It isn’t supposed to happen like this, a coach speaking at his own outgoing press conference, sitting next to the man who fired him and calmly, cooling explaining why his boss fired him. He’s supposed to be on a beach or in the film room — either way, as far away from the realities of the situation as possible.
Instead, Mark Richt sat next to Greg McGarity and objectively detailed his successes and his failures, wished success on the man who will soon take his job, and pondered his next move.
In some ways, it was as if a body had hopped out of a casket and performed his own eulogy, right down to the Christ analogies.
For 15 years, Richt conducted his program differently than most of his peers, so it stands to reason his departure would be different as well.
“It got to the point where there wasn’t enough confidence my leadership could get it done,” Richt said when asked why Georgia fired him Sunday despite winning 145 games in his 15 seasons and 19 in his last two. “That’s the prerogative of the people in charge, and I understand that.”
Richt never stopped winning most of the games, but somewhere along the line he stopped winning enough of the right ones. A brutal October that saw Georgia fall from 4-0 to 5-3 with but a three-point win over Missouri and losses to Alabama and Florida by a combined 65-13 sealed his fate, though AD Greg McGarity said the decision wasn’t made in full until his drive home from Atlanta after the Bulldogs’ 13-7 win at Georgia Tech Saturday.
“Days like yesterday are the most difficult in our profession, especially when you’re dealing with someone who has the character of Mark Richt,” McGarity said.
Richt encouraged his players, many of whom stormed out of a Sunday night meeting when formally informed of their head coach’s dismissal, to stick around and support the new coach. He will, Richt astutely observed, be the benefit of a bounce Georgia would not have received had the status quo remained for 2016. “As soon as the new guy gets named, there’s going to be electricity around here, a lot of excitement,” Richt said. “Support him and support the new staff.”
So now, after 33 straight years of coaching, recruiting, game-planing, speaking, recruiting, film evaluation, traveling, recruiting, and more, Richt has nothing to do put prepare for a bowl game and sit and think. And since Georgia’s bowl assignment won’t be announced for until Sunday, that leaves Richt six days to do nothing but evaluate his options.
“Now that I’m not recruiting, there’s really nothing on my calendar,” Richt said. “That bit of time will allow me to decompress and prayerfully consider what’s next. I’m going to listen to anything someone has for me, coaching or not.”
(This is your cue, Miami, Virginia and Maryland.)
“If and when I coach again, I’m looking forward to coaching again. I miss coaching quarterbacks, I miss calling plays,” he said. “I’d be really excited about coaching QB’s again and getting in the middle of offensive strategy.”
“Do the right thing, and make a good impression. The faster everyone buys in the easier it’s going to be for the next head coach.” Richt remarked that the remaining players and incoming recruits may even benefit from his absence, as his replacement will be buoyed by the fan enthusiasm and institutional support customary with new hires. “As soon as the new guy gets named, there’s going to be electricity around here, a lot of excitement. Support him and support the new staff.”
A 33-year veteran that somehow looks younger than his 55 years, Richt held his job more loosely than many in his station, and perhaps that was why he seemingly let it go so easily on Monday.
“We know we’ve been blessed abundantly. Fifteen years at a major institution, in the SEC,” he said. “Just to get the job in the first place, that’s kind of a miracle.”