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Every summer, the college football offseason produces countless predictions, unbridled optimism and an anticipation unmatched in American sports. One of the hottest topics of conversation that pops up during this time of year is the annual list of coaches on the hot seat.
This year, you see names like Dan Hawkins, Ron Zook and Rich Rodriguez at or near the top of almost every hot seat list. Those guys deserve to be on the list. But another name keeps popping up that just doesn't seem to fit – Georgia head coach Mark Richt.
That's right, Mark Richt, the same guy that has rebuilt the Georgia program to a level that it hasn't seen since the Vince Dooley era, is being mentioned as one of those coaches that needs to put up a solid season – or else he could be fired.
Just how good of a season must Richt have according to the "fire Richt" crowd? On Wednesday, I heard two separate experts on two separate radio stations within the SEC footprint say that Mark Richt has to win 10 games in 2010 to keep his job.
Ten games??? As Chad Ochocinco would say, "child, please!"
This comes on the heels of several articles that have also speculated about Richt's imminent demise.
Wednesday morning, Georgia athletics director Damon Evans attempted to cool down the hot seat speculation.
"I think when they see a little adversity, people want to just jump on it and attack it," said Evans, who is in Destin, Fla., for the SEC spring meetings. "There is no need for that, because he's not on a hot seat. Mark is in a good place with us, and I'm glad he's here."
True or not, Evans' answer is exactly how any man with his job title should respond to the controversy. In this particular case, Evans is speaking the truth.
If Georgia goes 7-5, yes, Mark Richt's job status will be discussed among the higher-ups in Athens. But it won't get him fired. Sure, if Georgia tanks and posts a sub-.500 record, then yes, his job is in jeopardy. But that's also true of a lot of other coaches that aren't "on the hot seat" this offseason.
The Bulldogs are breaking in redshirt freshman Aaron Murray at quarterback; and new defensive coordinator Todd Grantham has to teach his new 3-4 scheme to a defense that is replacing its three best defensive linemen, best linebacker and best safety. Is it going to be smooth sailing in Athens? No. There are going to be to be few speed bumps along the way. But it's hardly "Atlanta or bust" for Richt and Co.
For a little perspective, consider where Georgia is coming from. Under former coaches Ray Goff and Jim Donnan, the Bulldogs averaged just over seven wins per season. Since Richt took over in 2001, the Bulldogs have averaged ten wins per season and won SEC Championships in 2002 and 2005. Richt does, on occasion, have inexplicable letdowns and a difficult time against Florida in the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. But that doesn't change the fact that Richt's winning percentage at UGA (.769) is 54 points HIGHER than Bulldog legend Vince Dooley's (.715).
This isn't the Pac-10. Every week is a battle in the SEC, and Richt has prevailed in his battles more times than not. It would be helpful for Richt's job security if he can lead Georgia back to a New Years Day bowl and at least contend for the SEC East Championship in 2010. But if he falls short, Richt won't be cleaning out his office. He built the program to the level it enjoyed in the middle of the decade, and will be given an appropriate amount of time to rebuild it.
Barrett Sallee covers the SEC for www.CollegeFootballNews.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @BarrettSallee
Off-Season Column Archive:
Richt On The Hot Seat? – June 3, 2010
Auburn Dismisses Redshirt Freshman RB – May 21, 2010
SEC Hires of the Decade – The Bottom Five – May 14, 2010
Top 5 SEC Hires of the Decade – May 5, 2010
Georgia In A Gray Area – April 26, 2009
Taunting Rule Goes Too Far – April 16, 2009
Memorable SEC Press Conferences – February 20, 2009
2010 Early SEC Picks, Part 2 – February 18, 2009
2010 Early SEC Picks, Part 1 – February 16, 2009
Florida Reaches For DC – February 12, 2009
Vols Go West For New DC – February 3, 2009
Early 2010 SEC Predictions – January 31, 2010
Chizik Doing It Right – January 21, 2010
Georgia's DC Debacle – January 12, 2010
SEC Bloggers: Do Over – January 8, 2010
Trouble In Baton Rouge – January 2, 2010
Meyer Calls A Reverse – December 27, 2009
Urban Meyer's SEC Legacy – December 26, 2009
End Of The Season Accountability – December 26, 2009
Ranking The SEC Bowl Games – December 18, 2009
2009 SEC Superlatives – December 13, 2009
Click here for the 2010 Three & Out archive