Why is it that Mark Richt doesn’t get more respect?
ESPN.com recently released the results of its latest SportsNation poll on the current state of SEC football, and one thing that caught my eye was the response to the question of who is the best coach in the conference. You’d expect Urban Meyer, coming off his second BCS national championship at Florida, to top that list and he did, taking 51 percent of the 17,655 votes.
But who was next? Alabama’s Nick Saban at 22 percent, followed by LSU’s Les Miles at 15 percent. Then came Richt and South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier (whose best days are behind him), tied at 6 percent.
Looking just at the numbers, you’d think Richt might have done better. The guy has won two SEC championships in eight seasons at UGA, and with a won-loss record of 82-22, his winning percentage of .788 is fourth best in the country among active coaches. (Meyer’s overall winning percentage is .830.) Richt is one of only seven coaches in Division 1-A history to get 80 wins in his first eight seasons. He’s also the dean of SEC coaches in terms of longevity at his current school.
Saban has a winning percentage of .683, well behind Richt’s, and so far at Bama he has only an SEC West division title. At LSU, Saban won two SEC titles, matching Richt. But he also won a BCS national championship.
Miles, who was head coach at Oklahoma State before moving to LSU, also lags behind Richt with an overall winning percentage of .693. And he has only one SEC championship. But, again, he also has a BCS national championship.
And that, of course, is why Richt doesn’t get as much respect as you might expect from his won-loss record. He’s in a conference with coaches who have won three of the past six BCS titles, and he has none. It might not be fair, but until Richt brings one of those crystal footballs back to Athens, he’s always going to be considered not quite in the first rank of SEC coaches.
What do you think? Should winning a BCS title trump overall winning percentage? Are Saban and Miles really better coaches than Richt?
Elsewhere, it looks like the latest battleground for bragging rights among BCS schools is spring scrimmage attendance. Part of the Saban lore in Crimson Tide country has been the large crowds drawn to Alabama’s spring games since he landed in Tuscaloosa. Interestingly, though, Bama’s 84,050 for this year’s spring game was only good enough for second place behind Ohio State’s 95,722, an NCAA record according to SportsBusiness Daily. Third place went to Nebraska with 77,670, followed by Penn State (76,500), Florida (65,000), Tennessee (51,488), Michigan (50,000), Auburn (45,381), Texas (44,000) and UGA in 10th place with this year’s G-Day crowd of 42,458.
In UGA’s defense, it’s been noted that the Dogs have a tougher time than some schools in terms of spring attendance because of all the other sporting events going on in the state at the same time, what with pro sports and a little event called the Masters. But, really, does attendance at a spring game mean anything? (Folks on North Avenue, where their game only drew 8,500, probably would say no.) Is it indicative of the strength and fervor of a school’s fan base or just proof there’s not much going on in some areas?
Scheduling note: I’ll be gone on vacation for most of the next two weeks, but feel free to keep the discussion of all things Bulldog going in the comments.