Tuesday, October 30, 2007

"Mark Richt: A Coach and a Man" by Allie Bates

When one thinks of a football coach, an image of an angry, intense man plays through the mind. However, Mark Richt, the University of Georgia's Head Football Coach, does not fall into that category. He has earned respect as both an excellent coach and an inspirational man with high standards. Not only has Richt succeeded in leading the Georgia Bulldogs to many victories, but he has also helped the community in many ways by becoming involved.
On December 26, 2000, Mark Richt signed as the University of Georgia's Head Coach after being a part of Florida State University's football staff for fifteen years. Georgia's football team was filled with talented players; they just needed direction, and Richt was the right choice as the leader. In his opening season as Head Coach, he won eight games, which had not been done since Georgia coach H.J. Stegeman in his first year in 1920. The year 2002 was one filled with much success for the Georgia Bulldogs. Richt led them to a Southeastern Conference (SEC) championship, which was their first in twenty years. The Bulldogs also beat Florida State in the Nokia Sugar Bowl and finished the season ranked third in the nation. According to the Official Athletic Site of the University of Georgia, “He is one of only nine head coaches in Division 1-A history to record sixty or more wins in his first six seasons, he's one of only six coaches in history to win two SEC championships (2002, 2005) in his first twelve years, and one of only five head coaches in SEC history to record four straight 10-win seasons (2002-05).” Richt was a finalist for the Bear Bryant National Coach of the Year Award in 2002 (Georgia). In 2002, Mark Richt was also named the SEC Coach of the Year (Curtis 38).
While coaching at Florida State in 1986, one of his players, Pablo Lopez, was shot and killed. This event truly affected Richt. He turned to the Bible for comfort and became a devoted Christian from this experience. Mark Richt has instilled many new traditions and values for the Georgia football community. According to an article in the New York Times, “Since becoming the football coach at Georgia in 2001, Mark Richt, too, has taken his team to churches in the preseason. A devotional service is conducted the night before each game, and a prayer service on game day. Both are voluntary, and Mr. Richt said he does not attend them,” (Drape). Every morning Richt and his staff open their meeting in prayer and with a devotion. According to Curtis, “Character is critical to everything that Richt is trying to accomplish at Georgia. That is why when his men misstep—and they do at times—it eats at him,”(56). On October 13, 2007, Richt led his team to a victory in Nashville against Vanderbilt. Georgia won on a field goal with three seconds remaining. Once the football went through the goal post, the Georgia football team stormed the field. However, Richt was angry and embarrassed that his team would show such disrespect and apologized on the television when interviewed. He said that his team knew better than to act that way. This redefines his character and morals that he displays both on the field and off of the field.
Mark Richt is involved in campus activities such as HERO, a program that benefits children affected by HIV/AIDS in Georgia. He also took a week off to travel to Honduras to do missionary work with his family. Although being the head coach of a football team is a time-consuming job, Richt still finds time in his busy schedule to help others.
After researching Mark Richt and reading so many positive things about him, I wanted to interview someone that is not a Georgia fan. I discussed Richt with my father, Billy Bates, who is an intense Alabama fan. My father is impressed with Richt as a person and what he has done with Georgia football. When asked his thoughts on Richt, he responded, “I like him because he is honest. He doesn't cheat, and he has a lot of character. I like the fact that he is not afraid to discuss his faith.” I proceeded to ask about his view on the Alabama versus Georgia game this past September. He stated that he was disappointed that Alabama lost, but he would rather lose to Georgia than any other team in the SEC because Mark Richt is classy. As a football coach, my dad thinks he is an “offensive genius” who it appears is able to recruit excellent athletes to Georgia. This interview further illustrated Mark Richt's integrity and strong character.
Whether it is coaching the University of Georgia's nationally ranked football team or doing missionary work globally, Mark Richt displays class and character in everything that he does. He is a family man instilled with values and morals that he exemplifies to his players, staff, and fans. Curtis summarizes Richt's character by stating, “The setbacks do not drain him and the successes do not change him. He has learned to be the CEO of a major college program without having to give up being a coach, or being a good man. If he turns out young men of character and loyalty with a devotion to family, then he has succeeded. Winning a few football games is just a bonus,” (60). Across the board Mark Richt is both an outstanding coach and an outstanding man.

Works Cited
Billy Bates. Personal interview. 20 October 2007.
Curtis, Brian. Every Week a Season. New York: Random House, Inc., 2004.
Drape, Joe. “Increasingly, Football's Playbooks Call for Prayer.” The New York Times 30 October 2005. 20 October 2007 .
“Georgia Biographies.” Official Athletic Site of the University of Georgia. 20 October 2007 .

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