Should he stay or should he go?
That’s the hot topic after Georgia’s latest pair of spectacular losses.
Everyone seems to have an opinion on coach Mark Richt’s job status.
I surmise that there’s a quiet majority that wants Richt to stay. There’s also a vociferous minority wanting him to go.
That supposition is supported by an informal and unscientific poll conducted by bleacherreport.com after Georgia’s 38-31 loss to Tennessee. In response to the question, “Should Mark Richt’s job be in jeopardy?” a healthy majority (58 percent) said “no.” As of 1:30 p.m. Monday, 6,089 voters had weighed in.
Both sides can form valid arguments.
After the past two games, it’s hard to argue with those members of Bulldog Nation who’ve seen enough.
To witness Georgia fail to compete against Alabama a week ago raised grievances now heard annually. Richt’s teams can’t win a big game. Every season they turn in at least one clunker of a game.
Against, Alabama, they accomplished both at once.
Then going up to Knoxville and blowing a three touchdown lead — the biggest collapse ever of a Richt-coached team — certainly stoked the naysayers’ fire.
Things are now to the point that Georgia has become recognized by the national media as a team that habitually underachieves. If you have a top 10 recruiting class every year, shouldn’t you finish in the Top 10 every year?
Last year featured the awful debacle against Florida in Jacksonville. The year before, it was a collapse at home against Missouri, followed by a loss at Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt!
The 2012 season included the no-show against South Carolina in Columbia. How does a team get shellacked, 35-7, by South Carolina, and then come within five yards of playing for the national championship?
Since that near-miss in Atlanta, Georgia is a mediocre 6-6 against Top 25 teams, compounded by four losses to unranked foes. And with no conference title since 2005, it’s easy to argue that Richt’s best years are behind him.
Richt has never won a national championship. It took Vince Dooley 17 years to win his national championship, but Dooley never went more than seven years between conference championships, and once won three in a row.
Now, for the counterpoint:
Richt has won almost 75 percent of the games he’s coached at Georgia, a percentage that tops Dooley’s 71.5. His 140-50 record includes the second-most wins in Georgia history.
His team may be viewed as underachieving, but that may have something to do with the reputation of the program Richt has built. He has raised the bar to a level where his team is expected to compete for the SEC title every season.
He has won five Eastern Division titles, and every year teams that want to win the division know they must come through Georgia to do so.
Richt has also achieved his success at Georgia without the full support of the Georgia administration. That has changed with Jere Morehead installed in the President’s office.
Recall that Morehead’s predecessor, Michael Adams, is the scoundrel who replaced Dooley as athletics director with Damon Evans. Adams also thought it wise to entrust the men’s basketball program to the hideous Harricks.
Since Morehead took charge, we’ve seen Richt gain approval for an indoor practice facility. Georgia will no longer be the only SEC school left out in the cold. And rain.
And we’ve seen Richt given the green light to award his assistant coaches with salaries more in line with their SEC brethren.
Make no small issue of the fact that Richt is simply a good man, and projects a positive image for the University of Georgia.
You won’t see him signing miscreants dismissed from other schools. You won’t find him throwing his own players under the bus after a grueling loss. And you certainly won’t see him involved in any episodes like those of Southern California coach Steve Sarkisian, who was fired Monday.
I don’t believe that Mark Richt is going anywhere anytime soon.
I don’t think he should.
He will win his national championship at Georgia, and he will win it the right way.
Denton Ashway is a contributing columnist for The Times. His column appears on Wednesday.