Two more seasons. If I’m new Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity, that’s all I’m giving Mark Richt to get to a national championship game. He’s had too much time to build a program, too many top 10 recruiting classes — seven since 2002 — and too many arrested players to hang around when fellow SEC coaches Urban Meyer, Les Miles and Nick Saban have combined for five national titles in the time since Richt arrived in Athens in 2001.
The Bulldogs should have at least one national championship by now. The 2007 season’s BCS title winner was Miles’ LSU squad. That season, the Tigers lost two games, but that was still good enough for them to qualify for the title game. Why? Because the Bulldogs, also with two losses, couldn’t beat South Carolina in Athens — a Carolina team that ultimately finished 6-6, 3-5 in the SEC and outside the top 25.
Instead, Georgia settled that season for the Sugar Bowl, which featured a soft WAC opponent in Hawaii, which was clearly overmatched and undersized. But boy did the Bulldogs let them have it, winning 41-10.
The Bulldogs finished that season — Richt’s seventh as coach — No. 2 in the AP polls. The Dawgs haven't come close to a title since.
Seasons of winning 10 games, beating Florida once every three years, a couple of conference championships but no title game appearances may be good enough for his faithful following. But for the good of the program, and for the sake of elevating Georgia football from pretender to elite status, it’s time for McGarity to raise the standard for coaching the Bulldogs.
And McGarity may be more willing to put Richt on the hot seat than most people think. He was second in command at Florida under Gators athletic director Jeremy Foley. McGarity watched as Ron Zook, the successor of Steve Spurrier, posted three winning seasons (8-5, 8-5 and 7-4) and a 16-8 conference record from 2002-04. Despite the success, Foley fired Zook. Why? Because Zook wasn’t getting to the national title game. What did Zook’s successor, Urban Meyer, do?
Won a national championship in the 2006 season with mostly Zook’s recruits.
If that’s not in the front of McGarity’s mind, it should be.
Richt’s getting the recruits, but he’s not doing enough with them. And he’s done nothing to minimize the number of arrests of his players. Take the latest offender, Washaun Ealey, for instance. He was arrested and charged with hit-and-run and driving on a suspended license. He hit a parked car at three in the morning and split. Also, the fact that his license was suspended means he’s a repeat offender.
What does Richt do? Suspend him for the season opener against Louisiana-LaFayette, the ultimate slap on the wrist.
But he’s doesn’t just take a soft stance with player discipline. He takes it with his coaches as well. Willie Martinez should have been fired at halftime of the 2008 Alabama game, but Richt defended him staunchly and allowed him to remain defensive coordinator, which resulted in more lopsided defeats to the likes of Georgia Tech and Tennessee.
At this point, it may be worth it to see what the Bulldogs can do with a different leader getting top recruiting classes.
Maybe Richt continues to avoid the hot seat because he’s so likeable. His humanitarian efforts are remarkable and certainly worthy of praise. But he’s not winning big, which should be the standard at Georgia with all the resources it has.
McGarity comes from a program that has not only dominated Georgia football over the past two decades (the Bulldogs have three wins over the Gators since 1990), but won at the highest level, earning three national championships since 1996, and two in three seasons (2006, 2008).
McGarity knows exactly what it takes to win. The only thing he doesn’t know for sure, since he’s new to Athens, is if Richt knows how. That’s why if I’m McGarity, I give Richt this season and next to prove he does.
Adam Krohn is a sports writer for The Times. Follow him at twitter.com/gtimesakrohn.