Kevin Price commentary on Georgia football: Similar history but different reaction when comparing Mark Richt with Vince Dooley

kprice@ledger-enquirer.comAugust 7, 2011 

Let’s say a Southeastern Conference school brings in a young coach with no previous head coaching experience.

For the first decade, the team goes 73-32-5 for a .686 winning percentage. He goes 35-21-2 in SEC games for a .621 winning percentage. He wins a pair of SEC titles.

But both of those titles came in his first five seasons. Over the last five, he went 5-5-1, 5-5, 11-1, 7-4 and 7-4-1. His best SEC finish over that five-year period came in that 11-1 season with a tie for second.

Would that coach survive today? Would he have survived that two-year stretch where he went 5-5-1 and 5-5?

The answer would be a guaranteed no.

That coach was Georgia’s Vince Dooley, who went on to coach the Bulldogs for 15 more seasons, retiring after the 1988 season. He finished with a 201-77-10 overall record (.715), a 104-42-4 SEC mark (.706) with six conference championships and one national title.

Back then, we didn’t live in the age of instant communication, which often means instant criticism and overreaction. There were no blogs and no sports talk radio.

If someone wanted to criticize a coach in Dooley’s era, about the best they could do was write a letter to the editor or complain to the guys at the barbershop.

Before landing their next successful head coach, the Bulldogs suffered through two forgettable eras with Ray Goff and Jim Donnan. In 12 seasons, those two combined to go 86-53-1 (.618) with no SEC titles.

Then the Dogs hired Mark Richt, who, like Dooley, didn’t have head coaching experience.

Richt led the Bulldogs to almost instant success. After an 8-4 mark the first season, the Dogs went 13-1 and won their first SEC championship in 20 years in 2002. Richt led Georgia to an East Division title in 2003 and a second SEC title in 2005. All of that in his first five seasons.

Over the past five seasons, Richt’s teams have averaged almost nine wins, but there have not been more SEC championships or even title games.

And there is no denying that the program has taken a step back with a 10-3 season that began with the Dogs ranked No. 1 in the nation, then an 8-5 season, followed by a 6-7 season, Georgia’s first losing season since 1996, Donnan’s first year as head coach.

So what did Dooley do in his 11th season? He went 6-6.

If Richt goes 6-6 this season, it would be a fourth straight season in which the Dogs will have underachieved. And in this day and age, no coach can or should survive that.

Kevin Price, 706-320-4493, kprice@ledger-enquirer.com

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