Opposing fan bases have always accused those of us in the Georgia Bulldog Nation of living in the past. We remain infatuated with Larry Munson, Herschel Walker, Vince Dooley, and others from years ago. Many of us have an audio library of Munson’s famous radio calls dating back to the 1970s. No, Munson’s old calls won’t win Georgia a national championship, but they sure are entertaining.
Now comes word that the university will honor former head coach Mark Richt at halftime of the Missouri game on November 6. That is sure to bring guffaws from Bammers, Tigers, Gators and even Techies who have won national championships since 1980. “You’re celebrating a coach who you fired because he couldn’t win the big one,” they are bound to howl. “Who does that?”
Richt was Georgia’s coach for fifteen seasons, compiling a record of 145-51 and winning SEC Championships in 2002 and 2005. Missing from that resume` is the national championship that became so coveted within the SEC during Richt’s tenure. He had a couple of near miss opportunities, but it never happened. What’s that they say about only in hand grenades and horseshoes does close count?
Former Athletic Director Greg McGarity pulled the plug on Richt on November 29, 2015. McGarity was acting on the sentiment of Georgia’s corps of big boosters and most Bulldog fans who agreed that Richt had become complacent and ineffective. He was winning most of the games that he should win, some by the skin of his teeth, but that was about it. The embarrassing 38-10 loss to Alabama and the nail-biting 23-17 overtime win over Georgia Southern that season were the ultimate death knells. The program had simply grown stale.
McGarity is gone so now six years later Richt and his wife Kathryn will be brought back to campus when all is forgiven. In reality, there is nothing to forgive Richt for. He was a great steward of Georgia football longer than any coach not named Vince Dooley or Wally Butts. His character and loyalty to the university and the players he coached were above reproach. He will be honored more for the man that he is and the way he represented Georgia than for winning games. Even Georgia fans who clamored for his firing can’t deny that.
Ironically, Richt’s biggest mistake is the main reason that he remains revered. He never made it a secret that he would never leave Georgia for another job. His bosses took him for granted and absolutely refused to provide him with the resources needed to seriously compete for a national championship. Richt never leveraged his popularity and early success for improvements when maybe he should have. He steadfastly remained loyal to the school because of the vow to his players that he would never abandon them for greener pastures.
In the cut-throat world of college football, Mark Richt stubbornly stuck to his word to his own detriment. Athletic Director Josh Brooks, who was originally hired by Richt in 2008 as Director of Football Operations, knows that with Richt’s health problems, now is the time to bring him back into the fold. That’s not living in the past. That’s doing the right thing.