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JENKINS: Richt's character and record should silence the haters

Will the Mark Richt haters please shut up now? What more does the man have to do?

Before I get into what he's already done, let me point out that I'm not a University of Georgia fan. I graduated from another school which shall be nameless but which hasn't enjoyed much football success lately up in Knoxville.

I am, however, a Mark Richt fan, because I think he's both an excellent coach and a quality individual. Do you realize how rare that is?

Sure, all big-time coaches act like nice guys, when they're on television or speaking at some rubber-chicken alumni dinner. But let's be honest -- most of them really aren't. Do you seriously think Nick Saban is a nice guy? Les Miles? The Ol' Ball Coach?

During my coaching career, which spanned 13 years, I frequently interacted with the top guys in the college basketball business -- on the recruiting trail, at clinics, etc. I found them to be, almost to a man, NVNP's (Not Very Nice People): egotistical, unethical, domineering, profane, misanthropic. That includes guys you see on TV all the time, with their $2,000 suits and perfectly coiffed hair.

That's why I think Coach Richt is such a treasure. I've never met the man in person, but if I'm any judge of character -- and I am -- he is a genuinely good person: kind-hearted, honest, sincere. In my experience, those qualities are pretty rare in a coach who's had the kind of success he's had.

Because we can't lose sight of the fact that he has had success. I understand the bottom line, in big-time college football, is winning. Fans of top programs (and even not-so-top programs) don't care much about a guy's character as long as he wins. Cases in point: Alabama, South Carolina, my own beloved alma mater.

But Richt does win. His overall record after nearly 11 full seasons at UGA is 116-39, for a winning percentage of .748 -- better than Wally Butts (.687) or the sainted Vince Dooley (.681) at the same point in their careers.

He's also won 10 or more games and captured the division title for two consecutive seasons. The only other SEC coach who can say as much has a name that rhymes with the Prince of Darkness (and I don't mean Ozzy Osborne).

Sure, some think Georgia could do even better -- that it should be not just in the national championship conversation but in the national championship game on a regular basis. That may be true.

But who's going to get you there? Who in the country has shown himself to be a better football coach than Mark Richt? Saban? Miles? Spurrier? Stoops?

Maybe -- but none of those guys is coming to Georgia. Plus they're all NVNP's. So remember, haters: Mark Richt is as good a coach as you're going to get -- and a far a better person than you deserve.

Rob Jenkins is a local freelance writer and author of "Family Man: The Art of Surviving Domestic Tranquility." Email him at rjenkinsgdp@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter@rjenkinsgdp.

Comments

Graysonteach 2 years ago

My brother and I were just saying this very thing --- Mark Richt is a rarity. Most of the winningest coaches in college sports are tyrants and SOB's, definitely not VNP's.

Sometimes I think that people don't understand that there is a trade-off (better, a readjusting of priorities) when you treat all your athletes decently and with positive reinforcement. Yes, the bad eggs (Isaiah Crowell, etc) may indeed take advantage and detract from team performance. But what about all the benefits to years of athletes who learn about being better men. I'm a fan of college athletics, because these are still kids playing sports. They really aren't a bunch of hired guns playing for money. We can still have an influence on the kind of person they'll be --- if the coaches are setting examples of decent human beings.

However, more often I think that the majority of fans are just concerned with wins and losses. How else do you explain a guy like Petrino, that people are still talking about hiring to some of the SEC openings. I don't think it'll happen this year, but give it a little time and he'll get picked up. People have a lot shorter memories for lack of moral subsance than they do for losing games.

But really, Mark Richt is a very good football coach, and he has won lots of games. I cannot say there haven't been times that I've been frustrated with mental mistakes and penalties, but perhaps that's part of the tradeoff of not brow-beating your players and instilling outright terror in them. And the mistakes have been better this year (okay, I've completely suppressed the Carolina game).

One last point: Mark Richt has staying power. The Sabans and Meyers and Petrinos will move on after a few years, seeking some bigger accomplishment --- for themselves --- or because they wear out their welcome. Mark Richt seems to love his job, because he's in it for the kids. Leave him alone and he'll retire at Georgia. Even better, give him some love. He's the best Georgia will ever get.

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