ATHENS — Mark Richt was about to go on the recruiting trail for the next two weeks when on Saturday night he got a call from his boss, Greg McGarity. They needed to meet the following morning. At that point it was probably clear to Richt what was about to happen.
Whatever hard feelings there may or may not be, Richt and McGarity sat next to each other for a half-hour on Monday morning and discussed his removal as head football coach after 15 years. Here are some of the highlights:
– While officially this was called a “mutual decision” in Sunday’s press release, there was little effort to hide that Richt had wanted to continue on and was fired. But Richt also said he understood that “it’s a business.”
“I think 15 years is a long time,” Richt said. “I think the expectations have been built to the point where if you don’t win a championship it’s kinda miserable around here. When we don’t make it to Atlanta I’m miserable too. …
“I think it got to the point where there wasn’t enough confidence that my leadership could get it done. That’s the prerogative of the people in charge, and I understand that.”
Richt spoke to the team on Sunday night and told them that as well.
“I encouraged them to, number one, behave, and we’re gonna keep everyone accountable,” Richt said, meaning on and off the field. “But to also realize that they’re basically making a new impression for their new head coach. Starting, essentially, yesterday.”
– Richt also spoke to five-star quarterback signee Jacob Eason on Sunday night:
“Just be patient. See who the next guy is. You might get really excited about that. … I’m not saying don’t check out other options to be proactive. But don’t jump the gun. You chose Georgia for a reason, and it was more than me or coach Schottenheimer or whoever it might be.”
– McGarity declined to get into what ultimately led to the decision.
“That remains to be between Mark and myself,” McGarity said. “We had a good, mature adult conversation on Sunday morning. For an hour and a half or an hour. Those thoughts remain between Mark and myself.”
– Richt said he was “very thankful” for the chance too coach in the bowl game.
“If it wasn’t offered to me I would’ve asked for it,” Richt said.
– While it’s not likely to happen next year, Richt was clear that he was open to coaching again in some capacity.
“No doubt,” Richt said. “I’ll say this: if and when I do coach again I’ll look forward to coaching again. Being more hands on. I miss coaching quarterbacks, I miss calling plays.”
– The Sunday press release stated that Richt would have a role at UGA going forward, but Richt said that has “not been defined totally.” Since he won’t be recruiting over the next two weeks he will spend that time “looking at my options.”
“(It will be) in some way shape or form to continue to bless the players,” Richt said.
– McGarity reiterated that they will live up to the contract extension he gave Richt earlier this year, even though it hasn’t been signed.
“A deal’s a deal,” McGarity said.
– McGarity did not address a question about defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.
“I’d rather us to focus on Mark today. We can talk about those things later,” McGarity said. “But today’s all about Mark and the decision that was reached yesterday.”
– McGarity was asked about the backlash to the decision.
“I expected it,” he said. “I think decisions of this nature are very difficult. Our fans are passionate. Mark has tremendous support. Obviously with the way Mark connects with people, sure, I’ve been the recipient of e-mails on both sides. It goes with the territory, I understand it.”
– McGarity said he would retain a search firm “in some capacity.” And when would a replacement be hired?
“In due time,” he said.