Local high school coaches said they had a good relationship through the years with Mark Richt and his staff at the University of Georgia.
Richt is in his final weeks as the UGA head football coach after the school decided to part ways with him following the regular season finale Saturday. He has a career record of 145-51, with a bowl game to go.
“It’s kind of like (Alabama) Coach (Nick) Saban said: What’s the profession going to when a guy averages 10 wins a year and it’s not good enough?” Loganville High School coach Mike Humphreys said Monday.
The coach of Loganville’s rival, Monroe Area, said Richt was about more than the record.
“I think there’s so much more that goes into coaching than wins and losses,” coach Joey Sulkowski said. “I know that’s cliché, but it really is — especially at that level, when you’re being paid millions of dollars, people want results.”
Richt teams won two Southeastern Conference championships, but those seem like ancient history to some, in 2002 and ’05. His 2012 team finished 5 yards out of the end zone in the 2012 SEC championship game against Alabama.
Had Georgia gotten the job done there, the Bulldogs may well have won their first national championship since 1980. As it is, the program’s lack of a title — and its struggle in big games in recent years — seems to have been too much to bear.
Humphreys said Richt noted in his press conference Monday he seemed to have lost the confidence of Athletic Director Greg McGarity.
Sulkowski said the firing sets up a tall task for whoever comes next.
“You’re basically letting the next person know 10 or 11 wins isn’t good enough,” he said.
Georgia can finish with 10 wins for the second consecutive season with a bowl victory. The bowl arrangements are expected to be announced Sunday.
After the bowl, local coaches will lose their connection to a top college program that just happens to be right down the road.
“Mark Richt has been a great head coach for the state of Georgia and Georgia high schools,” Walnut Grove coach Ben Reaves said. “I could call Georgia with questions and never had any problems.
“I can’t say enough about what he’s done at Georgia.”
Humphreys said he’s had few dealings with Richt, but more with his staff.
“His assistant coaches are through here, and everyone who’s had dealings with him have said how sincere he is,” Humphreys said.
Sulkowski said he’s had a “great relationship” with Richt.
“There’s never been a time, whether I was a collegiate coach or even since I’ve been a high school coach, that I’ve been turned down to watch a practice or talk ball with the assistant coaches,” he said.
Sulkowski said he had taken coaches over to Athens in years past.
“That was the mentality that was there, an open door, family-type environment,” he recalled. “He made everyone feel welcome all the time.”
Local coaches said they don’t worry the decision to part ways with Richt — a man who has averaged more than nine victories a year in the nation’s toughest conference, and who beat rival Georgia Tech 13 years out of 15 — will signify any change to their own jobs.
“I think fans are always a little quicker to pull the trigger than administrators,” Humphreys said. “I think maybe the fans are the ones who set those expectations too high, but they’re the ones who are in the seats and funding the programs.”