UGA’s Mark Richt: ‘Something besides winning that’s important here’

Mark Richt, here with quarterback Hutson Mason, contends that developing the character of his players is more important than win or losses. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Mark Richt, here with quarterback Hutson Mason, contends that developing the character of his players is more important than win or losses. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

ATHENS — Informed earlier this week that, along with Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops, he was considered among his peers the head coach for whom others would want their children to play, Georgia coach Mark Richt feigned at first that he didn’t really care.

“I would’ve rather beaten South Carolina,” the Bulldogs’ coach quipped. “I mean somebody told me that I think to make me feel better, but it really didn’t make me feel better.”

The truth is, the distinction actually meant a lot to Richt. Such a reputation, he revealed, is the cornerstone of his leadership as Georgia’s coach.

“I mean, I hope people feel that way,” Richt said of parents wanting to send their kids to him to play. “I do have a goal of treating these guys with respect and dignity and making them accountable for what we ask them to do and helping them be the best football player they can be and be the best human being they can be. I know for 18- to 22-year-olds, that time frame is just huge when it comes to the growth of a young man. … I was talking to our seniors about that. In just a few short months it’s going to be on them. They’re going to be in a position where it’s time for them to be making decisions on their life and on marriage and thinking about how they want to lead their families and love their wife and love their children and all those kinds of things. I’m OK with that.”

Such a philosophy presents a paradox for a lot of Georgia fans. Some are concerned with nothing more than winning games and championships. They argue that, with two SEC titles and no national titles, Richt hasn’t done enough in that regard. That fact is exacerbated in comparison with some of the Bulldogs’ SEC brethren some of which of won multiple national titles.

But Richt is hard to judge even by the win-loss measure. The fact is, when he arrived in Athens from Florida State 14 years ago, Georgia had not won an SEC title in 20 years. He has won two and played for five.

Richt’s 127-46 overall record — the fourth-best winning percentage among active coaches (.734) who have coached 100 or more games — and he has done well against the Bulldogs’ rivals. He has winning records against Georgia Tech (12-1), Tennessee (9-4), Auburn (8-5) and South Carolina (8-6) and has won more games against Florida (5) than the previous two coaches combined. Meanwhile, he and he has sent players to the NFL in droves.

Whatever measure by which others judge, Richt doesn’t know or seem to care. But for him, it’s not wins and losses or championships.

“I’ve always felt that way,” he said. “That’s part of the reason I’m coaching college rather than pro ball. There’s something besides winning that’s important here. It doesn’t diminish how important winning is. That’s the part some people get confused about. I mean, winning is supremely important to me and the rest of the staff. But in the process of winning and teaching these guys how to play football, there’s just as great or a greater cause, I think.

“You know, I’ve been fortunate to be on national championship teams, SEC championship teams, coached Heisman Trophy winners, a lot of things you want to accomplish as a coach. You do that and you realize when it’s all over they just want you to do it again.”

What’s your thoughts on Richt’s philosophy?


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