Georgia’s Mark Richt staying put after Belk Bowl win
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — About an hour before the Belk Bowl kickoff between No. 13 Georgia and No. 20 Louisville on Tuesday night, rumors started circulating throughout the press box that Mark Richt would be stepping down as coach of the Bulldogs after 14 years and a very successful .739 winning percentage in the regular season.
The rumor that Richt, who brought two SEC championships to Athens, Ga., in 2002 and 2005, then exploded like wildfire on Twitter and other social media outlets before the game had even reached halftime.
It was all set in stone: Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart was going to be the next head coach of Georgia, at least according to Twitter.
Richt stepping down was so rampant that one Georgia official told FoxSportsCarolinas.com that he fielded phone calls from people wanting to know if Richt was truly stepping down and if TCU head coach Gary Patterson was taking over for what many Georgia fans believe to be an underachieving program.
Of course, the answer to all of the innuendo, rumors, hearsay and gossip is an emphatic no … for now at least.
"I have no idea (where that came from)," Richt said of the rumor of his retiring.
He was then asked if he would return for next season.
"That’s the plan," Richt said. "Go ask the team. Nick (Chubb), did I retire?"
Players and coaches throughout time have often stated that they’d retire if going to practice or the arena everyday was no longer enjoyable.
Following his postgame press conference, Richt told FoxSportsCarolinas.com that to him it’s not a question of whether he’s having as much fun as he did when he coached his first season in 2001.
"Coaching is a very rewarding job, but it’ll test you," he said. "I think the goal is to do the best of your ability in coaching the players. It’s not really about having fun, but there are times when it can be fun."
When Georgia hired Greg McGarity as its athletics director in August of 2010, the feeling from boosters, fans and pundits alike was that Richt was going to be kept on a shorter leash and that any slip in the football program could and would result in his dismissal.
That same season, Richt had the only losing season of his career as the Bulldogs went 6-7. Even so, he survived and went to the SEC title game two seasons later.
Then last season, Georgia went a disappointing 8-5 and speculation was once again abound about his departure. It didn’t happen.
Rightly so, it never does.
Richt has put together some of the best coaching numbers in his profession. He’s gone 80-37 in the SEC, which has been without question the best conference in the nation nearly every year he’s coached. He’s been to five SEC Championship games, winning two.
However, there was never a national championship.
Meanwhile, in the same time that Richt has been at Georgia, there have been eight SEC teams to win the national championship.
The Bulldogs last won it all in 1980.
"Taking the Georgia job was an exciting time for me and my family," Richt said. "But it’s a rugged league.
"When you win in this league, you know you’ve done something very special."
Richt is as competitive as he’s ever been. Losing is something that irks him as much today as it did when he first took over the program on Dec. 26, 2000.
"Losing stinks," he said. "Losing leaves a bad taste in your mouth."
Under Richt, there’s been very little of it.
Follow Brett Jensen on Twitter @Brett_Jensen