UGA's Richt under most pressure to win

Updated: July 10, 2012, 12:23 PM ET
By Travis Haney

When the decision was made June 29 to boot Isaiah Crowell from the Georgia Bulldogs football team, it made Mark Richt's job more difficult. And that's the case for a few reasons, not the least of which is the fact that Crowell -- fifth overall and the No. 1 back in his ESPN recruiting class -- was, you know, good.

But it goes deeper than that. Georgia has not reached the level of Urban Meyer's last few teams at Florida, but the numbers suggest there is a recurring discipline breakdown among Richt's teams.

From 2008 to 2010, according to Atlanta Journal-Constitution records, there were 26 Bulldogs arrested for various infractions. After things leveled out a bit last year, 2012 has been rough. There have been four arrests this calendar year, with a couple of other players hit with in-house punishments.

Cornerback Branden Smith will miss time in the early part of the season after a March arrest for drug possession. So will All-SEC-caliber defenders Alec Ogletree and Bacarri Rambo, who -- though they were not arrested -- reportedly failed drug tests.

Richt generally defended his program's justice system this spring -- months before Crowell's run-in with the law.

"I think we handle that more strict than most people do," Richt told reporters after Smith's arrest. "If you look at other people's policies, ours is much tougher than just about anybody's I've seen. So, because some of our guys end up with a game suspension or whatever it might be, our goal when guys make mistakes is to handle it properly.

"The second thing that's important is how they respond to it."

When Richt has to suspend or dismiss a player, especially a highly touted player such as Crowell, it hurts the program in terms of losing talent as well as in terms of perception. Those dings add up over time for a coach trying to win games in the country's toughest conference.

Think about it: Jim Donnan winning eight games a year is what got Richt the job in the first place. The fact that Richt is a nice guy will not ultimately save his hide if he's closer to seven or eight wins a season, compared to the Sugar Bowl years of 2003, 2006 and 2008. And it gets harder and harder to win nine, 10 -- or more -- games when your roster is depleted by knuckleheadedness.

Consider this post, in a sense, the precursor to the hot-seat list, the one that would obviously include in 2012 names such as Tennessee's Derek Dooley and Maryland's Randy Edsall. The coaches listed here, Richt included, are under pressure to win big this season -- and failure to do so could change the discussion involving their job security in a hurry.