Georgia Bulldog fans may miss Mark Richt by the end of November.
For all his perceived shortcomings (and he didn’t have many – even among Georgia fans ready for a change in the program), Richt earned ample goodwill among Bulldog faithful by dominating two of Georgia’s main rivals: Auburn and Georgia Tech.
In his fifteen years as head coach, Richt was 10-5 against Auburn, including 8-2 in the last ten seasons (as a comparison, Nick Saban is 6-3 the past nine years against Auburn). Even those two losses were nothing to complain about. The Dogs lost a 21-7 lead against the great Cam Newton national championship team in 2010, and fell victim to the fluke 4th and 18 “prayer at Jordan-Hare” in 2013. Good luck to Kirby Smart in matching an 8-2 record against Auburn the next decade.
Richt owned Georgia Tech even more clearly. When he took over at UGA in 2001, Georgia had lost three straight to the Yellow Jackets. Over the next 15 years, Richt and the Dogs went 13-2 against the rivals from North Avenue, winning several games in thrilling, last-minute fashion. The only losses came in 2008 when Tech and new coach Paul Johnson made a terrific 2nd half comeback to win 45-42, and 2014 when Georgia botched a late kickoff and allowed the Jackets to kick a long, game-tying field goal as time expired leading to a 30-24 overtime win. Think Georgia fans would sign on for another 13-2 run from now to 2030?
When Georgia and Mark Richt parted company last November, neither side seemed particularly upset about the divorce. After 15 seasons of coaching very good, occasionally outstanding, football teams, Richt appeared to have run out of steam in Athens. The Bulldog Nation longed to join the recent list of national champions from the Southeastern Conference, and few believed the universally liked and respected Richt was still the man to lead them to such heights.
Both parties immediately moved on. Richt stayed unemployed for about three days and could have fielded a host of offers had he chosen. Instead, his Alma Mater came calling and Richt moved back to south Florida to coach the Miami Hurricanes.
Georgia already had a replacement lined up before officially firing Richt. Fearing Kirby Smart, an alum and a long-time assistant with Nick Saban at Alabama, might take the South Carolina job, Bulldog brass pulled the plug on Richt and brought Kirby home.
Smart may lead the Bulldogs to the top of the mountain, but he has quite a challenge matching Mark Richt’s record against Auburn and Georgia Tech.