From 11 wins to 10 to 8 to 6.
From 30 points per game to a whopping 6 against Central Florida.
Georgia’s first losing record since the Clinton years and a bowl loss to Conference-USA.
Mark Richt is finished in Athens.
A little backstory to begin with — Two years ago we stated that Richt’s seat was warming in the Peach State. He hadn’t won “the big one” and he had ascended to the “dean of SEC coaches” role. Those are killers in this league.
At the time, many called us anti-Richt. We were told by hundreds of Dawg fans that they would never turn on their coach.
Well, the cock just crowed and Dawg fans are turning on their coach in record numbers. Check the nearest UGA messageboard for proof.
As we stated back on October 7th of this year, once you lose a fanbase to a certain point, there’s no getting it back. Which is why we said on November 29th that Richt should have pursued the vacant Miami job. Only he didn’t. And now A 10-6 loss to UCF in the Liberty Bowl has driven things even further south than they were during the fall.
In fairness, we have also stated that UGA fans were being too rash with Richt. This season’s 6-7 record suggests that things were actually worse than we had thought.
But in our view, Georgia’s coach is still a fine one. He’s just caught in a familiar trap:
Coach X wins big…
New coaches enter league and make league tougher…
Coach X sticks to his old ways because they’ve won for him in the past…
New coaches continue to pass him by.
We don’t believe Richt has forgotten how to recruit or coach. We do however believe that he’s hampered by his own past successes.
Aside from Paul “Bear” Bryant, most coaches dance with the one that brung ‘em, as the old saying goes.
Bryant won national titles at Alabama in the 1960s and then saw his program start to trend downward. Rather than just trying to work harder, Bryant started from scratch. He ignored his past successes, threw out his old offense, and rebuilt Alabama as a wishbone team. He went on to win more national titles in the 1970s as a result.
Most coaches don’t have the guts to act so boldly. Instead, they try to do what they’ve done before, only they try to do it better. That sounds good, but it rarely works.
So even if Richt deserves another year to fix what ails UGA — and he does — don’t we all know how this marriage is going to turn out?
To completely quell Georgia’s angry fanbase, Richt will probably need to win 10 games next year. With Boise State, South Carolina, Mississippi State and Florida on UGA’s schedule next year, a 10-win season does not appear likely. (And that’s giving Georgia wins in toss-up games with Ole Miss, Tennessee, Auburn, Kentucky and Georgia Tech.)
Handing Richt another year to right UGA’s ship is the fair move. But unfortunately it’s just delaying the inevitable at this point.
Once you lose a fanbase past a certain point, there’s no getting it back. Even if you say all the right things, eventually the proof’s in the win column. Richt’s win column doesn’t figure to look great in 2011. And he’s already past the point of rescue with most Dawg fans.