Mark Richt. UGA coaching Legend. A coach who put his players first. A coach who taught so much more than football. A coach who players are constantly looking to.
Mark Richt. Now in the UGA history books. Now has 15 years as a Bulldog on his resume. Now looking to experience how something seen as the “worst” thing, can turn out to possibly be the best.
Mark Richt. Fired by the Georgia Bulldogs in 2015, looks ahead to a place he knows well already.
Mark Richt. Returning to The University of Miami.
If you ask any Georgia fan or player, there is no doubt. As a head coach, Richt had one heck of a career in Athens. His career record as a Bulldog, an impressive 145-51. Coach Richt was very loved by his team of players throughout his career.
His motives were clear through the years, and that was to be there for his players on and off the field. For Richt, football meant family. The Red & Black reported that during a team meeting after his worst season (2010), he asked players to raise their hands if they had been raised in a single-parent household or raised without a father.
“My job is to make sure your children don’t raise their hand someday when they’re asked this question.”
Richt’s impact on his players cannot be missed. Coach Richt was seen as much more than just a coach to so many players on his squad: Richt was seen as a father figure. Just take it from Isaiah Mckenzie, who posted this photo on Instagram on Fathers’ Day, captioning it:
No he’s not my father but I thank this man for being a father figure. Not just to me, but to every young man that needed him.
So the question that surfaced across the coaching world when news of Coach Mark Richt’s dismissal was released in 2015: why?
The fact is his record is very easy on the eyes, players only speak highly of him, and Mark Richt overall carries himself with class and overflowing pride for what he does. So why would UGA fire such a highly respected, successful coach?
The answer is unfortunately simple. In the college football coaching world, your job is to win. And win big. Richt’s finished his last season with UGA with a 9-3 record. While that is in fact a pretty record, one thing was missing: the big wins that keep your job as a head coach. In the 2015 season the Bulldogs fell to SEC rivals Tennessee 38-31, got chomped on by the Gators 27-3, and clawed out by the Kentucky Wildcats, falling 27-3.
To most, these losses at the end of the Dawgs’ 2015 season seemed to be what sealed the fate of the longtime head coach. But DawgNation reported otherwise, reporting that this decision was long in the works. As the news rocked Bulldog Nation, players poured in their support for their beloved leader.
But little did Richt know at the time of his firing, things might just get a little sweeter after ditching the ole black and red.
In December of 2015, his Alma Mater came calling. And Mark Richt answered the call. A call to return home. Excitement surrounding his first season at UM has been roaring. The feeling is that the head coach is in the right place at the exact right time.
To succeed, a coach has to have all the right elements. And Coach Richt? Coach Richt seems to be off to a pretty good start at UM. One key ingredient is the support of alumni. And as SBNation reported, at his recruitment camp named Paradise, Mark Richt seems to have UM’s star alumni behind him, 100% getting appearances from big UM names like Ray Lewis, Michael Irvin, and Jeremy Shockey.
And, of course, the fact that this is his own alma mater, having played QB for the Canes from 1978-1982, also helps the new coach feel right at home… because he is.
His lineup goes to only further the anticipation surrounding this first season. First-round draft potential is at the helm of his team. Third-year starter, QB Brad Kaaya, is being watched closely and is expected to be an explosive component to the Canes. Kaaya clearly embraces the impact, knowledge and swagger Richt has on the field. SportingNews reported that Kaaya even volunteered for 6 a.m. workouts with the new head coach in the offseason. They seem to be on the exact same wavelength-the winning wavelength.
Richt walked into this season relaxed and confident. SportingNews also reported this head coach is excited for the future, but has a razor sharp focus:
I focus more on the process of doing things right. I feel like the results will come.
And so far, his approach seems to be working. On September 3rd, the Canes opened against Florida A&M. The score?
If things stay like they are, Mark Richt is looking at an incredible season. Miami seems to have made an excellent choice. It’s a reminder that often when facing what can be perceived as the worst thing, losing one of the top coaching positions in the country, other opportunities present themselves. Often far better than we ever anticipated, sometimes it can be the best thing.
Sometimes we can go home.
Welcome home, Coach Richt. Something tells me the Canes are glad to have you back.
Lead Image Credits: Miami Hurricanes' Official Instagram