After 15 years, 145 wins and two SEC Championships, the Mark Richt era at Georgia has come to an end.
Georgia fired its longtime head coach, who holds the second most career wins in program history, on Sunday, according to multiple sources. Richt had a career 74 percent winning percentage and has won 27 games over the last the three seasons.
In a press release that followed this report, athletics director Greg McGarity deemed Richt’s ouster as a mutual agreement between the two parties.
“Coach Richt and I met Sunday morning to discuss the status of our football program,” McGarity said, “and we mutually agreed that he would step down as head coach and would have the opportunity to accept other duties and responsibilities at UGA following the bowl game.”
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Richt has had a great deal of success at Georgia over the years but could never quite get over the hump at a national level.
His 2012 team was also five yards away from winning the SEC Championship in a 32-28 loss to Alabama.
However, Richt was unable to reach a national championship game in 15 years and hasn’t won a conference title since 2005. His last three teams failed to win the SEC East after being the preseason picks to do so.
In recent years, Richt’s teams failing to live up to the lofty expectations set upon them were ultimately why Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity and university president Jere W. Morehead decided to move on. A likely national search will ensue to find the next head football coach at Georgia.
The expectation is for Richt to coach Georgia’s bowl game. ESPN was the first to report the story.
“I appreciate the opportunity of serving the University as well as considering any other options that may present themselves in the future,” Richt said.
Georgia began the year as the preseason No. 9 team in both the AP and coaches polls but were out of the top 25 after a loss to Tennessee on Oct. 10, which followed a blowout defeat to Alabama the week before.
The tipping point for many in the Georgia program, as well as the fan base and boosters, was a 27-3 thumping to Florida, in which Richt and the Georgia coaching staff decided to start third-string quarterback Faton Bauta instead of Greyson Lambert. Georgia’s offense, thought to be a strength and dealing with the loss of star running back Nick Chubb on the first play of the Tennessee game, stumbled throughout the 2015 season.
A lot of the blame fell on Richt’s decision to hire offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, who didn’t have much sustained success in nine years as an NFL assistant.
While Georgia won its last four games of the regular season, it took over time to defeat Georgia Southern, which is just in its second year as an FBS school.
Rarely are coaches fired after nine-win seasons but in Richt’s case, it’s apparent the powers that be deemed his recent seasons as underachieving. Not helping matters is the fact Richt’s record against Florida, Georgia’s biggest conference foe and second-biggest rival behind Georgia Tech, was 5-10.
Richt arrived at Georgia in 2001 after spending a considerable amount of his career as an offensive coordinator at Florida State. At Florida State, Richt coached Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks Charlie Ward (1993) and Chris Weinke (2000) and was a part of two national championship teams (1993 and 1999).
Upon arriving to Georgia, Richt took over a program that hadn’t won an SEC championship in 20 years. Richt then became the seventh SEC coach to ever win two conference titles in his first five years as a head coach. The Bulldogs only finished one year under .500 under Richt (2010) and never missed a bowl game in his 15 years at the helm.
“Mark Richt has been an outstanding coach and mentor to our student-athletes during his fifteen-year tenure, and we have developed a strong and enduring friendship during that time,” university president Jere W. Morehead said. “I am deeply grateful for his many years of dedicated service to he University of Georgia, and I particularly appreciate the positive way he has represented UGA. I have asked Mark to remain engaged with the institution in a new leadership role, and I look forward to hopefully working closely with him as we advance our capital campaign at the University of Georgia.”