It’s a beautiful spring morning here at Bobby Dodd Stadium. I know it says November on the calendar; heck, it’s nearly December. But the temperatures, which are supposed to peak in the 70s this afternoon, distinctly say early spring.
That’s surely the last nice thing that can be said about today’s proceedings. We are here, after all, to chronicle the latest renewal of the rivalry known as “Clean Old Fashioned Hate.” Georgia (8-3) and Georgia Tech (3-8) will kick off at noon.And when they do, there will be no excuses to be be made about weather or field conditions. It’s immaculate on both counts.
Of course the real story about today’s game is about the coaches. Oddly enough, it’s the guy with the 8-3 record (Mark Richt) who’s feeling all the heat today.
By all accounts, a decision is being contemplated regarding Richt’s future as Georgia’s football coach. According to numerous people with knowledge of the situation, there’s about a 50-50 split among persons of influence about whether Richt should continue beyond this season.
The big question is whether the outcome of today’s game will have any bearing on such a decision, which will be made in tandem by Athletic Director Greg McGarity and President Jere Morehead.
I wouldn’t think you’d make a decision on a coach who has been with you 15 years based on what might happen in four quarters of a rivalry game in which wacky things tend to happen.
But here’s the deal: The Georgia Tech game has often represented a bit of a referendum for Georgia coaches. Ray Goff was fired the week before the Bulldogs played at Georgia Tech in 1995. Georgia actually won that game 18-17. Jim Donnan was fired the day after the Bulldogs lost 27-15 in 2000. Not coincidentally, it was Donnan’s third consecutive loss to the Yellow Jackets.
Georgia, of course, lost to Georgia Tech 30-24 in overtime. But that’s not what this decision is all about. That was the first loss in five years and just the second one under Richt in 14 seasons.
“Of course, you want to beat everybody pretty much. But I think if you had to pick one you wanted to beat more than all the rest, I think it’d be the last game against your biggest rival,” former Georgia coach Vince Dooley. “No question Florida’s big and Auburn’s big but, I always said, the biggest of all is Georgia Tech. … I can’t say it’s a tipping point, but it’s dad-gone important. That’s for sure.”
No, if Richt is not retained after this season, it will have to do with a lot of things that went wrong this season, particularly back in October. Like the second-quarter collapse in a 38-10 home loss to Alabama; like blowing a 21-point lead to Tennessee; like the inexplicable decision to start third-string quarterback Faton Bauta in the biggest game of the season and sticking with him to the bitter end — four interceptions and all — on the way to a 27-3 loss.
And then there was last week’s debacle against Georgia Southern. If not for a couple of late fortuitous bounces, the Bulldogs might have lost to their little cousin from the Sun Belt Conference, and then they needed overtime to get it done.
All that hay is already in the barn. It would follow that that’s likely the case with any decision McGarity and Morehead have to make.
We’ll know more in the next 24 to 48 hours. Meanwhile, we’ll get to watch a very entertaining game against two bitter rivals on a beautiful day in downtown Atlanta. Let’s try to enjoy it.