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Richt Situation Causing A Stir In Georgia… And Tennessee

Mark Richt has got troubles.

Not with his immediate employer, new AD Greg McGarity.  And not with his ultimate employer, UGA president Michael Adams.  School officials most certainly don’t want to cut ties with a man who wins (on average) 10 games a year and represents Georgia well.  He has a healthy buyout in place, too.

Mark Richt has got troubles with the fanbase.  At least the vocal part of the fanbase that believes sportstalk radio and messageboards are a sane avenue of conversation.

Driving across the state of Georgia yesterday, I was amazed at the talk radio debate over Richt’s job status.  In most cases, the callers wanted change at the top of the Bulldog program and the hosts preached caution.

One host went so far as to suggest — and I’m not sure that he was kidding — that “heathens” were driving all the anti-Richt chatter because “they don’t like having a God-fearing man” leading the Dawgs. 

Really.

Even Atlanta talk radio hosts Matt Chernoff (680 The Fan) and Nick Cellini (790 The Zone) expressed a little surprise to me when asked about the split amongst the Georgia fanbase.  “Fifty/fifty,” Cellini said when asked about the calls his show had taken.  (Sorry to reveal secrets from the CSS “SportsNite” green room, guys.)

Richt Mania has even crossed beyond state borders.  The debate over the coach’s future has lit up phone lines in the state of Tennessee, too.  One topic of Knoxville radio yesterday was as follows:  “Will Derek Dooley take the Georgia job?”

Not, “Will Richt be fired?”  Not “If Richt is fired, will Georgia come after Dooley?”  But, “Will Dooley take the Georgia job?” 

Dooley was even asked on his statewide call-in show last night if he would tell fans that he’s not going to leave and take the job that his dad once held.

“I don’t like to talk about those things,” the coach grudgingly said.  “I plan on being here a long time, as long as you folks will have me.”

You can excuse Vol fans for being a bit jumpy.  Remember, no one thought Southern Cal — in the midst of an NCAA investigation — would hire a coach with a losing record and NCAA watchdogs on his tail.  But after exhausting their Rolodex, that’s exactly what the Trojans did and Tennessee was left with a subpar roster and a big black eye.

But it’s still a bit early in the game for folks in either state to be counting Richt out.  Georgia can still turn its season around and finish 9-3 or 8-4.  That’s not a bad record with a first-year quarterback and the team’s best player, AJ Green, suspended for four games.  (With Green, the Dawgs are likely 2-1 right now, not 1-2, and the furor wouldn’t be quite so furious.)

Even if UGA stumbles again in Starkville on Saturday, Richt is in a good spot with his bosses.  Until Georgia fans stop buying season-tickets and stop making hefty donations to the school’s athletic department, Richt will be safe.  At most, he’ll enter 2011 on the hot seat.

So it’s time for a lot of Georgia fans to relax and let the season play out.  And that goes for Tennessee fans, too.

Richt’s not finished yet.  So there’s no job for Dooley to take… if UGA even came after him.

 


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