As much as it pains me to say this, there needs to be a change at the top with the University of Georgia's football program. That may come as a shock to hear from those who know me best.
As a University of Georgia graduate and longtime supporter of Mark Richt, I've felt that he was on track to guide the program to the promise land and its first national title since I was wearing diapers in 1980.
However, the way this season has transpired and a general overview of the program has given me a drastically different perspective, and I've come to believe that the Bulldogs will not be a regular national contender as long as Richt is in charge.
Don't get me wrong, I applaud Mark Richt for his outstanding character and the principled Christian influence he's been for the young men he's worked with. However, if that is his singular goal, a career in the ministry may be more well suited.
I want Georgia (6-6) to have a coach that is going to groom a team that will lean on the opposition, so by the time the fourth quarter rolls around, they're ready to submit. Right now, we have a Georgia program that barely survived against Georgia Tech, despite twice leading by two touchdowns.That's not acceptable in my book.
As far as I see it, there's no excuse for teams to be able to come into Sanford Stadium, especially a marginal Georgia Tech program, and almost pull out the upset due to our own special teams errors, poor play calling and a boneheaded, uncontested touchdown run by Washaun Ealey with less than 2 minutes left to play that gave the Yellow Jackets the ball back.
Before anybody gets the wrong idea, my frustration with Georgia's program extends far beyond last Saturday's win against Georgia Tech.
My main concern is that Georgia's recruiting has left the tracks. Yes, we have some fantastic athletes in the program with A.J. Green (who we're going to miss greatly next season), Justin Houston, Aaron Murray, Kris Durham (a steal for the NFL team that gets him in the draft) and a budding star in Alec Ogletree.
However, far too often, I've seen the Bulldogs in the past two or three years bring athletes in on the recommendation of recruiting services and how well they perform in a scouting combine. I feel like this all started in earnest with Georgia's 2005 recruiting class when the Bulldogs only brought in two home run players (Jeff Owens and Kade Weston). As I studied that season's recruiting class a few weeks back and how they panned out by the time they graduated from Georgia in 2009, more than a fair number of these never made a real impact with the program.
For that, I blame the coaching staff.
We aren't bringing in the right athletes that give us a realistic chance of being a national contender. Then on the flip side, there's great high school athletes, some locally, that Georgia gives up on. Want an example? Gainesville's A.J. Johnson. This kid is a stud and right in the backyard of the Bulldogs, but for some unknown reason, they didn't think he was worthy of offering a scholarship.
I've talked with other friends and sportswriters who have the same impression of Georgia's program: slowly, but surely, it sank into mediocrity. If you're a fan that is content with the program going 6-6 and no real signs of improvement on the horizon, then be my guest. However, I feel like next year is going to be an unpleasant wake-up call without Green (see this year's four-game losing streak for proof) and Houston (probably a first-round pick in the NFL) bolting out of Athens.
Also, I think life in the SEC is getting tougher than easier. I'm of the belief that it's the toughest conference in the country, and as a result, draws the best coaches and players. Just think, in addition to the constant powers, you also have Mississippi State and Arkansas, programs that are much improved and will be battling for league titles sooner than later.
Supporters of Richt point to his record (96-33) and two league titles as proof that he should stay. While I'll be the first to agree that he's made his mark, two SEC titles and three conference championship game appearances since he arrived in 2001 doesn't exactly instill fear in Alabama, LSU, Florida and Auburn.
My fear that the program is slowly eroding started immediately after Georgia was at its highest point under Richt with its victory over Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl at the end of the 2007 season.
In the three years since, we've gone 10 wins in 2008, 8 wins in 2009 and 6 wins so far this season with the chance of a low-level bowl victory still up in the air. To make things even more discouraging, our quality victories this season are non-existant, unless you count Tennessee and Georgia Tech. I don't.
The silver lining to this season is that we have a new defensive coordinator, who may be able to untangle the mess that Willie Martinez left at Georgia. The Bulldogs also cut down on penalties and turnovers this season, which you would think could translate into a better record.
However, it didn't. Georgia fans are sitting on a bitter-sweet feeling of beating Georgia Tech, but only becoming bowl eligible with a .500 record.
I don't think it should be acceptable to finish .500 in a state with so much high school talent as the state of Georgia. I believe you could craft a national title contender by recruiting within the borders of our state alone.
Even though Mark Richt is a pleasant human being, who has made every effort to make Georgia a national contender, I just don't see it happening on his watch again. The best college programs in the country are already lightyears ahead of Georgia in terms of talent, stability and general buzz around the program.
If the Bulldogs are going to be a national power again, it's going to take some sweeping changes and it all starts at the top.
Mark Richt is a great coach. It doesn't matter what you think or say Bill. He will be there now and until my son leaves UGA. I looked back at previous head coaches at UGA. Coach Dooley had some losing seasons. He is a christian and I really appreciate that first of all. He cannot play the game for the players. He has other coaches helping him as well. The players are the ones that have to play to win. If you think you can do better, why don't you go and apply for the job.
Firedrill: I think Dan Mullen is the best young coach in the country. He's started something great at Mississippi State. From what I've heard, he wouldn't be opposed to talking with Georgia. He already has a connection with the AD from their Florida days.
Hey Mrs. Bailey, I'll be the first one pulling for Sterling to help turn this thing around next year. Yes, coach Dooley had some losing season's too. However, it is 100-percent the job of the coaching staff to put the team in a position to win. It all starts at the top. It is a results driven profession. Like I said, any Georgia fan that is happy with a 6-6 record is totally entitled to their opinion. However, I expect more out of the University of Georgia.
You have found the problem and and missed the problem. It is the recruiting. That should be totally amped up. I am not a fan of Mike Bobo. Richt did a supreme job calling the plays at FSU - why not do that as part of the job at UGA? Mark Richt is a great coach and person and he actually stands up for what he believes. Again, it is the same Mark that made FSU a success - tells me the talent isn't the same on the team (and the recruiting). By the way, it is be my guest, not be my guess - so master your called field of writing before you become head coach. And, Georgia Tech is far from mediocre.
Well then Mrs. Bailey, why don't you remind your son that it is HIS responsibility..
We have the athletes, we have the talent, we have the capability to win the SEC, if not the BCS, every single year. We are missing top-notch coaching.
While I'm not particularly on the Richt bandwagon, I am of the belief that you just don't fire the coach UNLESS you have someone of BETTER capability lined up to take the job. At the first of the season I looked at Georgia's team and their schedule and picked them to go 7-5, and that was before A.J. was suspended for 4 games. This should be a wake up call for the ENTIRE coaching staff at GA. What I don't understand is Richt bringing in Grantham who specializes in a pro style defense that can only be used about 1/3 of the time against teams we play. The new defense was a big disappointment this year!