I understand why Mark Richt was fired. To compete for conference and national championships it might be the right decision, but I don’t like it. I’m not sure greener pastures are ahead in Athens. But could things take a turn for the worse?
Sunday I quickly learned the decision had been made before the Florida game. A former player's co-worker spilled those beans on Facebook.
Active Coaches ranked by Winning Percentage
.847 100-18 Chris Petersen: Boise State, Washington
.845 142-26 Urban Meyer: Bowling Green, Utah, Florida, Ohio State
.841 58-11 Jimbo Fisher: FSU
.792 168-44 Bob Stoops: Oklahoma
.778 42-12 David Shaw: Stanford
.752 182-59-1 Nick Saban: Toledo, Michigan State, LSU, Alabama
.746 132-45 Gary Patterson: TCU
.739 136-48 Mark Richt: Georgia
.737 98-32 Brian Kelly: Central Michigan, Cincinnati, Notre Dame
.730 92-34 Bobby Petrino: Louisville, Arkansas, Western Kentucky
.724 139-53 Les Miles: Oklahoma State, LSU (under fire for going 9-3)
All eleven coaches above have lost games this year. Most have lost more than one. Two of the 11 are in the hunt for the national championship. Half of the top ten padded their winning percentage at small schools. Others inherited winning programs at major powers. Richt inherited a mess at Georgia and won right away. But that was 15 years ago. Times have changed.
It is a foregone conclusion Georgia’s new hire will not have as winning a record (if any). Who will they get? Kirby Smart has never been a head coach before. Dan Mullen is 54-35 at Mississippi State, a .607 winning percentage (3-2 in bowl games). He is a good family man, a decent replacement for Richt. Could he take Georgia to the next level? With a Heisman candidate playing quarterback, State finished next to last in the SEC West. Ohio State’s former offensive coordinator Tom Herman turned Houston around in one year. He’s already spurned South Carolina and signed a new deal with Houston today. Would he accept an offer from Georgia? I’d rather have an offensive coach at the helm, but what do I know?
The people on social media wanting Mark Richt to be fired - most know just enough to have an opinion, but they’re leaving out everything they don’t know. Most never went to Georgia. “That’s not the way I wanted it to happen” said one fan who had long called for Richt’s firing. What did he want, Richt’s head on a platter? “I thought he would retire.” Would YOU walk away from the challenge, from a multi-million dollar job? Are these people mouthing off on social media even watching the games? Do they watch three games every Saturday? Watch the pregame? Listen to talk radio? Read the articles? Or are they going to dinosaur movies on Saturday afternoon?
Georgia Tech is just as guilty. Their fans just aren’t as rabid. Tech is far from the perfect environment for a student athlete. The Jackets use and abuse athletes just like any other school, then cast them aside when their eligibility is done. For any Tech fan (or any other school) to hold up their school as a paragon of virtue is just as ignorant. If Stanford or Northwestern or Duke can field a competitive team, there’s no reason the Jackets shouldn’t compete for the championship in the much-easier ACC every year. Six wins and a bowl game is nothing in the ACC.
It’s fun to watch the games. It’s fun to get educated about the team, about the season, to determine what a reasonable expectation is for the team. What isn’t fun is to read uneducated, often emotional responses on social media. In this new age I must find a way to better balance the good information and shield myself from the noise, from the clutter.
After the win over Tech, Mark Richt somewhat uncharacteristically quoted Theodore Roosevelt’s 1910 “Citizenship in a Republic” speech in Paris: It’s not the critic who counts. It’s not the man who points out where the strong man stumbled or whether the doer of deeds could’ve done them better. The credit belongs to the man who’s actually in the arena, who’s been devoured. Win or lose, at least he wasn’t one of those timid souls that know neither victory nor defeat.” Fans read that, stop for a second – then go right on bashing.
UGA did not spend on the level as other SEC schools they competed against: Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Florida. Until last year. The Dawgs were a step behind in facilities, recruiting, nutrition, strength training, and coach’s salaries. Fans complained for years about offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Mike Bobo, who finally left town for a bigger payday and head coaching job. His unproven replacement was awarded the salary Bobo deserved. By midseason fans were wishing Bobo had never left. New defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt came in from Alabama and shook things up, ruffling some feathers in the process.
Are SEC titles and national championships an unreasonable expectation? In the big bucks world of college football, certainly not. Winning at all costs trumps developing young men and graduating players. When you are paying a head coach millions and millions, ten win seasons and New Year’s Day bowl games aren’t enough. UGA is indeed an elite program. If the team fails to even compete against ranked opponents, something has to change. This I understand. But not like.
I do wish UGA success in their dance with the devil. I’ll try not to say I told you so.