If Mark Richt Is on the Hot Seat, Then Someone Has Some Splainin' To Do

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If Mark Richt Is on the Hot Seat, Then Someone Has Some Splainin' To Do
Doug Benc/Getty Images

By definition, the "hot seat" is not a great place to be—particularly if you are a coach. Many in the college football world, including a few within the Georgia Bulldog nation, seem to feel that coach Mark Richt is sitting on the hot seat right now.

Their reasons are at both logical (he hasn't won a national championship despite the talent) and illogical (he lacks the killer instinct of Urban Meyer and Nick Saban) but present all the same. So, although it may seem like repetition to be again addressing this issue so soon after my previous article, I felt a need to delve more deeply into the conversation regarding Mark Richt and the safety of his position at Georgia. This is simply my humble opinion based on the numbers. Take it for what it’s worth.

 

1. He’s been no better than Jim Donnan and they let Donnan go after only five years. How much more time should Mark Richt be given to make Georgia a champion?

For one, to compare Jim Donnan to Mark Richt is unfair. Both coaches did and have done a fine job for the University of Georgia. However, they are not perceived the same by any measure.

Mark Richt did more in his first five years at Georgia than Jim Donnan did in his five seasons. Below is a side-by-side comparison of their accomplishments over a similar span of time:

Total: Jim Donnan 1996-2000 Mark Richt 2001-2005
Win/Loss Record (Away/Neutral) 40-19 (18-11) 52-13 (25-9)
Top 25 Finishes* 4 5
Top 10 Finishes* 1 4
Bowl Appearances 4 5
SEC Championships 0 2
Record vs Tennessee 1-4 4-1
Record vs South Carolina 3-2 4-1
Record vs Florida 1-4 1-4
Record vs Auburn 2-3 2-3
Record vs Georgia Tech 2-3 5-0
Record vs Top 25 7-13 16-12

*Only Associated Press (AP) rankings are considered for fairness sake. The BCS didn’t exist until after the 1997 season.

While it’s true that both Jim Donnan and Mark Richt had a similar lack of success against Florida—hence the comparison drawn by some that Richt is no better than Donnan—Donnan had problems defeating Georgia’s biggest in-state rival, Georgia Tech. That was, arguably, the most important factor in his undoing.

The losses to Florida notwithstanding, the administration could not tolerate losing to Georgia Tech on a regular basis and neither could the fans.

 

2. Urban Meyer, Les Miles, and Nick Saban have all won national championships—why hasn’t Richt? He’s not even in the conversation with those guys, yet he’s supposed to be a top-notch head coach? How do you figure that? You must be delusional .

Again, coach Richt has had a few opportunities to play for the national title and his inability to procure a championship is disheartening to the fans who follow the program closely. However, the fact that Richt has kept Georgia in the hunt says a lot—especially given the injuries that have hit the program over the years—and a number of fans believe it’s just a matter of time before the odds fall their way.

Even so, his lack of success at winning a title should not be an indictment against his merits as a head coach. His winning percentage over the last decade puts him in good company. Below are the programs with the highest winning percentage over the past decade (courtesy of www.stassen.com ):

Rank Team Name Win-Pct Won Lost
1. Boise State 0.87179 102 15
2. Texas 0.86325 101 16
3. Southern Cal 0.83621 97 19
4. Ohio State 0.81739 94 21
5. Oklahoma 0.80165 97 24
6. LSU 0.77119 91 27
7t. Georgia 0.76923 90 27
7t. Florida 0.76923 90 27
9. TCU 0.75893 85 27
10. Virginia Tech 0.73950 88 31
11. Utah 0.73874 82 29
12. Miami 0.71681 81 32

 

Among those listed, only Mack Brown (Texas), Pete Carroll (USC), Jim Tressel (Ohio State), Bob Stoops (Oklahoma), and Mark Richt (Georgia), were at their post for all 10 seasons. The tie that binds them all, excluding coach Richt, is a national title.

 

3. The talent pool at Georgia is weak. Richt has lost his edge in recruiting over the years and that will lead to Georgia’s demise—watch and see.

The 2009 recruiting class was disappointing only in that Georgia seemed to lose some key prospects at the final hour.  However, it was still a Top 20 class and, although small, it addressed key needs on the defensive side of the ball. That said, recruiting has not been mediocre or weak under coach Richt since his arrival at Georgia.

According to rivals.com, from 2002-2009, the Georgia Bulldogs signed eight Top 10 classes. Those classes ended up accounting for over 70 wins, more than 40 NFL draft picks, five All-Americans, and 30+ All-SEC players.

For those who might say, based on that, then Georgia has certainly under-performed at the national level, I say again, the criteria used to make that determination seems to hinge most assuredly on the lack of a national championship. Add a Sears Trophy and the argument holds less water.

 

4. Mark Richt lacks the “killer instinct.” He’s too nice to win the big one—face it—he’s soft.

I don’t know what a coach’s demeanor has to do with winning a championship but if Richt’s perceived lack of fire on the sidelines is the reason Georgia isn’t winning the “big one,” then by all means, make Richt a more animated character.

Have him throw his headset down, argue with officials, walk onto the field and slap the backsides of his players, clap at every good call, and scowl at all the bad ones, pump his fist, dance on the field….would that give him the edge he needs to win the “big one”?  Consider this, when Richt has given his team the liberty to show some heart, he’s been endlessly criticized.

Remember how much flack he got after the Alabama Blackout game of 2008? How about the soldier boy dance against Auburn in 2007? The press still brings up his "lack of sportsmanship" after the team stormed the end zone against Florida. 

Last I checked, being a spectacle had less to do with a championship than being a good coach and, fire or no fire, Richt knows how to win games.

 

5. Richt is headed for a fall similar to Tommy Tuberville and Phillip Fulmer. No way around it, he’s done in a year or two—deal with it.

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard this statement in the last 12-months, I could buy a lovely home on Lake Oconee—right next door to Todd Grantham.

The circumstances that ran Tuberville and Fulmer from their respective posts have no bearing on what will happen to Mark Richt. Here are the performance records of Tuberville and Fulmer in their last three seasons contrasted against Mark Richt’s performance over his last three years.

Total: Tommy Tuberville Phillip Fulmer Mark Richt
Win-Loss 25-13 24-15 29-10
vs Top 25 4-6 5-10 10-6
vs SEC 13-11 14-11 16-8
Win Pct. 0.658 0.615 0.744
Top 25 Finishes 2 2 2
Bowl Record 2-0 1-1 3-0

 

No doubt, this will spring up more debate and more numbers to contradict the ones that have been presented here. However, the bottom line is this: Mark Richt has done a great job at Georgia and the continual mention of his job being in jeopardy is a bit premature.

If his win totals continue to decline in the next two or three seasons, then revisit the issue but so long as he’s producing teams that consistently win and remain relevant, how can anyone question his overall value to Georgia?

It really comes down to one question for those who think Richt’s time is up and he needs to go: Who would you suggest Georgia hire instead? Who do you honestly feel would do any better?

 

This article, and more, can be found at "The Lady Sportswriter" , check it out and subscribe today for your daily dose of Georgia Bulldog commentary—"Talkin' Georgia Bulldogs and Football 24/7".

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