College Football programs don’t exist in a vacuum. Despite an impressive record over 15 years, Mark Richt never turned the Georgia Bulldogs football program into the best in the nation or even the SEC. When compared to Alabama, Florida and LSU, his achievements, or lack of them, compared to the ambitions of the university, meant it was time for a change.
Richt was fired after 15 years in Athens, compiling a 145-51 record, including 9-3 in 2015, with a win over Georgia Tech to finish the season and has the right to coach them in the bowl game they’ll get invited to. Georgia won the conference twice during his tenure (2002, 2005) which was enough for a Sugar Bowl invite, nothing more. Georgia always stumbled along the way, preventing a bigger finish to the season, never going undefeated in the SEC or winning the conference championship game when it meant playing for the national title.
Remember the LSU rumors nipped in the bud? LSU have a national championship with Les Miles and another visit to the BCS national championship game. While the last few years haven’t been great, and this season is the same, with the losses to Alabama constantly piling up, the heads at Baton Rouge came to a conclusion that it’s not about their head coach, or at least replacing him isn’t going to get them closer to upsetting the kings of the SEC West.
Things weren’t the same in Georgia. Florida have declined for the most part since 2008, and yet Georgia, with the best recruiting classes in the division, have won the division just twice in the last eight seasons, winning more than 10 games four times in that span. Sure, there was plenty of bad luck to go around, especially over the last two seasons with Heisman-caliber running backs going down. But the people making the decisions took a look at Richt’s’ body of work and decided it’s simply not good enough considering the conditions.
How much did the Florida factor play a part? Georgia were 5-10 against the Gators under Richt, including losing the last two games, humiliated 27-3 this season, their lowest scoring performance in this rivalry since getting shut out in 1984. It certainly didn’t help. The Gators seem to be out of their short funk under Will Muschamp, while Georgia keep trotting in the same spot. Finishing behind Missouri twice and not taking advantage of the long slumber Tennessee seem to be in just doesn’t cut it, even if Georgia think of themselves as bigger than they actually are.
The game these days is putting the team in a position to make the College Football Playoff, which means winning the division and playing for the conference championship game. Since 2012, when they were a few yards away from upsetting Alabama and going on to play Notre Dame instead, they haven’t come close, and Richt with his coaching staff should have done more in the three years since. Being a college football head coach isn’t a job for life, and after 15 years of being good to very good but never the best, it was time for a change.