The Fire Mark Richt Debate… Patience Leads to Stable Success

Read the opposing argument from Bleacher Fan.

It’s often said that the grass is greener on the other side. Nowhere is this statement taken more to heart than fan bases of big-time college football programs. As soon as the starting quarterback throws a bad pass, they want the back-up to play. As soon as the kicker shanks a field goal they want open tryouts so the student body can come try its hand at kicking. Last but not least, as soon as the head coach loses a couple games in a row they are calling for his head, putting for sale signs in his yard, and announcing on message boards that their sister’s lawn guy’s cousin just saw Bill Cowher at the local Wendy’s with his real estate agent.

Exhibit A for this behavior right now is the Dawg fans of the University of Georgia. After a brutal 1-3 start (0-3 in the SEC) many to most of them would gladly buy Mark Richt’s bus ticket out of Athens. The question they should ask themselves, however, is what exactly will that accomplish?

Currently in his tenth season at UGA, Richt owns an overall record of 91-30, a record of 50-25 in the Southeastern Conference, and a bowl record of 7-2. In four of his first nine complete seasons at the helm of the Bulldogs, he won all or part of the SEC Eastern Division title. The Bulldogs also finished six of those nine seasons ranked in the top 15 of the AP poll. Many fans reading this article would love to be able to spout these stats off and would gladly sing Richt’s praises before and after their weekly tailgate.

While I was reading through these stats while researching this post, it boggled my mind that firing Richt is even a discussion at this point, but it most certainly is. He seems to be a favorite “hot seat” mention, and while I’m sure the media is drumming this up a bit to give themselves something to talk about, a quick perusal of UGA fan sites and blogs (such as the AJC blog and comments page here) show that this is not merely a media-generated controversy.

While some fans will point to UGA’s rising ranking in the Fulmer Cup standings as the reason they’d like to see Coach Richt gone, let’s be serious here and point out that if the Bulldogs were 4-0 at this point in the season, the level of moral outrage among a lot of the fans would be significantly diminished. Pure and simple, the reason that some UGA fans are looking toward making a change is because of the perception that the program is slipping after an 8-5 record last season and a 1-3 start this season.

While many fans are more than happy to throw the aforementioned statistics out the window in a situation like this, that can be a dangerous thing. Nebraska fans were eager to get rid of Frank Solich, Texas A&M fans eventually ran R.C. Slocum off, and in the not too distant past the University of Michigan ran off the successful, respected Lloyd Carr. How has that worked out for the three schools? Nebraska seems to be on the road to recovery, but it’s taken a few years and a disastrous coaching hire before the current one. Texas A&M has struggled, and often failed, to attain the level of respect and relevance the program once had. Michigan, this year’s start notwithstanding, has been far, far below their standards the past two years and without Denard Robinson this season, one could argue they’d again be an average to below-average football team.

What’s my point here? My point is that the grass is not always greener on the other side. A poisonous fan culture can sometimes poison the team and the program. My advice to the UGA fans now dedicated to “not accepting mediocrity” – crack a cold one, enjoy your tailgate, and cheer on your Dawgs. Evaluate the program after the season just like the Athletic Director will, and speak your piece then. History says that Mark Richt is a good coach and he likely will be again (perhaps even this year). History also says that these trigger-happy fans should be careful what they wish for because they just might get it.

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