I’m taking a slight departure from the usual political bent and focus on something that inspires even more passion and heated arguments: college football in the South.
The University of Georgia made the unexpected decision to fire its football coach Mark Richt yesterday after 15 years. Richt had been considered to be on a hot seat this season, after abysmal performances against Alabama and Florida and barely eking out wins against Georgia Southern and Missouri, yet Richt’s team finished the season with a 9-3 overall record, and with a bowl game berth, Georgia has a shot at a ten-win season.
Yet this team was bad. It went several games without scoring a touchdown and seemed completely lifeless during 38-10 and 27-3 losses to Alabama and Florida, respectively. For many Georgia fans (myself included), this was the hallmark of Richt’s tenure as coach — winning seasons marked by a few blowouts in key games that prevented Georgia from really being a contender. The 2008 season is probably the sorest example of this, when Georgia started the season a consensus #1 favorite to win the national title and finished as 10-3 Capital One Bowl champions, enduring blowout losses to Alabama and Florida (again) and a stinging loss to in-state rival Georgia Tech (the first in many years). I think Richt suffered the most damage, though, from simply failing to win the SEC East division during a time when Georgia’s traditional rivals for the division, Tennessee and Florida, were suffering from bad coaching and historic lows for their programs. Georgia hasn’t played for an SEC title since 2012 and hasn’t won since 2005.
Despite that, it wasn’t completely with joy that I heard about Richt’s departure. I do think it was a necessary step for the program to move forward, but I have fond memories of Richt as head coach, not in the least because he coached it during my time in college there and for the tumultuous, memorable 2007 season. Georgia may find a new coach of Nick Saban’s caliber, or we may suffer through mediocrity or downright bad seasons. But it’s time to move on and bring new blood to the program. There are risks and hazards — any big decision carries those — but fear of the potential risks isn’t a good argument against keeping a bad status quo.