ATHENS - Mark Richt recently (and finally) signed a contract extension that, if he serves it out, will take him through his 16th season as Georgia's head football coach. And there's every indication that, as long as Georgia will have him, Richt plans on lasting much longer than that.
“Georgia's my home. Georgia is where I want to be. Georgia's the only job I want, the only job I have ever wanted as a head coach,” Richt said earlier this month on the day his new contract was finalized. “My mom, my dad, my brother, my two sisters, they all live in Athens. I mean, this is my home, this is where I want to be."
Football coaches are largely judged on championships these days, and what they've done lately, which is why Richt only came in at No. 14 in a recent ranking of the nation's top coaches.
But when it comes to longevity, Richt is moving up the list. Among current coaches, Richt is tied for seventh for the longest tenure as his school's head coach. And he's tied for the most tenured coach in the SEC, although he shares that distinction with Gary Pinkel, who is new to the conference.
Thanks to Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman for putting together this list for his blog, which I am shamelessly copying and pasting:
1. Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech, started in 1987
2. Larry Blakeney, Troy, 1991
3. Mack Brown, Texas, 1998
4. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma, 1999
4. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa, 1999
6. Gary Patterson, TCU, 2000
7. Jim Grobe, Wake Forest, 2001
7. Gary Pinkel, Missouri, 2001
7. Mark Richt, Georgia, 2001
10. Jeff Tedford, California, 2002
11. Mike Riley, Oregon State, 2003
12. George O’Leary, Central Florida, 2004
12. Mike Price, Texas-El Paso, 2004
12. Chris Ault, Nevada, 2004
15. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State, 2005
15. Bronco Mendenhall, Brigham Young, 2005
15. Frank Solich, Ohio U., 2005
15. Bill Cubit, Western Michigan, 2005
15. Kyle Whittingham, Utah, 2005
15. Les Miles, LSU, 2005
15. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina, 2005
Eventually, Richt could also threaten Vince Dooley and Wally Butts for the title of longest-tenured football coach in school history. Although that will take awhile: Dooley was coach for 25 seasons, and Butts for 21. Richt, at 52, is young enough to make it happen, especially if he follows the path of his mentor Bobby Bowden.
That's not to say Richt will be at Georgia forever - or even next year. In the world of college football you can't predict anything.
But it seems that if it's up to Richt, he will sit atop that national longevity list someday. Two years ago he could have pursued openings at Miami and Colorado, where he had personal ties (especially Miami, his alma mater) but he stuck it out in Athens. His heart doesn't seem to be anywhere else.
What will Richt's legacy be? That's the part that still needs to be written. Richt's winning percentage is now .736, which the school points out is the fourth-best among active coaches who have at least 100 games. (First is Urban Meyer, at .819, followed by Stoops and Patterson.)
But that winning percentage stat isn't cited too often outside of the Georgia media guide. Did you know Nick Saban's career winning percentage is "only" .722? Probably not. Did you know Saban owns three BCS national championships? You probably did.
Ultimately, Richt's ability to stay past 20 years at Georgia, which he seems to desire, is likely to be decided on whether he at least gets the Bulldogs back in the conversation for national titles. Outback and Capitol One Bowl appearances are nice. But a four-team playoff is coming in 2014, and if Georgia doesn't become a factor in those, Richt's legacy will likely be that of a coach who was good enough to stick around a long time - but not quite great.