that you are banned from bowls.

Freehawk

November 6th, 2012
5:24 pm

Check his wrists and ankles for the scars

ole dawg

November 6th, 2012
5:24 pm

And everyone says Coach Richt never gets angry!!! Just look at that above photo.

banshee29

November 6th, 2012
5:32 pm

Maybe while he is under they can tweak his medulla oblangata and convince him to let BOBO go?

kingdaddy

November 6th, 2012
5:32 pm

Schultzie
Great story on a very good coach and a good man. Give Lilly a pat on the head or scratch her belly for me. We love our Doggies. Thanks for the heads-up on Richt’s hip. Mustang Sally said she noticed a hitch in his giddy-up. I think she was just watching his swing-set, if you know what I mean…

Barry

November 6th, 2012
5:36 pm

Thanks to Coach Richt for toughing it out during the season. That has to be painful. We have always known he is wonderful human being and a fine coach……now we know he is a pretty tough guy as well! Best of luck with surgery, whenever it occurs.

Alabam

November 6th, 2012
5:38 pm

lmao Richt making excuses. Nick Saban will steam roll him
Roll Tide Roll

SSIgator

November 6th, 2012
5:47 pm

“That was typical of him,” she said. “Mark always has to win at something. Even swinging became a championship pursuit.”
________________

Well, at least maybe he can win the mythical Swinger Championship – it is the only NC he will get close to.

Nobody likes a crybaby

November 6th, 2012
5:47 pm

Does Richt want some cheese with his whine? What a freaking crybaby.

claytondawg

November 6th, 2012
5:47 pm

I may not be a huge Richt fan; however, I know several people who have gone through that pain. It is neither fun nor easy. Good luck with it, coach. This, too, shall pass. Now, thinking of “passing.” Let’s use our tight ends and running backs a little more on some swing passes to keep the opposing defenses confused. Sorry, coach, just had to say something. Take care.

AAAAA Athens Bail Bonds R Us

November 6th, 2012
5:49 pm

How many dawgs arrested today?

1eyedJack

November 6th, 2012
5:59 pm

Had my left hip replaced in ‘94 at the age of 35. They wanted to replace the right one six weeks later. I’m still trying to make up my mind. That first one hurt like hell, and this from a guy who’s had about 20 assorted surgeries.

Music City Dawg

November 6th, 2012
5:59 pm

Obviously from some of the earlier posts on here, there are just some really nasty people who can’t appreciate that coaches are human and sometimes have physical pain too.

And as for you SSIgator…we’ll get there before you do. Remember who beat your gator tails this year and last you da*n lizard?!!!

Johnny

November 6th, 2012
6:01 pm

Thanks coach Richt for not walking around the sideline with a cane like Derek Dooley. Richt is the man!

DawgNole

November 6th, 2012
6:04 pm

jaxdawgfan
November 6th, 2012
5:11 pm

This may explain his demeanor lately.
_________________________

Yeah, no wonder he’s so solemn on the sidelines.

All kidding aside, hip ailments are pretty rough–especially given the size of the joint. But surgical procedures have been relatively successful in addressing the pain involved. Had right-hip resurfacing done a few years back, and the relief was dramatic. No regrets at all.

Danny Ford

November 6th, 2012
6:07 pm

Is this the same coach that everybody wanted fired a few years back?

Wet Willie...keep on smiling

November 6th, 2012
6:15 pm

Mark …just come on over to the Andrews Institue here in Bham and they will fix you!

OkieDawg

November 6th, 2012
6:25 pm

The complaints about Bobo have been substantially reduced. I sure hope that means another school will offer him a job. I was just livid when he said Murray and he didn’t manage the clock well at the end of the first half last week. Murray was not part of the equation in mismanagement…it is the coach who takes the blame. Even if it was Murray, a coach does not throw the player under the bus…NEVER NOT EVER! Do buses still come through Athens? IF so, some day I may sing thank god for Greyhounds Bobo’s gone.

Stinger2

November 6th, 2012
6:28 pm

There have been some insensitive and even nasty comments to this story. I won`t call
names because everyone can see for themselves. I read UGA blogs regularly because I respect Richt and the team. I wish Coach a successful surgery and a fast recovery.

NC_Dawg

November 6th, 2012
6:30 pm

Best of luck CMR.

Iceman

November 6th, 2012
6:32 pm

I would wait until after the game ………. I think Dr. Andrews is a big Auburn fan. lol

bamaguy

November 6th, 2012
6:34 pm

I can understand. When I was in my late 20’s and playing in a volleyball league l broke my foot. When people asked how I broke it I said, “going for a ball”. The truth was that I dropped one of those big Ivory Soap bars on it in the shower.

Of course, this bama fan will be on your side on Saturday!

Wet Willie...keep on smiling

November 6th, 2012
6:37 pm

The Bama players are fixed there as well with Dr. Cain…..They fix everyone matter of fact. You have never seen some many jersey’s on walls in all your life and I mean soccer,baseball,football, and basketball.

My wife as a back issue and we’re setup at 2PM on Wednesday. A great group of folks.

OkieDawg

November 6th, 2012
6:40 pm

HIP HIP HOORAY!!! Oh, wrong cheer. Go get’em CMR, hang in there and hope all is successful after the season. I know it is hard to play or work hurt so sending the best for ya. That’s dedication and you have my respect.

gowaydevil

November 6th, 2012
6:42 pm

I just like envisioning the coach swinging that high. Great story. Love and support to the coach. I hope you’re out of pain soon.

Ty

November 6th, 2012
6:44 pm

Had two hip replacements in 6 months. He will be able to move about like he is 20 years younger. Hope hie has not damaged the other hip joint by not having anything done already. Good luck with it. He should be up and back in less than two weeks. it is a whole lot easier than knee replacements.

Al

November 6th, 2012
6:50 pm

Watching Richt coach is causing me pain

jackie

November 6th, 2012
6:53 pm

I broke mine in 1981 watersking, nobody believes. I spent 60 days in traction.

Lance

November 6th, 2012
6:57 pm

I feel sorry for him. I know he’s in a lot of pain. Even though I’m not a fan of his, I am sympathetic. However, I still think UGA will not reach the next level with him as coach. Does anyone really think he’s on the same level with Saban, Snyder, Kelly, Miles, Meyer, and Spurrier?

Stinger2

November 6th, 2012
7:03 pm

Al @6:50: Not funny at all .Look the other way if it pains yo to watch him coach.

Al

November 6th, 2012
7:04 pm

It was not meant to be funny just telling it like it is.

DAWG IN NWFLA

November 6th, 2012
7:06 pm

GOOD LUCK COACH AND FINISH THE DRILL…REHABBING AFTER SEC CHAMPIONSHIP WILL EASE THE PAIN….GOD SPEED MARK AND FAMILY

dawftired

November 6th, 2012
7:08 pm

Do it coach. I did it over two years ago and feel great. See my man Dr. Yerasimedes in Louisville, KY. He uses an anterior approach. I missed only 12 days of work. Could not have gone better and will be traveling the 5 hours again for my other hip soon. Oh, and keep encouraging the dump off pass to the backs in the flat. Sooner or later Marshall or Gurley will take one to the house.