A letter to the Georgia Bulldogs

Some advice for those upset by Mark Richt

Alabama wants a strong Georgia. A strong Georgia protects the Atlanta recruiting area from raids by the Volunteers. A championship caliber Georgia program would serve as a check on Florida’s SEC East dominance. A strong Georgia beats Auburn, and thus makes for at least three probable SEC losses per year for the Tigers (Alabama, LSU and Georgia). Thus, a strategic view of SEC Realpolitik shows that it is in Alabama’s best interest for Georgia to get its act together. A strong Georgia provides balance against any potential hegemon in the SEC East, and balances traditional Alabama rivals.

It is with this understanding that I write to provide some helpful advice to the Bulldog family.

Georgia is a premier program. It produces immense revenue. It dominates a major media market unlike anyone else in the SEC. It has a proud tradition of excellence. However, the Bulldogs are having a bad season following on the heels of a disappointing season. How can Georgia regain its momentum?

There are three paths Georgia could take. The first path is to fire Mark Richt. The second path is to allow Richt to run his program. The third path is for Georgia administrators and boosters to interfere in Richt’s program and insist on personnel changes. Of the three paths the worst possible choice is the path of interference and forced personnel changes.

If we assume personnel changes NEED to be made, and Richt does not recognize the need to change personnel—then he should be fired. If a coach recognized his subordinates are incompetent or ineffective, but will not make the difficult decision then the coach should be fired. If a coach is incapable of holding subordinates accountable then he is incapable of managing a small organization. How much more so a multimillion dollar organization in the SEC!

Administrators will be tempted to interfere as fans pressure for ANY changes. There is nothing worse for an organization than when the head coach is emasculated to satiate the public’s desire for blood; the players and assistants lose respect for the coach. The question becomes, Who is in charge? This is the worst possible outcome; assistants begin pursuing their own agendas, and boosters begin to position for the inevitable fight over the next hire—the vultures circle. This creates an environment where factions flourish. If you have any doubt about the damage this can do to a program just look at Auburn. The animosity still simmers. Fans know the old clique caused the present disaster by alienating Tuberville, and then when the clique was able to summon the strength to fire Tuberville, the idiots hired a 5-19 coach. Auburn is a wreck. It is a powder keg of discontent ready to blow sooner rather than later.

Firing a coordinator is almost always a PR move—at least when done under pressure. In Alabama’s case, many fans, media commentators and administrators counseled Mike Shula to make staff changes such as firing his offensive coordinator. These staff changes were theoretically designed to repair the problems within the program. However, changing coordinators would not have solved Alabama’s troubles. Alabama suffered from a leadership problem; Shula did not command the respect of anyone. Allowing the coach to make a token personnel change would have been a bad outcome for the Crimson Tide. Players were out of shape. Players were undisciplined. While many fans wanted to say Shula’s offensive philosophy was the problem, the problem rested in Shula’s failure to make the team physically and mentally tough.

Penalties, poor blocking and technique were problems throughout the Shula tenure. Would a coordinator solve these deeper problems? If a coach won’t make a player work, will any scheme or teaching fix this?

The only solution for these woes is a strong leader willing to hold his players and coaches accountable. A weak coach cannot hold anyone accountable. Any move by the administration that weakens the leadership position of the coach invites chaos. And chaos is a friend of the Volunteers, Gamecocks, Tigers and Gators.

Another problem with a forced coordinator change is the growing idea that coordinators are somehow entitled to bring in their own personnel. The idiotic situation at Auburn with Tony Franklin illustrates this. Franklin complained to the press (and the press believed him!) that he should have been allowed to bring in assistants familiar with his system. These assistants would have presumably been loyal to Franklin. Who would want such division on a staff? The staff must be a reflection of the head coach, and be loyal to him. Anything else creates dreaded factionalism. A coach cannot control his staff if assistants owe their jobs to other assistants.

There is a strong case to be made against Richt. His teams are undisciplined. Doubt this? Just look at the penalties and defense. Richt has seemed clueless against Urban Meyer.

There is a strong case to be made for Richt. He recruits well. He wins games, and wins big games on the road. He has conference championships on his resume.

The entire situation boils down to this: you either trust Richt, or you don’t. If you trust him, then let him run his program. If you don’t trust him, then you should fire him. Anything else makes life more difficult for the Bulldogs. It postpones a tough decision; it prolongs your agony.