Murphy: Area fans skeptical about Georgia's decision to part ways with Richt - READ
ATHENS, Ga. — Mark Richt remains interested in another coaching job and said Monday he will listen “to anybody who has interest in me” as he prepares for his final game as Georgia’s coach.
Georgia announced Sunday Richt will not return as coach in 2016.
Athletic director Greg McGarity and University of Georgia President Jere Morehead said Sunday Richt had been offered another position at the school that would include helping former players and fundraising for the university.
There was some expectation Richt might say at Monday’s news conference he would accept the offer. Instead, he spoke with passion about the chance to coach again and to have more direct involvement in coaching quarterbacks and calling plays.
“I’ll have the opportunity to look at a lot of options,” Richt said. “I think there will be a lot of options to weigh, so I’m blessed in that way.
“I’m not ready to say what I’m going to do yet, but it is very attractive to have the option to stay in Athens … and have the opportunity to help young people.”
Clearly, Richt is expecting his phone to ring as he takes time “to prayerfully consider what is next.”
“There may be more opportunities that come in the next few hours, 24 to 48 hours, that type of thing,” Richt said.
Richt and McGarity sat together at the news conference, each wearing Georgia red ties. McGarity wouldn’t reveal much about his search for Richt’s replacement, saying he would rather “focus on Mark today.”
McGarity said he will hire a search firm, that the search begins immediately and is “wide open.”
McGarity said the $4.1 buyout in Richt’s contract will be honored, even though the new version of the deal recently approved by the athletic board has not been signed.
“A handshake means something here,” McGarity said.
Richt spoke with enthusiasm when asked about his agreement to coach the Bulldogs in a bowl game.
“Oh man, I was very thankful for the opportunity, are you kidding me?” Richt said. “To coach one more time with these guys and finish the season? I was all for that. If it wasn’t offered to me, I would have asked for it. I’m very excited about that.”
McGarity said he has had mixed feedback from fans.
“I expected it,” McGarity said. “I think decisions of this nature are very difficult. Our fans are passionate. Mark has tremendous support.”
The AD said he made the decision following Georgia’s 13-7 win over Georgia Tech on Saturday to end the 9-3 regular season.
“It was a very quiet ride home for me to dig down deep and make sure that was what my heart told me to do,” McGarity said.
McGarity wouldn’t reveal the reasons he decided a coaching change is needed.
“That remains to be between Mark and myself,” he said.
Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, a former Georgia player and assistant coach, is expected to be a leading candidate to replace Richt.
Alabama coach Nick Saban said Sunday Smart is prepared to take over a team.
“Kirby has done a fantastic job for us and I think he’ll be an outstanding head coach,” Saban said before adding “I don’t think everything that you do as an assistant prepares you as a head coach.
“But I also think in the same token that Kirby is very capable of doing all the things necessary to be a head coach. He’s a good teacher, players respond to him well. He’s outgoing, he’s got a good personality, I think he’ll do a good job in all of the other areas that you’re talking about. I don’t have any question about that at all.”
Saban said he wouldn’t expect any school to try to contact Smart until after Saturday’s SEC championship game against Florida.
Other possible candidates include Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen and Colorado State coach Mike Bobo.
When McGarity was an associate athletic director at Florida, Mullen was an assistant coach for the Gators. Bobo is the former Georgia quarterback and offensive coordinator.
Richt’s status had been questioned following a disappointing showing against some of the Bulldogs’ top Southeastern Conference rivals. Losses to Tennessee, Alabama and Florida ended Georgia’s hopes for a SEC championship after the Bulldogs had been favored to win the East.
Georgia closed the regular season with four straight wins, but that was not enough to save Richt’s job.
Richt is 145-51 with two SEC championships in 15 seasons. The Bulldogs played in five SEC championship games under Richt.
Only Vince Dooley (201) won more games at Georgia. Dooley, who as athletic director hired Richt, attended the news conference.
Asked how he wants to be remembered by Georgia fans, Richt said:
“That he loved Georgia and he did it the right way and he did it hopefully in such a way it was well pleasing to the Lord.”