Mark Richt was introduced in Miami as the perfect choice, and there is no disputing that. He brings a resume of success and stability that a once-great, now-bumbling football program needs and the perspective and moral compass required to give everything around it a badly needed cleansing.
I just hope he’s doing this for the right reasons.
The Richt I saw down the stretch this season looked worn down. The Richt I saw in a press conference the day of his firing Monday looked relieved.
He admits now what he wouldn’t come out and say then: He planned to take a year off. At least a year off. Maybe forever off. He knew there were offers and he knew Miami was one of them. They had been begging him to come back off and on for 15 years, and the cries from Coral Gables began again when Al Golden was fired in October. Miami has been there forever.
But for the first time in a long time, Richt felt at peace. Many close to him wanted him to step away for at least one season. They saw how 33 years of coaching wore on the man, how three straight years of failing to make it back to the SEC title game in the position of favorite in particular beat him down. They knew any new job would be a major undertaking, especially one with the expectations of Miami. Not the right time.
This was Richt after his firing Monday: “It’s a long grind. It can wear a man out.”
This was Richt after his hiring Friday: “I understand what’s expected. I don’t want to make a lot of promises other than I promise we’re going to get to work. It takes a lot of work.”
Is this really about having a chance to return to his alma mater? Or is it about the way things ended in Athens? Because if it’s more the latter, that’s a problem. A spiritual man like Richt doesn’t go through a day fueled by rage, but I just hope he’s not being fueled too much by the, “I’ll show you, Greg McGarity” little guy sitting on his shoulder. Because that’s not healthy and in the long run it’s not going to work.
Richt after the firing was at peace.
Richt, after getting text messages Monday and Tuesday from former players about the impact he had on their lives and getting wooed by Miami, was suddenly motivated to jump right back in.
Which was the emotional decision?
Which was the decision with perspective?
I don’t write this a lot but I have no problem writing this about Richt: I care for the man, and the reason goes well beyond the fact that he’s a good person who lives a spiritual life and constantly strives to better the lives of others. What truly separates him is he retains a remarkable perspective that is often — if not otherwise always — lost in major college athletics.
For everybody else, it’s about winning a championship. For Richt, it’s about being a champion in life.
“Life is about people, not rings. Rings collect dust,” he told his former Georgia players Friday.
It was a wonderful sentiment. It’s how everybody should go through their lives, whether in sports or corporate America or flipping burgers. The only problem is Richt’s in the minority in major college sports in that respect, and particularly among Power 5 conference football coaches, and Power 5 alumni, and Power 5 fans. The sad and unfortunate truth is that it’s about money and hardware and finger bling.
Before the NCAA and school presidents and conferences sold out, Richt would be king of the world. Now, unfortunately, he’s the exception. So when you win two SEC titles in five years but then go 10 years without one, you’re gone.
Miami is no different from Georgia. They might be different today because the Hurricanes need direction and structure and credibility. They’ve turned to the right man to get them all that. But if Richt hangs around for a while and hasn’t won enough ACC titles or made it to the playoffs, what’s going to happen? This is Miami. You know, Miami? This is the school that won five national championships from 1983 to 2001 and was so desperate to keep winning that it had no trouble dipping itself in slime?
Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity has been getting beat up by Richt’s supporters in recent days. But the truth is McGarity didn’t have anything personal against Richt, he simply believed Georgia could do better. Whether Kirby Smart is the right guy can’t be known, but the administration had long concluded the Bulldogs had gone as far as they could go under Richt.
And so Richt was fired.
“Mutual agreement,” the former Georgia coach said jokingly with a smile Friday.
I’m glad he can retain his sense of humor.
“I’m excited to do this,” he said, holding up his hands in the “U” sign.
Here’s hoping the excitement outweighs everything that goes with this.