Loran Smith’s Sports Column: Mark Richt

Published 2:42 pm Tuesday, December 5, 2023

LAS VEGAS – Not sure how many halls of fame Mark Richt will

become a member of, but there are a few which have not yet been

established such as “The nice guy Hall of Fame,” and the “Gentlemen’s

Hall of Fame.” He belongs in those two as much as he does the College

Football Hall of Fame to which he was inducted here Tuesday night at the

Aria hotel where the multi-billionaire company posted a deficit for the room,

he and his wife Katharyn occupied during their stay in Vegas.

Not a single alcoholic beverage was charged to their account and the

FBI, with the latest in technology, would never find his fingerprints on any of

the slot machines or dice at the gaming tables in the casinos. The only time

he has ever gambled was on the football field when he tried to make a first

down to keep a drive alive for the Georgia Bulldogs. There is no sin in that

except for bringing about alumni discontent—if the play failed.

Even when fans fussed and complained when he was active on the

UGA sideline, he turned the other check and forgave them because he was

above all that and truly tried to exercise patience in dealing with hurt

feelings and frustrations.

 

Then there is the “Golden Rule Hall of Fame,” you know, the one

which has the toughest test of all, “Do unto others as you would have them

do unto you.” He would be a charter member of that Hall of Fame if it

existed.

He belongs in the “Good Neighbor Hall of Fame,” and the “Selfless

Hall of Game.” The “Forgiveness Hall of Fame?” Oh yes! How about the

“Good Works Hall of Fame?” For sure, he belongs to that one, too.

If there is a Hall of Fame out there which recognizes good over evil, if

there is one made up of a membership which puts service above self, if

there is one whose tenets require extending a helping hand to its fellow

man, if there is one that underscores faith, hope and charity, then Mark

Richt deserves membership in all of those, too.

For the College Football Hall of Fame, it was an easy vote for him to

gain admission even though the official induction ceremony took place in a

place known as “Sin City,” an anathema to the moral fiber which is as

central to the makeup of the second winningest coach in UGA history as

his nervous system.

As a quarterback and as a coach, he knew what his mission was—to

win games and championships. He was as serious as the next guy when it

 

came to competition. He wanted to do his opponent in but never crossing

the line when it came to rules and ethics.

While I am not sure about what was going on with Michigan, as of

late, regarding the sign stealing episode, I am confident that if an assistant

coach had come to Coach Richt with a fool proof plan of skullduggery that

would have enhanced victory, he would have refused to allow the practice

to move forward. Victory, for him, must be based on honor and fair play.

I have so many fond memories of the time spent with him. Lunches

in his office where we talked football. He was always eager to learn about

Georgia history. The lore that I had recorded from conversations with some

of the outstanding coaches in the business such as Bud Wilkinson, Duffy

Daughterty, Bo Schembechler, John McKay, and others seem to intrigue

him. I remember Bulldog club trips where he signed autographs with the

patience of Job, but politely asking a loyal fan who was on the way to

inebriation to set his beer out of view of the camera for the photo op the fan

had requested. That was not the image he wanted of himself and as a

representative of the University of Georgia.

He received an unusual number of requests during his time as head

coach including people wanting him to pray for friends who were in need or

 

were in a state of hopelessness; to speak to this church group with which

he had no connection; every charity wanted him and his altruistic message;

there were requests to offer encouragement to someone on his death bed.

Never would I suggest other coaches have not been asked for similar

requests, pleas and exhortations, but I doubt that as many of them played

the role as a Good Samaritan or functioned with the missionary zeal and

commitment that Mark Richt did. He is a good man whose integrity, fair

play and goodwill set him apart.

He deserves the highest of praise for his ability to win football games and to try to make the world a better place.