If you still believe Mark Richt is soft, you are mistaken.
There’s no getting around the fact that discipline has been an issue in Richt’s run as head coach of the Georgia Bulldogs. Early in his career at Georgia, he deserved some criticism for his handling of off-field issues. Being a good-natured man, he forgave freely and let some things go he probably shouldn’t have.
Since the decade turned, however, Richt has made a complete 180-degree turn and has been one of the toughest disciplinarians in the SEC. The list of names that have been booted from the team or encouraged to transfer reads like an all-star game roster.
Just this offseason alone, we’ve seen Georgia’s three best players in the secondary, Josh Harvey-Clemons, Shaq Wiggins and most recently Tray Matthews, be shown the door. Add them to a list that includes Isaiah Crowell, Nick Marshall, Zach Mettenberger, Chris Sanders, Washaun Ealey and Ty Flournoy-Smith. That’s quite a group of players you could build a team around.
Every one of those guys were talented with potential to be All-SEC type players. Every single one of them were booted because they couldn’t do things right. Some of them have even proven their potential at other SEC schools.
Richt is not a perfect person nor a perfect coach, but he deserves all the credit in the world for being bold enough to make the tough calls. He’s measured, calculated and consistent in not bowing to pressure from media or fans. The message in Athens is clear: do it the “Georgia Way” or find another home. It doesn’t matter if you are a walk-on or a five-star recruit. Even at the expense of winning on the field, Richt makes the right calls for the right reasons.
Fans and critics can claim all they want that Richt isn’t disciplined. They can point to the fact that Georgia has more arrests, suspensions and dismissals than almost every other SEC program. In my opinion, all that proves is that Richt is the only one who is truly disciplined.
Georgia doesn’t recruit any players that other teams aren’t recruiting. Do we really believe these things are only going on in Athens and not in Tuscaloosa, Baton Rouge, Auburn or Gainesville? If you believe that, I’ve got some beachfront property in Arizona I’ll sell you. Moreover, many of these players have been accepted at other SEC schools after being dismissed by Richt. Georgia, to my knowledge, hasn’t taken in one player who was suspended or dismissed for discipline from another school.
Richt is everything a college coach should be. He cares first and foremost for the wellbeing of the young men he is entrusted with, wanting them to succeed in every aspect of life, including on the field. However, he clearly is not willing to trade on-field success for character and integrity off the field.
Don’t tell me Richt is the problem and he doesn’t know how to send a message. At this point, if the message isn’t received, it’s on the players and not Richt. Those who continue to ignore it will follow Matthews out the door.
Now, if other SEC coaches would follow suit, maybe discipline across the league and college football would improve.