ATHENS, Ga. – When the rumors and subsequent reports about an opening at Texas A&M started, Georgia coach Mark Richt insists he was like so many others.
(Photo by UGA Sports Communications)
“I don’t know where all that came from,” Richt said Friday.
With talks underway to extend his contract at UGA after a 10-win season and SEC East title, Richt’s job, it can be said, is safe again.
He with that now a certainty after what loomed as a most uncertain season, Richt again pledged his future and loyalty to the Bulldogs on Friday, saying as he has all along that he has no plans to leave Athens.
“I love Georgia. It's a great place. It's our home. I want it to remain our home for a long time,” Richt said. “I'm thankful that Georgia wants me to be here, and I certainly want to be at Georgia and now we’ve just got to talk about terms and all that kind of thing. All the talks we've had have been very positive and upbeat. It is about the head coach sometimes because if the coach's contract is long enough everybody has a little bit of peace and has a sense that there is stability within the program. All that is going to happen.”
It seems when a coach is winning, people are worried he’ll leave. But when he’s losing, many want him to go, and Richt has just spent multiple seasons on the other end of that.
A 6-7 season in 2010, followed by a 0-2 start in 2011, inflamed the hot seat talk about his status at Georgia that gradually dissipated as the Bulldogs won 10 in a row to finish the regular season.
“We’re happy for Coach Richt. He deserves it,” said linebacker Christian Robinson when asked about Richt’s pending extension.
Such newfound job stability figures to help Georgia’s recruiting efforts moving forward. At least Richt believes it will be that way with certain prospects.
Greg McGarity on Richt: "He wants to be our head football coach. We want him to be our head football coach. And that's kind of where we are."
“There's been some that have just come out and said ‘I'd like my son to go to Georgia, but I'm not sure what is going on’ maybe in the summer or after the second game of the year,” Richt said. “So there were some people that would just come out and say that, and there were others that maybe through the high school coach would say ‘Coach, if everything was set, he would have done it (and committed) a month ago.’
“You hear some of that type of conversation going on. Now that everything is real solid in that way, I’ve got a feeling there will be a few guys that were kind of holding back or maybe deciding on another school or rethinking what they are doing because they feel really good about what is happening at Georgia right now."
So what is happening right now? UGA athletics director Greg McGarity confirmed last week that new contract talks with Richt began Friday morning.
That was less than 24 hours after reports spread on message boards and Twitter that Richt was in play for the opening at Texas A&M that subsequently was accepted to Houston’s Kevin Sumlin.
Richt has also been rumored to be involved in the search for Joe Paterno’s successor at Penn State. To that, Richt says, “I have not heard a word or a thing from Penn State.”
Random rumors are one thing, but the Texas A&M situation grew quickly beyond that into reports from reputable media outlets. The Houston Chronicle, sourcing an unnamed, high-ranking source at Texas A&M, went so far as to report that Richt had been offered the job and turned it down.
Not true, says Richt.
“I had not been contacted personally,” Richt said Friday. “Anybody who could have possibly represented me in any way, shape or form, never said to me, ‘Hey, A&M is interested.’ That was interesting to me to have that much smoke and no one that I know of got contacted on it.”
“It just sounded silly to me,” Robinson said of the A&M reports. “I knew that wasn’t going to be an issue at all. Coach Richt has always told us he wants to be here. He wants to end his career here. That was never in mind that he was going to leave. I was just telling people, ‘I don’t know where you’re hearing that from.’”
Given the timing, many speculated that Richt’s name was brought up as a negotiating tactic from his camp to try to force UGA’s hand on an extension.
Again, Richt firmly denied that line of thinking.
“I've never been a guy to try and leverage a situation because the first day I got it here I said I want to be at Georgia,” Richt said. “I said I wanted it to be the last coaching job I have. I'm very interested in winning, doing things the right way and stability for my family. … If I know in my heart this is where I want to be then I don't want to play a game for any reason.
"All I'm asking is for everything to be as fair as we can. I want to give Georgia my best, and I want Georgia to give us its best."