Q&A WITH VINCE DOOLEY
With an 0-2 start on the heels of 6-7 season, UGA President Michael Adams and Athletic Director Greg McGarity have found themselves having to answer questions lately about Mark Richt’s long-term security as the Bulldogs’ football coach. Of course, they’re both very non-committal on the issue, considering there are 10 games remaining in the regular season. President Adams was asked about it again on Thursday at UGA’s cabinet meeting. “I think this is the time for all of us to come together and get behind this group of guys who played a heck of a game last Saturday and deserve our support,” he said. “I’ve never folded on anything 15 or 20 percent into it. That’s what we would be doing. . . . It’s time for us as a community to get behind this team.” Earlier this week, McGarity told me, “I’m not going to do a weekly scorecard on our football coach. We’ve got 10 more games to play.”
Vince Dooley is uniquely qualified to talk about the situation since he’s a former AD and head football coach at Georgia and actually was the man responsible for hiring Richt. Dooley was at both of the Bulldogs’ games this season and will be there Saturday as his 1971 team is honored on the 40th anniversary of its 11-1 season. So here’s what he had to say when I asked him Thursday to share his thoughts on Richt’s situation:
Q: Coach Richt has endured a lot of criticism lately in the wake of the Bulldogs’ 0-2 start and declining win totals the last three seasons. What are your thoughts on the job he’s doing?
A: “If you stay in this business long enough, you’re going to go through some down times. Joe Paterno had about four losing seasons in five years before he went on his run. Bear Bryant, in 1969 and ‘70, had some struggling times. He got beat by Vanderbilt up in Nashville. I remember his athletic director saying he was going to look for a new coach. At the end of the season he said, ‘I looked all over the country and can’t find one better than the one I got right now.’ I’ve been through it myself. In fact, we’re celebrating the ‘71 team reunion this week. That was an 11-1 team that finished sixth or seventh in the county. But the two years before that were down years. We won the SEC championship in ‘66 and ‘68 prior to that. So you have to be able to weather those down years and go forward. Every coach has to go through it. And usually you come out a better coach by having gone through it. So I’m confident Coach Richt is going to address it.”
Q: What were your impressions of the first two games this season and what do you think about the 2011 team?
A: “That first team we played this year, Boise State, is really good. They’re great, in fact. They’re great because of that defensive line and that quarterback. They can play with anybody. We played good enough to win that ballgame against South Carolina. They out-played them. But you have these turnovers – and they’re all bad – but these were disastrous because they resulted in touchdowns. They were touchdown turnovers. They weren’t turnovers that just gave them an opportunity to score touchdowns; they were touchdowns. So this team probably should have won that game and is very capable of ending up with a very strong year. You can look to the example of Virginia Tech last year. That was a lot worse than this. After they got beat by Boise they lost to James Madison. I think South Carolina is a little better than James Madison. So, anyway, it’s just what you have to go through.
“Coach Richt is a proven coach. He’s the type of guy you want at Georgia, the way he conducts himself, his character and the way he represents the university. I think he has the support of the greatest majority of people because they believe in him. I believe in him, too. So I think he’ll come out of it as other coaches have gone through it and have come out of it. He’ll be fine. He’ll be here a long time.”
Q: So what happened? How do you explain the downturn of late?
A: “I don’t think we’ve gotten quite the production from our players. Maybe we haven’t recruited quite as well. We haven’t been fortunate with some of these athletes. You can go back to that as well. And other teams have come on strong. It’s hard to think that other teams may have caused this but other teams are good. They’re trying to win, too. You’ve got new blood coming in every year and competitors each and every year that are all striving to make it. So everybody can’t be on top all the time.”
Q: Do you think giving up total control of the offense was a mistake for Richt?
A: “I don’t think so. The offensive production has actually been better. And I did the same thing after five years. As you take on more and more responsibilities as the head coach, the quarterbacks and offensive still demand more and more time and you’re not able to give it to them. I did the same thing and I think he made the right decision. He’s certainly still involved. You have to remain involved, but you can’t be totally involved. Even Steve Spurrier, as much as he’s involved, he’s got a guy who is coordinating and working with the quarterbacks. He still runs it from the sideline. So, no, I don’t think that’s the reason things haven’t gone as well. But people feel like they have to point to something when we’re not doing as well and that’s just one variant they point to based on the fact that it’s a change from what we’d been doing.”
Q: Let me ask you to put on your AD’s hat for a minute. Coach Richt will have only two years remaining on his contract heading into next season. So the decision is not just whether to keep him, but whether to extend his contract as well. So what has to happen for Richt for that to happen?
A: “My thoughts are we just started the season. People are talking about things we ought to be thinking about after the season. You just started. Yeah, there are some concerns. Coach Richt is concerned; we’re all concerned. But he’s got to be able to address the issues and he’s just getting started. At the end of the season, we’ll see where we are. The assumption is it’s going to be bad. Let’s wait and see. I think we’ve got a chance to have a good football season. I really do.”
– Chip Towers