I had to laugh earlier today when a colleague at work pointed out that the independent blog “SportsByBrooks” was reporting that Mark Richt had placed his Lake Hartwell home up for sale.
Predictably, “Brooks” — aka freelance journalist Brooks Melchior, 43, of Los Angeles — makes the leap that Richt selling off his property surely must mean that Richt is in real trouble as the head football coach of the Georgia Bulldogs.
Writes Brooks: “Normally, I don’t subscribe to a coach putting a home up for sale as a sign of anything, but in this case, it might be applicable. . . . Richt doesn’t strike me as a guy out to flip houses, so I think it’s reasonable to surmise that last year’s 6-7 record — and the subsequent outcry emanating from Athens — may have something to do with the coach making over his real estate portfolio.”
I found this funny because Richt told me several weeks ago that he and his wife had decided to place their second home on the market and he told me why. He revealed that to me in an off-the-record meeting we had shortly after I had been placed back on the UGA beat. Actually, I initiated the discussion when I told Richt that my wife and I were considering downsizing but were afraid we would take too much of a financial hit with the economic times being what they are. Richt told me then what he and Katharyn were doing and actually predicted what the reaction would be if and when it went public.
With the cat out of the bag, so to speak, I called Richt Wednesday and asked him to explain again — this time on the record — what he and wife were thinking when they decided to sell the lakehouse. I’ll just let him tell it:
“Within the last year, I read this book, “The Hole in Our Gospel,” written by Richard Stearns. He’s the president of World Vision, U.S. I think people understand who World Vision is but, basically, they help the poor. Through their organization, you can help children, you can help build wells, you can buy them donkeys, whatever people need. World Vision helps people across the world. Well, anyway, there was a lot of statistical data in there about the amount of people that live on a dollar a day around this world. Billions of people. So I’m reading this book and it really affected me. It helped me realize that what we have is way more than we need and that our ability to give is hindered by this property. I guess that’s the best way to tell you. We just wanted to be in a better position to give and bless people that don’t have anything. We felt like this was one way to be able to do that.”
The house and surrounding acreage was listed for $1.99 million on May 17. Richt had the Hart County home built in 2009, about the time his oldest son Jon Richt signed a scholarship to play football at nearby Clemson University. Jon Richt transferred to Mars Hill College shortly after Tommy Bowden was dismissed as Clemson’s coach.
Richt makes more than $3 million a year as Georgia’s coach and has earned more than $25 million in income from UGA since being hired in 2001. So it’s not like he can no longer afford it or is concerned that, without the Georgia job, eventually won’t be able to.
“Our ability to own this home, to have this home, that’s not an issue,” Richt said Wednesday. “It has absolutely nothing to do with anything that has to do with football. It has to do my wife’s desire and my desire to give.
“I was actually compelled to do this much earlier,” he added. “I made the decision to do it a while ago but I didn’t want to do it during the season or during recruiting because I knew it would be blown out of proportion. But it’s been on my heart for a long time, so we’re just going ahead and doing it.”
As for the book that served as Richt’s inspiration, you can read about it HERE. Stearns writes that 40 percent of the world’s population lives on less than $2 a day and 15 percent of the world’s people, about 1 billion people, live on less than $1 a day. The United States, on average, lives on $105 a day, the book claims.
“I’d challenge anybody to read this book and not be affected by it, Richt said. “We just live in such wealth here in America. And I’m talking about everybody. Anybody who’s making 30 grand a year is extremely wealthy compared to rest of the people in the world. These kids, these families will walk two or three miles, half a day or more, to get water that’s really not healthy. They’re drinking stuff that’s not safe for them. Then children die of AIDS, they die of malaria and they die of dehydration. Kids end up dying or the parents die and they’ve got nothing.
“This book just talks about how much of that is going on around the world and, if it was sitting right outside our door, what would we do about it? It’s a very compelling book. Compelling enough for me to say, ‘you know what, I don’t want to pour money into a home like that when I can use it for better things, for eternal things.’ It was just very alarming to find out what’s going on out there and we need to do something about it.”
As has been Richt’s style, he’s doing more about it than selling off his property. He and his family are taking a trip to Honduras this summer with World Vision to observe and assist in the construction of water wells.
As for the SportsbyBrooks report and the predictable assumptions made by it, Richt laughed and said “maybe some good will come from it.”
“If this situation gets people to read this book and gets people more interested in helping the poor, then I’m happy about it,” he said. “I hope other people respond. It’s a very compelling book and if people read it, I think they’ll understand where I’m coming from.”