After listening to Mark Richt speak one day after his dismissal as head coach at Georgia, there are a number of things I’d like for him to do, including but not limited to: teach my Sunday School class, be the executor of my will, come to our family Christmas dinner, accompany me on a trip to an orphanage in Kenya, have a long talk with my kids about the importance of character, and so on.
There is one thing I do not want him to do: become the head coach at the University of South Carolina.
That’s kind of hard for me to say because, as we know, Mark Richt is one of the finest people we have ever encountered in the world of
college football sports life. I frequently tell my kids that at the end of your life what you did is much less important than who you were. Richt epitomizes that.
But while he would be great to have around our football program, he is still not the right head football coach for South Carolina. The reason is that it is highly doubtful he could replicate his success with the Gamecocks.
When Richt came to Georgia as a young man, the program was in disarray. They had two failed regimes after the legendary Vince Dooley retired – Ray Goff and Jim Donnan. Richt realized the potential at UGA quickly, winning the SEC Championship in 2002 and 2005, and capturing six SEC Eastern Division titles. The Bulldogs also came up one play short of playing for the National Championship in 2012.
But Richt could never break through that ceiling at Georgia and put his team among the national elite year in and year out, which in my opinion is where they belong. While he won consistently, there were mind-boggling blowout losses by teams considered to be his best. Georgia fans will argue that while he won a lot the Bulldogs always seemed to lay an egg when the stage was biggest.
Now understand, he did all of this while at the helm of a program that has no excuse to not be Alabama, or Florida, or LSU, or Auburn. In other words, teams that have national championships in recent years. Georgia is in the middle of one of the most fertile recruiting bases in the country, and they capitalize on it every year with elite recruiting classes. They have a rabid fan base, a national brand that can help pull top-ranked players from places as far away as Texas and Washington state, and practically all the resources they need to have a national championship program.
Yet, they have no national championships in 15 years under Mark Richt.
Now, let’s deal with some uncomfortable truths about the South Carolina job. We do not have a national brand. When it comes to recruiting, we typically get the leftovers that the SEC elites didn’t have room for. We have very little tradition or championships to speak of. Our brands the last 15 years have been Holtz and Spurrier, not the South Carolina Gamecocks, and we can attribute our recent successes more to our coaches than to our program’s awesomeness.
The conclusion is, if Richt couldn’t win enough at Georgia, what makes you think he could win at South Carolina? If his ceiling at Georgia was an average of 9-10 wins per year, at USC it would probably be somewhere around 7-8. Given what I wrote in the paragraph above some of you might say “sign me up”, but I’m not among that crowd.
You’re also probably asking “then who CAN get us to that next level?” I’m afraid I don’t know the answer for sure, but there’s a very short list of people I’d rather see try than Mark Richt.
For once in my life I’m advocating for the devil we don’t know, as opposed to the saint that we do.