For the past two weeks, the message boards have been flooded with rumors. It’s not unusual. That’s the purpose of such boards. Some of it might have been true, and then again, not one thing might have been correct.
But where there is smoke, there is usually fire. The talk was there was dysfunction in Athens and that not everyone was on the same page in the Butts-Mehre Building with the football program.
Well, whatever was true, this is what we know now. Mark Richt won whatever power struggle might have been going on between his staff and the administration. He’s getting a new contract, and his defensive coordinator, Jeremy Pruitt, is getting a hefty raise after just one year on the job.
Many of the rumors started around Pruitt, who is close to Mike Bobo and Will Friend, who are now at Colorado State as head coach and offensive coordinator. The talk was that Pruitt would soon leave, as well, leaving Georgia in a mess.
Georgia’s defense still has issues. It’s not totally fixed, but that’s more of a personnel problem instead of something Pruitt didn’t do in his first year in charge. He just needs more talent, and that seems to be happening with a very impressive recruiting class he is putting together.
But Pruitt is making a difference in other areas. It seems Richt listens to Pruitt, and the things that Georgia needs to do -- things that are done at other programs -- are now getting done. That’s very valuable for a coach like Richt who has been in place for a long time.
Pruitt was vocal that an indoor practice facility was needed, and he was right. It might be stupid, but recruits like shiny new buildings. And why athletics director Greg McGarity wasn’t embarrassed a year ago when the folks at Georgia Tech mocked Georgia for having to use the Falcons’ indoor facility is a mystery. That alone should have been enough to know that needed to get done.
There was a lot of angst about Bobo’s salary, which was sinfully low for someone who had accomplished what his offenses had done. Now, would a higher salary have kept Bobo in Athens? No, and anyone that blames McGarity for “losing” Bobo is just wrong. Bobo wanted to be a head coach. That’s why he left, plain and simple.
But the offensive coordinator never should have been paid $375,000 less than the defensive coordinator. Richt needed assurances Bobo’s replacement would be appropriately compensated. These coaches are getting paid a lot of money now, and Georgia can’t lag behind.
McGarity sent a letter to donors Friday saying these things would get done. Therefore, Richt got exactly what he wanted. He won whatever struggle might have been going on.
Richt will also get a contract extension, and that’s not a shock. Sure, Richt’s Bulldogs are 14-21 against ranked opponents since 2008. Sure, Richt is 11-17 against Top 10-ranked opponents in his career at Georgia. But he has won 10 games or more in nine of his 14 seasons, and, like it or not, 10-win seasons in college football represent success.
So Georgia fans will have to live with the once-a-year games they know come every season when the Georgia team loses to someone it shouldn’t lose to. That’s just a fact of life for Georgia fans, and the nature of the game is that a coach like Richt will be rewarded for being very good, even if he’s not great.
Remember, Richt has not won a national title in his career, and he has not won a conference championship since 2005. But he has won just enough to be very comfortable in his job.
There is, however, a difference now. For years, people have asked, “Well, who would you replace Richt with?” There was never a perfect candidate, at least until now. If Bobo does well at Colorado State, he will be the name always mentioned when Georgia loses a big game or falls short of expectations.
Maybe that pressure will be good for Richt. Maybe knowing the fans could want Bobo to take over if he falters in big games will be the type of pressure Richt has never had before.
But right now, Richt has what he wants. He’s getting a raise and taking care of his assistants. He’s getting things built. The excuses are running out. Now it’s simply time for Georgia to take the next step with Richt firmly in charge.
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