It’s the end of an era. Living in the heart of Bulldog country as I do, one could not hear the news about Mark Richt’s termination with anything but sadness. I understand that Georgia fans expect a great deal from their team, but a 9-3 season is nothing to belittle. I am unsure of the reasoning behind firing a successful coach, but I am sure that it is a travesty.
We have all heard ad nauseum that the SEC is a tougher conference. Mark Richt is more than the coach of an SEC team, he represents all that is great about college football. More than that, he epitomizes the echelon of a dying breed — the Southern gentlemen. He was vilified in recent years for keeping talented players off the field when they broke the rules. The boosters were furious — apparently they cared more about the tally in the win column than they did about the education and the morals of these young players under Coach Richt’s tutelage.
Richt held his players to a higher standard than even that of the University of Georgia. That is a trait to be admired, not disparaged. Many school administrations will look the other way for young athletes, particularly those who score touchdowns. Richt didn’t believe in that — he was teaching these young men about sportsmanship both on and off the field.
All the scuttlebutt lately has been about the fact that Richt never procured a national title of UGA. Well, people need to get over it. The team hasn’t seen a national title since 1981, and that is not Richt’s fault. It is a shame that UGA has decided that athletic success means more than the academic and moral standard of the football players.
If administration want to turn Georgia into a winning machine, great. But don’t complain when those same players descend into moral anarchy. Don’t be surprised when UGA gets a group of misbehaving thugs on its team. The win is what matters, right? That is the message that UGA is sending by firing Mark Richt.