“Mark Richt’s been a really good coach and real positive person in our profession for a long, long time. I think when you win nine games, that’s a pretty good season, and especially with the body of work that he’s been able to put together there for however years he’s been there. I hate to see people that have the character and quality and ability to affect young people in a positive way like Mark Richt not be a part of our profession.” – Nick Saban
In a move that stunned a lot of people (I don’t know why), Mark Richt was let go (the official term is “mutually parted ways”) as head coach of the Georgia Bulldogs football coach. Richt took over the program in 2001 and by his 2nd season he already led the Bulldogs to an SEC Championship. He would win another SEC championship in 2005 and make another appearance in 2012 (I’ll get to this in a second). He won 10 games bowl games, 2 of those being BCS bowl games. In his 15 years at UGA, his record is 145-51, basically he won 74% of his games.
But it wasn’t good enough.
It might sound absurd, but it’s the truth. Richt is a great head coach, a future Hall of Fame coach, but Richt hadn’t won an SEC Championship since 2005, much less a National Championship. It’s the exact same reason LSU tried to fire Les Miles. Miles is 111-32 in his 11 seasons in Baton Rouge and he has a BCS National Championship and 2 SEC Championships. The firing of Richt was much more justifiable than Miles but I think both should’ve been fired.
From 2011-2013, South Carolina won 11 games each of those years and although winning games is more fun that being a sorry piece of shit (see South Carolina in 2015), winning games and having nothing to show for it just doesn’t mean much. There is only one Nick Saban in the SEC (right now at least), not every is good enough to beat him every year (Hugh Freeze has done it the last two seasons with Ole Miss, but Saban and the Crimson Tide have won it the SEC West the last two years and will more than likely win the SEC again this year) let alone win a conference championship and contend for a national title year in and year out. Hell, Urban Meyer might be the only other coach with those expectations who realistically has a shot a making that happen.
Miles, Richt and even Steve Spurrier have all fallen victim to the standards they created. Spurrier quit on South Carolina in the middle of the season because he couldn’t dare coach another game knowing he just didn’t have it anymore. The pressure got to him and I don’t blame him for leaving. The talk around Columbia, South Carolina from 2014 on about Spurrier was sometimes downright disrespectful. Sometimes the criticism was justified, but you can understand how it gets to a person. Remember how pissed off Nick Saban was that people were mad at him for only beating Arkansas 14-13 in 2014?
When asked about Richt’s firing, Nick Saban said “I think when you win nine games, that’s a pretty good season” well actually Nick, it’s not when you can’t beat the team’s that actually matter. Georgia absolutely didn’t beat anybody this year. Alabama ran over them, they choked against Tennessee and got blown out 27-3 by their biggest rival Florida.
Mark Richt has underachieved throughout his time in Athens. You can also argue he’s one tipped pass in the 2012 SEC Championship away from this conversation never happening. You can also argue that Les Miles had the unfortunate luck of running into Alabama during the BCS Championship and that his team was good enough to beat any other team in the country of except Alabama that year.
2015 saw LSU reach #2 in the College Football Playoff Rankings and then once they lost to Alabama, they lost two more games in a row knocking them out of title contention once again. Miles will be safe for another year, but you have to think his relationship with that school has been soured.
In the case of Georgia, who knows what will happen to them. A lot of people are comparing this to what Tennessee did to Phillip Fulmer and what they’ve been since then. Fulmer, who has a career record of 152-52, was fired after a 5-7 season and Tennessee hasn’t recovered since. They’ve been slightly below average record wise and they haven’t been an SEC east contender at all let alone a contender to do anything else. But the situation is really different. Georgia has a ton of in-state football talent and having a major city like Atlanta in the same state makes Georgia still an attractive spot.
Don’t feel bad Mark Richt, he’ll land in a good spot and he’ll win games at another program. He’s that good.
While I’m completely fine with Georgia firing Richt, hope they have a good plan in place and hopefully they know whoever follows Mark Richt will have one hell of a legacy to live up to.