Knowing Richt from wrong

richtI love Mark Richt.

He deserves my love. He deserves my respect. He’s earned my admiration. Mark Richt has been kicked in the gut, and he is standing tall. Taller, in fact, than the very people who kicked him. During what has to be one of the lowest moments of his life, Mark Richt is a giant. Every time he opens his mouth, he sets another example of decency and virtue.

There is no need to continue the debate over whether or not he deserved to lose his job as football coach at the University of Georgia. That ship has sailed. What’s left is to cling to the standards he set. Mark Richt never compromised. He loved his players. He loved his school. My school. He knew the importance of pleasing wealthy alumni and fickle fans. He also knew it was far more important to honor and please his Lord.

Mark Richt doesn’t know me, and that’s okay. We met once, very briefly, years ago. It was one of the many coach-reporter encounters he’s had in his life, and he won’t remember it. On the other hand, he’s had a tremendous impact on me. I see in him a man of peace. As pressure and criticism rains down on him, he is steady and unafraid. He’s given it all to God, and in God he has assurance. The demands of unreasonable fans don’t scare him. Gators don’t scare him. Yellow Jackets, Tigers, and Rolling Tides don’t scare him. The Lord tells him to fear not, and Mark Richt is an obedient follower of Christ.

I wish I had that kind of faith, that kind of strength.

Mark Richt’s wins aren’t always kept on a scoreboard. His most important victories are measured in character. Talk to his former athletes. Ask Marshall Morgan, the once automatic kicker who found himself short on confidence. Prior to a big field goal attempt, his coach embraced him.

“No matter what happens,” Coach Richt assured his kicker. “I love you.”

Marshall Morgan made the kick.

Richt has booted players for various infractions, but he never abandoned them. Instead, he encouraged and continued to guide the very athletes who let him down.

Now, Georgia has booted Richt. His reaction?

“I love our fans.”

That includes the fans dissatisfied with the lack of championships, the fans who demanded Richt’s ouster.

“I respect the media.”

There were writers who called for Georgia to can Mark Richt.

“I love everybody, quite frankly.”

Not everyone loved Mark Richt. There are people who celebrated after the University of Georgia announced that Richt had lost his job. Imagine people partying over your demise. Mark Richt didn’t deserve such disrespect. Some of his harshest critics pointed to a program that was above reproach.

“We need a football coach,” some would say. “Not a preacher.”

My biggest fear is that Georgia will backslide when it comes to integrity. A national writer actually suggested that the Bulldogs need to soften up when it comes to discipline, that the new coach needs to be “freer” when it comes to second chances. No way. Mark Richt set a high standard for good behavior, and that standard should not be compromised. Georgia doesn’t need to be like everyone else. We should not be ashamed of requiring our athletes to act like decent human beings. They need to know there are rules and consequences, that the world is not one big rug where you can sweep your transgressions. Mark Richt did it right. He lifted his team high in terms of morality, and the next coach should have the strength to keep it high.

I pray that the character of Mark Richt will remain a part of Georgia football forever. It is his influence that caused Georgia to lift Devon Gales after a devastating injury, and turn a rival player into a Bulldog fan. It is Mark Richt’s compassionate spirit that leads his players to charity work. There’s a reason why other college coaches voted Richt as the man they would want tutoring their son.

Mark Richt loves the Lord. He is comforted by God, and that is why he answered questions about his firing without bitterness or resentment.

“I’m really at peace that it was part of His (God’s) plan,” said Richt. “I want to continue to be as obedient as I can be to the Lord.”

Mark Richt isn’t worried about tomorrow. He’s not concerned about the championships he didn’t win, or the fans he disappointed. His eye is on a Lord who loves him, who loves all of us, even as we fail.

Mark Richt is a champion.

And I love him.

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36 thoughts on “Knowing Richt from wrong

  1. Well said, Jerry. In 31 years of covering sports full- and part-time for our news department, and as a long-ago sports writer in Augusta, I’ve engaged with coaches and athletes all across the likability spectrum. Mark Richt belongs to a very small subset of these people whom I like and admire. There’s plenty of arrogance and stupidity permeating all sports, so the example Mark set stands out and should be emulated. I know he never liked losing, but I also know that he believes in his mission: promoting the concept of teamwork and teaching the values his players can carry through life. His coda Monday just reinforced my opinion of him.

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    • Well said. He raised the standards at Georgia, and Georgia should be brave enough to keep those moral standards high. The pressure will be there to return to complacency when it comes to athlete behavior. The excuses are there to sweep it under the rug because “other schools do it.” Georgia should remember Richt and all he represents.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. That really says a lot of what I have been thinking and I thank you for writing it. I am nobody important, just a Dawg fan who loves and supports Coach Richt. Heck he is my profile picture and Georgia Bulldogs is my cover photo. I had to move away from Athens in 2000 when I got married but my heart never left and I am still sad that my Coach was not honored for being the great leader and friend he was but instead he was criticized and fired. I know he will be amazing where ever life takes him and I am so grateful that he touched my life the way he did. I just hope I can please my God the way he has. I love you Coach Richt and I respect and admire you.

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  3. Thank you Jerry!
    I am so thankful my sons got to see Mark Richt live out his faith in Jesus Christ in everyday life situations for years.
    Folks say participating sports will build character, and then others say you can have too much character. What a shame. Our loss is Miami’s gain.

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  4. I was blessed to share a meal with CMR following a Bulldog Club meeting in Columbus several years ago when his wife was battling cancer. I sat next to Coach Richt and, while everyone else was talking football, we were talking about his prayer requests for his wife. He always knows what is most important – taking everything to the Lord.

    I attended UGA during the Dooley/Walker years. We had a great time back then but my connection with Coach Dooley was nowhere close to that of CMR. Coach Mark Richt will always be MY coach. #dawg4life

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  5. Great perspective on a truly great man. You don’t have to know him personally to see and feel the impact he made at UGA. I’ve already been told my 77 year old Dad wants a Hurricanes ball cap under the tree! I’m part of the UGA Class of 1984 and proud mom of a UGA sophomore.

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  6. I’m a Gator fan who couldn’t stand Mark Richt after the excessive celebration penalty in the end zone a few years ago. While I heard he was a great man of God, that seemed to be out of line with that picture. However, through the years of living up here in Georgia, reading and hearing story after story about Coach Richt I came around to see what a man of integrity and godliness he is. I have been so dismayed as a Christian and a college football fan to read Georgia fans care more about winning than coaching young men to be more than just good football players and wanting to have an eternal impact on them. This article says exactly what I would say even though I’m not a Dog and never will cheer for them. Great job. And I won’t cheer for Miami either, but I will cheer for Coach Richt.

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    • I’m not sure I can ever bring myself to root for Miami, but I can continue to love Mark Richt. I am dismayed over the attitudes of so many Georgia fans who grew to HATE Richt because he “didn’t win the right games.” College football needs him. I’m glad he’s still in the game.

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  7. As a Miami Grad and fan first and UGA second I am pleased to see Richt come home.
    Obviously someone saw who Richt was and admired his character and integrity more than his lack of “Big Wins”.
    MR is an example
    that more coaches at the highest level should emulate!
    God First-Football secondary.

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  8. Thank you Jerry for this wonderful article. I love Coach Richt and UGA. I graduated in 1963 and have never failed to support MY TEAM. I have certainly wavered after the treatment of Mark Richt. I will never understand the “hate” attitude from fans and others because he didn’t win a National Championship. He had a winning record and did much more to help UGA than get that NC.
    I PRAY for his success at the University of Miami and that his Iove of GOD will shine through him to all around him.

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  9. I went to UGA. Class of 85. Yes, I was spoiled. No, not everyone is as public about their faith as Richt. Yes, he set a great example.

    If you hired a plumber to unclog your sink & he didn’t get it unclogged, but he testified in your kitchen while he was working, would you hire him again?

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    • Your analogy is totally wrong. If the plumber showed up on time, worked hard, unclogged the drain, gained my trust, shared his faith and performed the work better than 90% of plumbers across the country, not only would I rehire him but I would pay him more than what he charged.

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    • Sorry John, but Richt was hired to win games and that’s exactly what he did. In fact, he is the 15th of 128 winningest active D1 coaches. His record is 145-51 which is a 74% winning percentage. Those are some pretty damn good stats. Yes, those wins did not consist of “big game” wins, but they were wins and some BIG wins. So, give me that plumber any day.

      What’s sad is the emphasis these programs have to win those big games. What’s even more sad is the importance put on these kids being athletes over students and in some instances, athletes over law-abiding young men with morals and ethics. It’s coaches like Mark Richt who actually holds his players to a higher level of expectations and makes them realize their opportunity to play football is a privilege that is earned and earned throughout their time at the university.

      We need more coaches like Richt running programs. I have no doubt in my mind he will turn Miami around and win the big games, and before Georgia does too.

      Richt is an amazing coach with a passion of building young men into Men of meaning and substance. Winning football games are just a bonus.

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  10. He and I believe Romans 8:28 NIV
    [28] And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
    This is why he has peace. AWESOME!!!’

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  11. The only issue I have with the article and comments are the ones about fans hating Mark Richt. I certainly don’t feel that way and I don’t personally know any Dawg fans that do. I do support the decision to move on with another coach, but don’t assume that means we should lose our integrity and treat players differently than CMR did. We should continue to build men of character and discipline them when they misbehave. I wish the Richt family all the best.

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  12. What a great article .I certainly do wish Coach Richt and family the very best in their new chapter of their life.It will be so sad to not see Coach Richt in Ga red and Kathryn the pretty water girl.When I think about it I still can’t believe Coach Richt won’t be there.Very sad

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  13. Pingback: Knowing Richt from wrong | a messy sanctuary

  14. I’m gonna miss him in Athens. Nobody can win a championship every year. Nobody should expect that. Considering how quickly he got snapped up by The U, I’m thinking UGA made a huuuuuuuge ( as The Donald would say) mistake in kicking him to the curb. Wonder how long it’ll take for them to realize it…….

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    • I’m praying Georgia succeeds with a new coach, and that Richt enjoys success in Miami. Perhaps a fresh start for both will be good. I’m just praying Athens doesn’t forget the valuable life lessons Richt brought us.

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  15. Jerry – truer words haven’t been spoken about our friend, Mark Richt. Thank you. I’ve had the honor of knowing Mark and his family. All the Richts are beautiful models of the way Christ has called us to use our stations in life to carry out His way and will. I pray that God continue to use Coach in Miami – I’m sure gonna miss him in Athens.

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