SAN JOSE, Calif. — It’s often said a man is best judged by his peers, so it certainly says something about Mark Richt that his fiercest rivals expressed the utmost respect for him in the aftermath of his surprising retirement.
“I think Mark is one of the great coaches in our profession,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said Saturday morning at the College Football Playoff Media Day at the SAP Center. “He did a wonderful job at Georgia for a lot of years, and left there after winning 10 games with his last team, (and) he certainly did a good job at Miami.”
Richt, who announced his retirement from Miami last Sunday on the heels of a 7-6 season, was the ACC Coach of the Year and national Walter Camp Coach of the Year just one season earlier in 2017.
The 58-year-old Richt was 145-51 over his 15 seasons at Georgia, his .740 winning percentage standing as the best all-time in Athens.
Richt took over the Bulldogs program at a time (2001) when College Football Hall of Famers Phillip Fulmer and Steve Spurrier were dominating the SEC.
“I congratulate him on the career that he had, he’s a really fine man, father and husband, first and foremost, and that’s hard to do in this profession,” said Fulmer, who like Richt won two SEC championships while running up a 152-52 record in 16 seasons leading the Vols as head coach.
Vols legend Phillip Fulmer says Mark Richt did things the right way
“Mark has his priorities in the right place with his faith, and now he’s young enough to get out and enjoy life,” said Fulmer, who stayed removed from daily football operations for nine years before returning as Tennessee’s athletic director last year. “Mark did do things the right way, and he had a great career.”
Spurrier faced Richt plenty of times during the SEC portion of his hall of fame career from 1990-2001 at Florida and 2005-2015 at South Carolina, said he understands Richt’s decision to step down with the Hurricanes.
“It didn’t shock me Mark decided he’d had enough, it wasn’t going well, and he’s had a good career, and if there’s rebuilding to be done let a younger guy jump in there and try to do it,” Spurrier said. “I can understand why he did what he did, but he had a wonderful career and won two or three conference championships at Georgia.
SEC legend Steve Spurrier tips his visor to Richt
“He had some unlucky games along the way, but he had a wonderful career.”
Saban said he didn’t know the particulars, but things happen in college football, and he’s appreciative of Richt’s time in the game.
“I know they had their struggles this year, but sometimes in one year, you can lose players at a certain positions,” Saban said. “I don’t know all the issues, but I have a tremendous amount of respect for him as a person, professionally as a coach, and his contributions to our profession over a pretty significant amount of time.”
Alabama coach Nick Saban