Georgia wants to keep Mark Richt and Richt wants to stay. What’s left are details. But details are important, contractually speaking.
Richt’s existing contract runs through 2013, so it isn’t as if he’s a free-agent-to-be. Presumably AD Greg McGarity will offer a raise and an extension, which brings us to the heart of those details. How many more years?
This is a concern not without nuance. Too short an extension sends one message; too long sends another. Here would seem the alternatives:
One more year: This wouldn’t so much be an extension as a very gentle pat on the back. It essentially would say, “We like what you did this season, but we want to see more.” Outsiders would interpret this as McGarity feeling the rise to 10-3 from 6-7 was less a function of coaching than scheduling. A one-year extension won’t happen because it would undercut Richt almost as much as no extension.
Two more years: This would push Richt’s deal through the 2015 season, which is a good ways off and, for recruiting purposes, would allow him to assure current recruits he has a measure of job security through their college careers. Unless, that is, they redshirt. And if they’re not good enough to plays as freshmen, who wants them? (Kidding!)
Three more years: This is the most-rumored extension, and it would make some sense. Five-year contracts are the industry standard. (Even Paul Hewitt had a five-year contract, the difference being that his never stopped being a five-year contract.) This would be a virtual mandate for Richt, but a virtual mandate might be overdoing it. Does one bounceback season override two lesser ones? Will a different schedule — Georgia is scheduled to play at South Carolina and Alabama next season, though speculation holds that SEC newbie Missouri will take the Tide’s place — yield a less desirable result? Is McGarity, who hasn’t negotiated with Richt before, prepared to make the statement: “This is the only coach we want or are ever going to want”?
Four more years or beyond: Too long for any coach, even one who has won his division four times in 11 seasons. Skeptics among us — and they still exist — would note that Richt hasn’t won the SEC since 2005 and has never taken his team to the BCS title game. (Got close a couple of times, though.)
Were I McGarity, I’d open with a two-year offer but count on settling for three. Richt is still a handsome commodity in an industry where big-name schools have been reduced to hiring the likes of Jim Mora (UCLA) and Charlie Weis (Kansas). There’s no reason to tick off such a bird in hand.
By opening with a two-year bid, McGarity would make the point that Georgia likes and supports this coach but wants him to consolidate the gains made in 2011 and have even bigger seasons soon. By settling for three, McGarity comes off as erring on the side of his coach, which is the side an AD needs to choose unless he’s about to fire him.
Georgia fans could and should be enthused by the developments of the past four months. A team that was losing almost every in-doubt game found ways to win 10 times running. That said, the Bulldogs did lose to the three best teams they played, and only one of those losses wound up being close. For as far as Georgia came in 2011, there’s still a ways to go.
The good news is that Georgia again has reason to believe Richt is the man to take it there. He deserves a reward. But a reward isn’t the same as a lifetime contract. The aforementioned Hewitt got one of those, and seven years later Georgia Tech had to pay dearly to make him go away.
By Mark Bradley