If you pay any attention to college football you should certainly know by now that Mark Richt was let go by the University of Georgia (UGA) shortly after their victory over Georgia Tech in the "Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate" rivalry game. You also know that UGA alum and current University of Alabama defensive coordinator, Kirby Smart has been selected as the next head man at UGA. If you're still reading this by now I am going to assume you also know that Mark Richt has landed on his feet and taken a job at his alma mater, the University of Miami. Naturally, there has been a ton of discussion on all these moves and I've been involved in all of them it seems. At this point I'd like to try to quickly and concisely share some points about these moves which I will do in my preferred bullet point format:
- UGA firing Mark Richt--Coach Richt is a great guy and had a ton of success in Athens. He finished this regular season with 9 wins and considering the injuries that was still pretty impressive. Do I think UGA did the right thing here? Absolutely and I'll tell you why. For all Mark Richt accomplished in Athens, I think you can easily argue that his teams underachieved to a large degree. The main reason I feel that way is that in the last three years there the SEC East has been WIDE OPEN for the taking. Without looking it up I figure UGA was probably the favorite to win all three of those years. If not all three, then at least a couple of them. How many times did they take the East in those three years? Zero. Who won it instead of UGA? A couple of middling Missouri teams, and a Florida team under first year coach Jim McElwain. Richt's inability to win a bad East was a huge indictment on where the UGA program has been lately. What about the 9 wins? The 9 wins is fairly nice looking until you dig in and you notice a couple of things. A lot of those teams they beat were just not very good for one. Secondly, in their biggest tests (BAMA in Athens, Florida in Jacksonville) they got completely outclassed. I tend to believe that if they are even competitive in those games AD Greg McGarity might have hung on to Mark Richt. They weren't and he didn't. As for that third loss...it was to what has turned into a pretty decent Tennessee team, but it came after UGA blew a three touchdown lead to a team that's reputation was they didn't know how to finish. Now the loss of Nick Chubb at the beginning of that game certainly mattered, but you couple this loss with those two no-shows I mentioned and I have no issue with going a different direction if you're Georgia.
- UGA hiring Kirby Smart--While it's not officially official and while Kirby Smart reportedly will stay with the Crimson Tide throughout the rest of the season, it has been leaked that he will be the Head Dawg in Athens next year. I think it's a great hire, but others aren't so convinced apparently. As I quipped on Twitter the other day, "Will Muschamp really screwed up getting a coordinator as a head coach for everyone." What I mean by that is that the moment Smart was named I've heard that comparison made. Now I completely understand why people would prefer to have a proven head coach fill the void in Athens, I think Smart has the perfect pedigree for the job and being an alum isn't a bad thing either. Kirby Smart has learned at the feet of one of the greatest coaches of this generation and any generation really in Nick Saban. He's been immersed in a program that has done nothing but succeed for the last 8-9 years. Every coaching hire is a bit of a gamble, but I believe this was a worthwhile one. ETA: I initially forgot to mention his recruiting ties in the talent rich Georgia area. That's another check in Kirby's favor. Think about it this way...Georgia already gets great talent. Kirby Smart has helped get great talent to Alabama. Putting that together I'd imagine he does a great job getting talent to Athens. I heard him say in an interview that Coach Saban always reminded them that "they were behind" not matter how well they had recruited. That speaks to the mentality he's operated under while at BAMA. This guy knows what to do on the recruiting trail.
- The U hiring Mark Richt--This was a home run hire for the Hurricanes. Now some may question how I can feel that way when I said that UGA justifiably fired Coach Rich. It's a good question, but the answer isn't complicated. One, the thing ran its course in Athens for him. It was time for a fresh perspective and a new energy up there. A change is going to be good for UGA and I also believe it will be good for Mark Richt. Second, UGA is a program that in this much better than Miami. If Coach Richt has "UGA success" at Miami then that will be a huge upgrade over what they've had. He was the best coach that I believe they were going to be able to get, they got him, and I think it was the right move for all involved. To me, Smart to UGA and Richt to Miami is a win-win. It's a rare occasion where everyone involved has now come out ahead. Mark Richt would be better off in Athens, mind you, but since they let him go I think Miami is a nice landing spot for him. For Richt it may not be a WIN, but it is at least a win. You know what I mean?
- The "Mark Richt is a great guy" thing--I do feel the need to touch on this a bit. Mark Richt is a great guy, I have no qualms saying that whatsoever. What I've grown tired of is this mentality out of some fans that Mark Richt is somehow the one white knight in a sea of scumbags and degenerates in the college football coaching profession. That's how it comes across sometimes and it's simply overstated. This is a results-driven business, Mark Richt underachieved, and UGA moved on. Coach Smart seems like a decent man from everything I've heard from him or about him so it's not like you're going from saint to sinner here. Let's not excuse underachieving just because Mark Richt is a great guy.