Year 2010 was not the year of the Georgia Bulldogs football team. Coach Mark Richt’s team just could not seem to get anything right in 2010.
Off the field, 11 players were arrested for various offenses. The team’s top superstar — receiver A.J. Green — was suspended by the NCAA for the first four games because he sold a jersey for $1,000.
On the field it was no better. The Bulldogs whipped Georgia Tech to end the regular season with a 6-6 record, then lost to Central Florida in the Liberty Bowl to finish the Bulldogs’ first losing season in 14 years.
On the heels of the embarrassing bowl game loss comes word of another public relations snafu.
The football team distributed plaques to senior players at its awards program in December. On those plaques was the record 7-6. At the time the team was 6-6, but the Central Florida loss dropped the record to 6-7.
That’s embarrassing. An athletic department spokesman said the team had done the same thing for 14 years — and only three times have the plaques had to be redone because of a bowl loss. The new plaques will cost about $2,000.
All this has many in the Bulldog Nation howling for change. Some have called for the ouster of once-beloved Richt. That’s not going to happen this winter. Richt will get another chance, at least one more season to right the ship and turn the program in the direction it was going during his first seven years at the helm.
Thus, 2011 will need to be a turnaround year if Richt keeps his job.
While he does not talk much about the “hot seat,” Richt said at a news conference he has been “freed up” of some administrative duties to allow him to spend more time on football.
Former strength coach Dave Van Halanger has taken over a new mentor program for athletes, and former assistant coach John Eason’s job is now liaison to academics for the players. Time will tell if these changes can help players keep their noses clean off the field and in the classroom.
Meanwhile, Richt’s team must win more games and compete for championships — the coach’s stated goal — in 2011.
Mark Richt is a fine man and a good coach, but his team likely is going to have to win nine or more games in 2011 for him to keep his job.