Mark Richt is at a crossroads. He has won a lot of games as the coach of the Georgia Bulldogs; 141 to be exact.
Had he won number 142 on Saturday, the tone of the discussions surrounding him today would be quite different. The Florida Gators’ 27-3 romp in Jacksonville on Saturday started the latest vigil for a coach at a prominent program.
Nine times during his 15-year tenure, Richt’s teams have won at least 10 games. While a few fans and alumni were restless before the season started, now a growing number want him out.
There are defining games where even casual fans know that an incumbent coach is unlikely to survive for another season, or perhaps even the next game. Saturday’s game, even more than an earlier home debacle against Alabama, will define Richt.
For example, after the 58-0 wipeout suffered at the hands of Clemson two weeks ago, almost everyone knew Coach Al Golden would be gone in relatively short order. Despite a disappointing season and a humiliating loss, Richt is under no such immediate threat.
First and foremost is his contract situation. In January he signed an extension that binds him and Georgia through the 2018 season.
That extension included a salary bump from $3.2 million to $4 million per year. Firing him would mean Georgia pays Richt $12 million not to coach the team.
No athletic department would want to eat that kind of contract, but if Athletic Director Greg McGarity would like to change coaches, allowing Richt to go someplace else would be one way to achieve that goal. How about Miami?
Once Golden was fired, Richt’s name entered the conversation as a possible replacement. He is a Miami alum, and played quarterback there in the early 1980s.
The Hurricanes are now guided by interim coach Larry Scott. The bet here is Scott will go no further than his role as a caretaker.
Saturday’s “Miami Miracle” against Duke will not change that situation. That final play said far more about the ineptitude of ACC officiating than the quality of the interim coach.
Miami fans and alumni want the program restored to a championship level, ostensibly under a coach with a significant track record. Does Richt meet that standard?
Georgia has not won any national titles, but Richt’s teams have been ranked in 11 of his previous 14 seasons. In six of those years, they finished in the top 10 and have appeared in the SEC Championship Game five times, winning twice.
Saturday’s game could not have given great confidence to those who want him to come to The U. He was right to sit his starting quarterback Greyson Lambert, who was ineffective, especially after the season-ending injury to Heisman Trophy candidate Nick Chubb.
Instead of going to second stringer Brice Ramsey, Richt tapped Faton Bauta for his first start. A national television audience saw what the thousands at EverBank Field saw; Bauta was completely overwhelmed by both the situation and the Gators, failing to make even the most basic of throws (to be fair there were some drops). Four were intercepted by Florida.
Georgia has four games remaining on their schedule. If Mark Richt is unable to get any better quarterback play than he did on Saturday, he could be facing a losing season.
That would make his tenure in Athens a bit more uncertain and give great pause to those in Miami who might think he is the answer to their woes.