Will the Mark Richt haters please shut up now? What more does the man have to do?
Before I get into what he's already done, let me point out that I'm not a University of Georgia fan. I graduated from another school which shall be nameless but which hasn't enjoyed much football success lately up in Knoxville.
I am, however, a Mark Richt fan, because I think he's both an excellent coach and a quality individual. Do you realize how rare that is?
Sure, all big-time coaches act like nice guys, when they're on television or speaking at some rubber-chicken alumni dinner. But let's be honest -- most of them really aren't. Do you seriously think Nick Saban is a nice guy? Les Miles? The Ol' Ball Coach?
During my coaching career, which spanned 13 years, I frequently interacted with the top guys in the college basketball business -- on the recruiting trail, at clinics, etc. I found them to be, almost to a man, NVNP's (Not Very Nice People): egotistical, unethical, domineering, profane, misanthropic. That includes guys you see on TV all the time, with their $2,000 suits and perfectly-coiffed hair.
That's why I think Coach Richt is such a treasure. I've never met the man in person, but if I'm any judge of character -- and I am -- he is a genuinely good person: kind-hearted, honest, sincere. In my experience, those qualities are pretty rare in a coach who's had the kind of success he's had.
Because we can't lose sight of the fact that he has had success. I understand the bottom line, in big-time college football, is winning. Fans of top programs (and even not-so-top programs) don't care much about a guy's character as long as he wins. Cases in point: Alabama, South Carolina, my own beloved alma mater.
But Richt does win. His overall record after nearly 11 full seasons at UGA is 116-39, for a winning percentage of .748 -- better than Wally Butts (.687) or the sainted Vince Dooley (.681) at the same point in their careers.
He's also won 10 or more games and captured the division title for two consecutive seasons. The only other SEC coach who can say as much has a name that rhymes with the Prince of Darkness (and I don't mean Ozzy Osborne).
Sure, some think Georgia could do even better -- that it should be not just in the national championship conversation but in the national championship game on a regular basis. That may be true.
But who's going to get you there? Who in the country has shown himself to be a better football coach than Mark Richt? Saban? Miles? Spurrier? Stoops?
Maybe -- but none of those guys is coming to Georgia. Plus they're all NVNP's. So remember, haters: Mark Richt is as good a coach as you're going to get--and a far a better person than you deserve.
Rob Jenkins is a local freelance writer and author of Family Man: The Art of Surviving Domestic Tranquility. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter@rjenkinsgdp.