The area around Athens, Georgia, home to my alma mater, the University of Georgia, is still experiencing aftershocks from the huge earthquake which struck on Sunday, November 29th. The magnitude of this event cannot be measured on the Richter scale, although that name is apropos. The ground did not literally move, but the UGA football program and the Bulldog Nation has been shaken and irretrievably changed by the firing of long-time head football coach Mark Richt.
So, what did Mr. Richt due to deserve to be sacked? Let’s consider the facts. The Georgia Bulldogs have won two SEC championship, achieved 6 SEC East championships, recorded four straight 10 wins seasons and played in a bowl game every single season in the Richt era. Coach Richt has a winning percentage of approximately 0.739, a percentage that any baseball hitter would die to have. He is the second winningest coach in UGA history and has the fifth best winning record of active FBS coaches. This year his team had a (winning) 9-3 record and are headed to an as yet undetermined bowl game. So, with this performance record of course, the powers that be want to fire him….
Um, wait just a minute. What’s wrong with this picture? Well, he didn’t win any national championships and he didn’t win the SEC Championship every single year–that’s what! Coach Richt concedes that the performance standard for him was to win the SEC Championship. With 14 teams in the SEC, 13 out of 14 head football coaches will soon be out of a job if that’s the industry standard of performance.
Vince Lombardi is apparently the UGA Athletic Director’s hero. Coach Lombardi is famous for saying, “Winning isn’t everything–it’s the only thing.” As far as SEC football goes, that quote clearly is the gospel truth. Why even Les Miles’ job is far from secure because he didn’t provide the Tigers with the whole enchilada this year (regardless of his stellar past track record).
So much for it isn’t whether you win or lose but how you play the game as Grantland Rice (a storied sportswriter) and my mother would say. Regardless of wins and losses, Mark Richt was known as a man of integrity and deep religious faith. He received the 2013 Stallings Award, a humanitarian award for community service. He is a family man with a big heart, big enough to grow his family by two through adoption. Coach Richt is the epitome of a Southern gentleman, even on the sidelines during a game. No visor throwing, player punching or bleeping words anywhere to be seen or heard. No finer role model could be found for a young athlete. He taught his players football, but he also taught them teamwork, requiring his players to work on houses for Habitat For Humanity together to bond, learn to act jointly for a common goal and recognize that there is life outside of football.
While Mark Richt is currently out of a job, the bigger loss is UGA’s. I mourn for the skewed values demonstrated by the powers that be at my beloved alma mater. UGA may get Smart (Kirby Smart, that is) for a new coach who might (or might not) deliver a trophy, but the university is not smart enough to realize what a treasure they have thrown away by kicking Mark Richt out of the Dawghouse. BAD DAWGS!!!!