Monday, March 12, 2012
Mark Richt's extension a no-brainer
By Chris Low
There were large numbers of Georgia fans last September who were convinced that Mark Richt was finished as the Bulldogs' head coach following the 0-2 start, and many of those same fans were clamoring for a change.
Some of them still are, in fact, although not as loudly.
Their rationale: They like and respect Richt as a man, but feel like the football program has hit a ceiling with him as head coach.
Mark Rich has been rewarded with a three-year contract extension.
The Georgia administration obviously doesn't feel that way after it was announced Monday that Richt had been granted a three-year extension, keeping him under contract through the 2016 season. Richt is also expected to receive a raise, although the details of the contract are still being finalized, according to Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity.
Richt was already making $2.81 million per year, which doesn't include retention/longevity bonuses that take him above the $3 million figure.
Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham also received a two-year extension, taking him through the 2014 season. He made $750,000 last season and will also get a raise. When you consider what Grantham brought to the defense in the way of mental toughness, he deserves a hefty raise.
The thing to keep an eye on when Georgia releases all the particulars of Richt's new deal is how much the buyout has been tweaked. In other words, extensions in the world of the SEC are merely window dressing unless they're backed up by guaranteed money.
All head coaches want extra years on their contract so they can assure recruits that they're not going anywhere. Coaches also want that financial security built in to those extra years for their own peace of mind.
Richt's detractors will point to the fact that he hasn't won an SEC championship since 2005 and is just 6-10 in his last 16 games against nationally ranked foes.
But he has won 10 or more games in seven of his 11 seasons in Athens, and even though the schedule softened considerably after those first two losses a year ago, he guided the Bulldogs to 10 straight wins and a berth in the SEC championship game. He also beat Florida, something Georgia had done only three times in the previous 21 seasons.
Granted, the way the Outback Bowl ended was disappointing, but Georgia has a team returning in 2012 that will be picked to win the East and likely start the season ranked in the top 10 in the polls. The Bulldogs also reeled in a signing class last month that was ranked No. 5 nationally by ESPN.
Like everybody else in the SEC, Georgia is chasing Alabama and LSU. Just about all of college football is. But the truth is that there are a lot of schools right now that would gladly trade places with the Bulldogs.
The Georgia administration did what it had to do, because if you don't extend and/or sweeten Richt's deal at this point, you might as well cut ties and start anew.
And starting anew in this league after pushing out a longtime coach who's sustained success is anything but a foolproof solution. Just ask the folks at Tennessee.
Simply going to SEC championship games at a place like Georgia is never going to be good enough. Richt understands that and so do his coaches and his players.
At the same time, the cyclical nature of this conference has a way of blinding some of the smartest and most loyal supporters into thinking that changing head coaches will be a cure-all, even when there's a chance that things could get a whole lot worse before they get better.