Richt’s firing confirms what many believed: It was time for a change (update)

Georgia said goodbye to Mark Richt wjhen it fired him, now he’s saying goodbye to Athens. (Curtis Compton, ccompton@ajc.com)

PLEASE CLICK THIS LINK TO READ FULLY UPDATED COLUMN.

Below is earlier blog.

Mark Richt did what Jim Donnan and Ray Goff couldn’t. He returned Georgia football to a level of prominence, winning two SEC championships in his first five seasons at a school that hadn’t won a conference title in two decades.

But the potential downside to having so much early success and raising the bar at a major college football program is that a coach is expected to maintain that. Richt didn’t. And so, he is gone. Georgia made official Sunday what had been rumored for several weeks, firing one of the most successful coaches in the school’s history, despite a 9-3 record and four straight wins to close the regular season. That should tell you the decision was actually made a while ago.

Am I surprised? No. Not after my brief exchange with athletic director Greg McGarity Saturday following a win over Georgia Tech. It was clear the decision was weighing heavily on McGarity and he declined to shed any light on Richt’s future. The only question was whether he and school president Jere Morehead would push the button on firing a coach who finished 9-3.

This isn’t a day of celebration. A good coach and a great man lost his job. But Richt simply wasn’t getting it done to the level he needed to any more.

I’ve included a text of the official announcement below. No reason was given for Richt’s firing. Logic suggests the decision actually was made weeks ago, likely after the loss to Florida, because the Bulldogs have won four straight games since then. But as I wrote following Saturday’s 13-7 win over Georgia Tech and four weeks ago after the Florida game, the Bulldogs’ record was built on wins over soft competition, they had struggled in recent years against ranked teams and their season had long been defined by the losses to Florida, Tennessee and Alabama.

Some Richt supporters had drawn parallels between Richt and LSU coach Les Miles, who appeared to be in trouble until a clumsy post-game news conference Saturday night in which LSU athletic director Joe Alleva said Miles would return next season. But Miles won a national championship and has been to the title game twice. That earns him a longer period of time to amend for the LSU’s relative slide in recent years. Richt hasn’t earned that benefit of the doubt.

I’ll have more later on this. I’m sure everybody wants to know who Georgia should hire. Here are a few names I like.

First two calls:

  • Make Jimbo Fisher and Chip Kelly say no. I know they’re longshots but both are proven college coaches who obviously can recruits and have enjoyed tremendous success. My guess is Kelly will be back in college somewhere next season.

Second calls (no particular order)

  • Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen. He has done an unbelievable job at Mississippi State and indications are he’s looking for an escape rout. His hiring also conceivably would allow Georgia to keep defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, if they chose to.
  • Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart. Nobody knows if he will be a great head coach but I’ll take anybody who has worked this long for Nick Saban. Smart has learned from the best.
  • SMU coach/former Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris. Morris just got to SMU and went only 2-10 but he inherited a bad situation and has significantly improved the Mustangs’ offense. He’s going to be a very good head coach.

Here’s a text of the official news release:

“Coach Richt and I met Sunday morning to discuss the status of our football program,” said UGA J. Reid Parker Director of Athletics Greg McGarity, “and we mutually agreed that he would step down as head coach and would have the opportunity to accept other duties and responsibilities at UGA following the bowl game.”

“I appreciate the opportunity of serving the University as well as considering any other options that may present themselves in the future,” said Richt.

“On behalf of the University of Georgia Athletic Association and Bulldogs everywhere, I want to thank Mark and Katharyn for 15 years of remarkable service to the UGA community, hundreds of our students and staff, and to college football,” McGarity continued.

“Mark’s record on the field was outstanding; however, his impact on college football goes well beyond the gridiron. His fingerprints are evident on shaping the lives of children, many of whom attend a Bulldog summer camp or a retreat; they are evident on the prospective student-athletes as they determine what college to attend — whether it be UGA or a competitor; they are evident on his current players, and probably even more so, on those who have lettered and are in the workplace, as fathers and husbands. For those contributions, we are sincerely appreciative. … Mark has touched thousands of lives over the past 15 years — he has a huge heart and his positive influence has affected many people, young and old. We will never actually know how many people were positively impacted by a comforting phone call, a sympathetic or uplifting note, an autographed football or photo — he had the unique ability to shine a bright light on others when they needed it most.  … Mark has the opportunity to remain on our staff at the University of Georgia, and would be heavily involved with outreach programs for our former football lettermen via the PO Network as well as other University and Athletic Association initiatives. We wish Mark, Katharyn and his family the best as he enters a new chapter of his life.”

“Mark Richt has been an outstanding coach and mentor to our student-athletes during his fifteen-year tenure, and we have developed a strong and enduring friendship during that time,² said UGA President Jere W. Morehead.  “I am deeply grateful for his many years of dedicated service to the University of Georgia, and I particularly appreciate the positive way he has represented UGA. I have asked Mark to remain engaged with the institution in a new leadership role, and I look forward to hopefully working closely with him as we advance our capital campaign at the University of Georgia. I know all UGA alumni and supporters will look forward to celebrating the successful conclusion of his coaching career at UGA in a bowl game later this year. I want to wish Katharyn and the Richt family all the best.

Reader Comments 0

102 comments
Howardgarrett
Howardgarrett

The words "true and loyal be" ring less true from my University of Georgia Alma Mater with the firing of Coach Mark Richt.

What can a National or SEC Championship bring UGA if strong, virtuous leadership is sacrificed? Is winning national/ SEC championships necessary to sell tickets? I think not. The loss of Coach Richt is a particularly amplified loss to those athletes coming from at-risk homes and/or single parent homes. Fortunately, Georgia’s young men have benefitted from Coach Richt’s example of Godly character, integrity, and discipline over his 15 years while enjoying historic increase to Georgia’s football stature and winning football records. Coach Richt would likely have put together a national champion team in time.

The regrettable, unnecessary firing of Coach Richt leaves Georgia in a most difficult, if not impossible, job of replacement. Perhaps Georgia’s motto should be modified to read similar to a Vince Lombardi famous saying, "Winning is not the most important thing, winning ‘Championships’ is the only thing!" Of course, professional football is different from college football, since it is played by 18-22 year old student-athletes as opposed to full time, paid professional athletes.

May God continue to bless the University of Georgia despite its ignorance. I am not sure if Greg McGarity's decision was as impulsive as indicated on the way home from the Tech game, but I fear he (and UGA) will regret it short term. Not Kirby Smart or Hugh Freeze or any name I have heard will take Georgia up a notch. If Georgia wants to win at any cost, why not the man? Sabin could bring same to Georgia as he has Alabama. I doubt Alabama has any more money than Georgia. Sabin has proven "show me the money" and now Georgia has proven "show me the Trophy"!

Dunwoody

Zino
Zino

mark and jeff know football! they should choose the next coach, and determine the salary!! they are on top of it!!

Dr. Jeff
Dr. Jeff

The last time I knew, only one team wins the national championship a year.  At most schools, if you won 145 games in 15 years, they would build a statue of you and do everything in their power to keep you there.  Unfortunately, somebody or maybe many have decided that it is time for a change.  Let's see how that works out for Georgia, their alums, fans, students and staff.

TideDawg
TideDawg

@Dr. Jeff You're right about (Only One) Only one wins the East Division, Only one wins the SEC CG and only one wins the National CG. Wouldn't it be a kick in the head if Richt went to a competing school and became that "One" before Georgia and their new coach could do it??? And what if Richt ends up the OC at Alabama? Oh my!!

ChrisCross
ChrisCross

Richt's firing confirms it was a time for change?  That's circular logic … if I walk into a bar and some random guy punches me in the face, does that prove I had it coming? 


Maybe, maybe not.  We'll never know if Richt would have eventually hit on the right combination of talent to bring a national championship to Athens.  Now they'll have to roll the dice and hope they don't end up with Lane Kiffin or some other charlatan.


What we do know is that Dawg fans are semi-delusional.  This season was never going to end up with a trip to the college playoffs, not with a game manager at QB and the injury to Chubb.  9-3 sounds about right, in fact they beat the weaker teams which is what you're supposed to do.


The only Dawgs teams in the past 10 years that have been a true contenders were the Aaron Murray team back in '12 that fell a few yards short in the SEC championship game, and maybe the Stafford/Moreno team.  Unfortunately for Dawgs fans they had to compete with Alabama and Nick Saban, or Urban Meyer.

davidg32
davidg32

I like Coach Richt, and he did two things extremely well:
1.  He was a very good recruiter.  Year-in and year-out, UGA landed a top-10 (and sometimes top-5) recruiting class.
2.  He was a clean-cut, nice-looking man who said the right things and represented the university with class and dignity both on and off the field.


But here's the problem:  During Coach Richt's tenure, I don't remember a single time when the team played ABOVE it's level of ability, and beat a team that was clearly better.  The 2012 SEC Championship game was one of the finest games ever played...we played that year's national champion dead even.  And we should have...we were loaded, and had every bit as much talent as they did. 
But there have been MANY times during Coach Richt's tenure when we did not play to our level of ability, and even played DOWN to the level of our opponent.  Just look at this season:  Alabama and Florida took us to the woodshed, and even Tennessee beat us pretty easily.  I know we lost Chubb, but hell...we had Sony Michel ready to step right in...just like we had had Chubb ready to go when Gurley had to sit out.   And look at the problems we had with Georgia Southern.  I like Georgia Southern (and always will, just for Erk Russell's sake), but they shouldn't have been able to stay within three touchdowns of us. 
And we've had a history of that under Coach Richt.  How many times has it taken the team almost the entire first half to get going? 

It was time for a change.  Thanks for everything, Coach Richt....and good luck, sir.

Spinoza
Spinoza

The only thing funnier than the phrase "student-athletes" when it comes to college football players is the notion that those who write about it are journalists.

Spinoza
Spinoza

Richt spent too much time reading "The Word" and it had little effect on the many bad apples he had as players.  They had talent and he couldn't win the big games or realize the potential of his criminal athletes, and he is gone.  But college football is a sham in any case.  Players who can't read and wouldn't get the time of day from the universities they are courted by if they were not athletes. 


The best thing that could happen and it won't is to take all the money invested in that sport and put it into academics. 

cloudodust
cloudodust

Good man, ok, but in regards to expectations he didn't FINISH THE DRILL. No one to blame but himself 'cause the truth is he has had the players. If in doubt, look to the NFL rosters

traderjoe9
traderjoe9

Georgia fans are lucky. Now they can go out and hire a coach who's actually won a national championship. Even luckier is the fact that one is currently available. I have no doubt Phil Fulmer would jump, or at least step forward, at the chance.

Tuckerite
Tuckerite

John Wooden won his first of 10 national championships in his 16th season as head basketball coach at UCLA. His 10 national championships in 11 years made him the Wizard of Westwood and arguably the greatest coach in NCAA history. He was not the Wizard of Westwood those first 15 years. Mark Richt probably would not have won the national championship in his 16th year and certainly not 10 in the next 11 years, but we will never know what he might have accomplished. Thankfully things were different back in the early 1960's, and college athletics did not miss out on the legendary phase of John Wooden's magical career. Thank you Coach Richt for being a class act through thick and thin.

JSummer
JSummer

I applaud those in leadership who had the courage to say that Dawg Nation deserves excellence.  "Good but never great" is a thing of the past.  National Championships should be the bar set at the flagship institution in a talent rich state such as Georgia.  Why should Alabama be better than Georgia?

LuxLucisofVerum
LuxLucisofVerum

Since 2002 no coach had more players taken in NFL Draft than Mark Richts 79.

Eric_C
Eric_C

This is a sad day in Georgia sports...no joy in seeing CMR fired.  I would have much rather he had been able to see things through.  It's going to be a long road to winning again, but it had to be done. 

DawgWhistle
DawgWhistle

One more thing...McGarity listens to too many 'liquor and beer destributors' to make his decisions.

DawgWhistle
DawgWhistle

Oh yeah, and Kirby ain't 'smart' enough to run a program...all real Georgia fans will be saying 'remember Phillip Fulmer'...and it will take at least as long, if not longer, for Georgia to come back from this crappy decision as it's taken UT...and The only job with UGA I would like to see Msrk Richt take is the AD's job when McGarity gets run off. By the way, have any of Georgia's programs performed better with the coaches McGarity hired? Seems to me he's the 'under performer' in Athens.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@DawgWhistle

McGarity's a gutless boob.

Too much much gator in him from his previous gig.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@DawgWhistle

And here we go again with the Real Georgia Fan Crap again. So anyone who disagrees with your opinion on the football program is not a real Georgia Fan. Read what you just typed and it appears you are not a "Real Georgia Fan". You sound like you are more of a Mark Richt fan than a Georgia fan.

NorwegianBlue
NorwegianBlue

Jeff- please do your part to call attention to Chip Lindsey as a candidate for our next OC.

stogiefogey
stogiefogey

Coach Richt had a good run at UGA, much longer than the average tenure of major college football coaches, but his program clearly had plateaued and it was time for a change. He's a good guy and a good coach and he'll easily find another gig.

DawgWhistle
DawgWhistle

Yeah Shultz, and you gettin your butt whipped will mean it was 'way passed time' you got your butt whipped.

FineousMcDirtyBird
FineousMcDirtyBird

I'm reading this blog, along with Bradley's, and I'm moved to ask why exactly is the University of Georgia entitled to a championship? Two SEC titles in over thirty years, two national championships in their history, what exactly qualifies the Dawgs as a major college football program? Or even in the second tier of SEC programs? You're talking about settling for 9-3 when 9-3 is actually better than what you are supposed to be. Richt won't be unemployed long.

Dawg69
Dawg69

@FineousMcDirtyBird  I don't think UGA is entitled to any kind of championship, but the fans should be entitled to have a team that CHALLENGES for the SEC championship.  They haven't done this but once in the last 10 years. With the talent UGA has had over that period, coaching and game decisions has been the weak point.


Blasingame
Blasingame

Goodbye to probably the finest man to ever coach college football.  There is no doubt that all of college football is diminished by Richt's departure.  At a lesser hyped program, Richt probably would have coached forever.  Having said that, Richt left something to be desired in the down and dirty actuality of the game.  He has a bad propensity to lose the big games and to lose games he should have won going away.  It is understandable; but, I will miss Mark Richt as will college football.  I wish him Godspeed.

Spinoza
Spinoza

@Blasingame Why so many players who couldn't read or stay out of jail if he is such a great guy?

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@Blasingame

I think a high quality man and coach like Mark Richt will be a perfect fit at Virginia,Then he could maintain his dominance over Ga.Tech. The Cavaliers would be pleased as punch to win 8 or 9 games a year, maybe even 6 or 7 a year.

Surelyyoujest
Surelyyoujest

Pay the piper and go after Urban Meyer - after this year he will be looking again and UGA can afford to open the purse strings since Morehead understands athletics, unlike his predecessor Adams..  And both of his daughters live in Atlanta and went to TECH.

And, anybody else but Kirby Smart - he is Saban's puppet and will be just like Muschamp....

Scamwatcher
Scamwatcher

Do you mean Urban Liar, a classless coach that classless schools hire to win at all costs and reputations,lol? If so, Urban Crier could quit while having a losing season claiming "medical problems", lol.

He could also bring in a classless , flaming idiot as defensive coach like Mus-Chimp, lol.

OH:IO
OH:IO

Who would ever want to coach in THE worst division in Power 5 Football?

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@OH:IO

Yeah Bucky ,who in the hell are they gonna get to coach Rutgers? Or Maryland ?

The_Real_KJ
The_Real_KJ

@OH:IO Go look at Sagarin's division ratings, then see if you can get that foot out of your mouth.

Griff73
Griff73

Hire Tom Herman not Kirby!  Fire Shotty and keep Pruitt. Now we have a chance to compete with elite teams.

OH:IO
OH:IO

@Griff73


Tom Herman knows better than becoming a dog.

Dawg69
Dawg69

@OH:IO @Griff73  Tom Herman has already stated publicly that he

is interested in the UGA head coaching job.

TU
TU

Just like last year, Pruitt will probably get offers that will be even bigger money wise. Can UGA afford to pay a big name HC and beat the deals Pruitt will be presented.

FlatTire
FlatTire

@TU can they afford? They are one of the highest revenue football programs in the country

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@TU 

I think Mcgarity's first priority should be trying to get Pruitt to stay as DC, and then the new Head Coach could focus on fixing UGa's offense.

atlfalconno1fan
atlfalconno1fan

Long time coming ...now saint Reich can start him a church somewhere in south Georgia. ? One Georgia dud gone..1 to go..Falcons need to get rid of Matt ryan...he no longer can play and no longer has the will

Big Wally
Big Wally

Get either Smart or Herman. If they get Smart (get it, Get Smart), then it confirms a suspicion that I had that they were truly afraid he would end up at SC.

Mike
Mike

After putting up 13 points against Tech? Are you fkm?

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@LuxLucisofVerum @Mike

That has to be one of the worst losses in the history of FSU football,and this had to be one of the worst teams in Ga.Tech history,at least post Bill Lewis .

LOGS1973
LOGS1973

Jim Donnan still lives in the Athens area.

How about giving Jim another try. If he can't

manage wins, he can always con other coaches

for investments in bogus companies!!Ha, Ha dog

LOGS1973
LOGS1973

Richt may be the man to step in as Falcon's new coach!

7576DAWG
7576DAWG

Richt has set the bar extremely high. Now that the discontent has gotten their way the next Head Coach will have to average 11 wins EVERY year or better or it will be a bad hire and a failure. Good luck finding a Head Coach who will accept coming into a job knowing  what is expected out of him starting the first year. 

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@7576DAWG

I would settle for beating Florida about half the time and being able to stay with in 10 Points of Alabama.

Winning the East every 3 years and the SEC every 5 years,and a national championship every 25 years.


Not too unreasonable a demand for a head coach coming to a top 10 job in the country that generates the 3rd most football revenue in the country,only behind Texas and Michigan.

FlatTire
FlatTire

@7576DAWG bar extremely high??


going over a decade without winning a conference championship


1 BCS level bowl appearance in a decade; 


getting routed in at least 1 game every season for a decade 


losing consistently to your main rival in 15 years Florida


tells everyone out there the bar is set fairly low from fan base  whose team resides in a top 4 recruiting state

7576DAWG
7576DAWG

@FlatTire @7576DAWG The problem was not Richt as much as the big money players making sure Richt had enough money to get the best, instead of Coordinators like Grantham for $500,000 or a 50 yard line Indoor embarrassment. Richt only had this last year to Recruit players , Coaches Coordinators and building our facilities to match the top programs. The only change we needed was Schottenheimer and maybe Sale but everyone would have seen starting next year what an open purse can bring to a program. Recruiting was going great for 2016. I sure hope all the Defensive Staff is kept and the new head Coach  brings a top   Offensive Coordinator , new Offensive Line Coach and Receiver Coach with him and soon before we loss some great Offensive Recruits.