Mark Richt (born February 18, 1960) is an American football coach and former player. He is the former head football coach at the University of Georgia. Richt played college football as a quarterback at University of Miami. His previous coaching affiliations include 14 years at Florida State University where he served as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, and one year as offensive coordinator at East Carolina University, and 15 years as head coach at the University of Georgia.
Early years and playing career
Richt was born in Omaha, Nebraska. He graduated in 1978 from Boca Raton High School in Boca Raton, Florida where he was a star quarterback. He played at the University of Miami in the early 1980s, graduating in 1982. He served as backup quarterback to future Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly.
Mark Richt started his coaching career in 1985 as a volunteer quarterbacks coach for the Florida State Seminoles (FSU) serving under Bobby Bowden. Richt left the Seminoles to join East Carolina University as their offensive coordinator in 1989. After one year at East Carolina, Richt returned to Florida State to serve as the Seminoles’ quarterbacks coach. He was promoted to offensive coordinator in 1994 upon the departure of Brad Scott. Under Richt’s direction, Florida State had some of college football’s most explosive offenses. In his seven years as offensive coordinator the Seminoles ranked in the nation’s top five scoring offenses on five occasions, were top twelve in total offense five times and top twelve in passing offense five times. The 2000 Seminoles offense finished the regular season ranked first nationally in total offense (549.0 yards per game), first in passing offense (384.0 ypg) and third in scoring offense (42.4 points per game).
During his tenure as an assistant coach at Florida State, Richt coached two Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks Charlie Ward and Chris Weinke respectively and was part of two national championships (1993 and 1999).
Richt was hired as head coach of the Georgia Bulldogs before the 2001 season, replacing Jim Donnan. Richt recounted the moments leading up to being named UGA’s head coach in an interview, saying:
In December 2000, [the University of Georgia’s] President Michael Adams and then Athletic Director Coach Vince Dooley came to Tallahassee and interviewed me for the position of Head Coach of the UGA Bulldogs. After many hours of prayer, Coach Dooley called me and I accepted the position. We moved to Athens in January 2001 and have truly been blessed. We have a great church, an outstanding school for the children and a wonderful staff. Throughout all of life I try to live according to COLOSSIANS 3:23 – “And whatever you do, do heartily, as to the LORD and not to men.
In his first seven seasons at Georgia, Richt’s teams won two Southeastern Conference Championships (2002 and 2005), and as of 2014, he has won six SEC Eastern Division titles (2002, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2011 and 2012). His team represented the SEC in three BCS bowl appearances with a record of 2–1, and finished in the top ten of the final AP Poll seven times (2002–2005, 2007, 2012, 2014). He also finished in top ten of coaches poll in 2008, so that is 8 top ten finishes.
In 2011 during his 11th season at Georgia he collected his 100th career victory by leading the Bulldogs to a win over the Tennessee Volunteers in Knoxville on October 8th.
While coaching at Georgia, Richt has been a strong opponent of oversigning, a practice popular in the SEC, believing that a scholarship is a 4-year commitment.
Richt’s first season was an up-and-down one for him as well as the team. After a disappointing early-season home loss to South Carolina, the Bulldogs rebounded a month later to shock Tennessee in Knoxville 26–24 on a touchdown pass from David Greene to Verron Haynes with only five seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. The play, known in Georgia lore as the “Hobnail Boot” (a phrase coined by legendary Georgia football announcer Larry Munson following the play), was one of the most memorable in school history, and the win established Georgia as a rising program under Richt’s leadership. The team defeated in-state rival Georgia Tech for the first time since 1997. With an 8–3 regular season record under their new Coach, the Bulldogs post-season hopes were high. They settled for an invitation to the Music City Bowl where they fell to an inspired Boston College team. The Bulldogs final record of 8–4 made Richt’s rookie campaign the most successful for a first year Georgia Bulldog Head Coach since Harry Stegeman’s team posted an undefeated 8–0–1 season in 1920.
If Richt had skeptics after his first season, they began to disappear in 2002. After winning several close games early in the season, the Bulldogs steadily climbed towards the top of the SEC standings and national polls. Entering their annual showdown with SEC rival Florida, the Bulldogs were 8–0 and ranked No. 4 in the country, with a chance to clinch the SEC East title. Missed opportunities in the game’s second half marred Georgia’s chances, and they suffered a devastating loss that essentially ended any chance of winning a national title. The Bulldogs rebounded the following week by easily defeating Ole Miss, setting up a matchup on the road against Auburn with the division championship on the line. Georgia trailed for most of the game, but pulled to within 21–17 late in the fourth quarter. After getting inside the Tigers’ red-zone late in the game, Georgia’s final drive stalled, and they were left with a 4th and 14 situation on Auburn’s 19 yard-line and little more than a minute remaining. With their SEC championship hopes down to a flicker, Greene completed a miraculous touchdown pass to Michael Johnson, giving Georgia a 24–21 lead and the victory. With the SEC East title in hand, the Bulldogs played with new-found confidence to end the season. They drubbed Georgia Tech 51–7 in Athens, the second most lopsided win in the history of the series, and then crushed Arkansas 30–3 in the SEC Championship game, giving the school its first SEC crown since 1982. Richt defeated his mentor Bobby Bowden and Florida State 26–13 in the Sugar Bowl, giving Georgia a 13–1 record and No. 3 national ranking in both polls.
Richt’s team earned the chance to defend their SEC title in 2003 following a 10–2 regular season that included a 30–0 shutout win at Clemson, a 41–14 thrashing of Tennessee in Knoxville, as well as a third consecutive win over Georgia Tech. The SEC title game offered Georgia a rematch with LSU, which had defeated Georgia 17–10 in a memorable September showdown. The Tigers defeated Georgia 34–13 in that game, winning the SEC title and a berth in the 2004 Sugar Bowl. Richt and the Bulldogs rebounded and defeated Purdue in the Capital One Bowl, 34–27 in overtime, despite surrendering a 24–0 first half lead. It was another solid season for Richt, as his team finished with an 11–3 record and a No. 7 finish in the AP Poll.
The Bulldogs entered the 2004 season ranked No. 4 in the country, and were a consensus pick to win the SEC. After a come-from-behind road win over South Carolina and a 45–16 thumping of a top ten LSU team, Georgia appeared to be living up to preseason expectations. An upset 19–14 loss to Tennessee in early October, however, ended Georgia’s hopes of a national title and put the Bulldogs behind the Volunteers in the SEC East. While they posted a 10–2 record, which included the school’s first win over Florida since 1997, many Bulldog fans considered the year a disappointment, as the team failed to reach the SEC title game for the first time in three years. The Bulldogs did finish the season in winning fashion by defeating the Wisconsin Badgers 24–21 in the Outback Bowl, in Tampa, Florida. Senior QB David Greene became the winningest QB in NCAA history with 42 wins and also the SEC’s all-time leader in passing yards with 11,270. David Pollack and Thomas Davis were voted consensus All-Americans.
Expectations were lower going into 2005, as the Bulldogs were picked by the media to finish just third in the SEC East. Led by senior quarterback D. J. Shockley and a veteran defense, Georgia got off to a fast 7–0 start, including a 27–14 win over Tennessee that gave the Bulldog’s control of the division. Georgia lost two straight heartbreakers to Florida (without the services of Shockley, who was injured in the previous game versus Arkansas) and Auburn before clinching the SEC East with a win over Kentucky. Another win over Georgia Tech gave Georgia a 9–2 regular season finish. Playing in their third SEC Championship game in four years, the Bulldogs ambushed 3rd-ranked LSU, jumping out to a quick 14–0 lead and cruising to a 34–14 win, giving Richt his second SEC title at Georgia. However, the season ended on a sour note for Georgia, as they could not overcome a 28–0 deficit to West Virginia in the Sugar Bowl (played in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta due to the damage caused in New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina), falling 38–35.
2006 was one of Richt’s most frustrating seasons at the school. Although the team started 5–0, close wins over Colorado and Ole Miss raised cause for concern. Those concerns proved to be justified as Georgia, hampered by turnovers and uncharacteristically poor play from their defense, lost four of their next five games. The slide began with a 51–33 home loss to Tennessee, Richt’s worst ever defeat at Sanford Stadium. The team played Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and Florida all at home,(the Florida game was in Jacksonville) managing to beat only Mississippi State. The team then traveled to Kentucky where it was defeated by four points before closing out the season with wins over Auburn and Georgia Tech, and then beating Virginia Tech in the Chick-fil-A bowl in Atlanta. While Georgia failed to reach ten wins or finish in the top-10 of the polls for the first time since 2001, the strong finish provided optimism heading into the 2007 season.
2007 was one of Richt’s best and most exciting years at Georgia. The Bulldogs’ performance was inconsistent in the first half of the season as they posted big wins over Oklahoma State and Alabama but suffered damaging losses to division rivals South Carolina and Tennessee. The team appeared to be in disarray following a close win at Vanderbilt and the remainder of the season did not look promising. In response, Richt began going to his bag of tricks in an effort galvanize his struggling team. At the coach’s behest, Georgia received 30 yards of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties following a touchdown on their opening drive against Florida after the entire Georgia football team ran on the field in jubilation. Perhaps energized by the celebration, the Bulldogs defeated the Gators 42–30 setting the table for a big finish to the season. Richt’s team defeated Auburn 45–20 marking the first time Georgia defeated the Gators and Tigers in the same season since 1982. During the game, Georgia wore black jerseys for the first time in the modern era. The team tied a school record with a seventh consecutive victory over Georgia Tech, and by ending the regular season with a six-game winning streak rose to 4th in both the Associated Press and USA Today polls as well as the BCS rankings. The Bulldogs earned the honor of being “SEC Eastern Division Co-Champions at 6–2 in SEC.” However, by virtue of their loss to Tennessee they did not earn the opportunity to appear in the SEC Championship Game. The Bulldogs represented the SEC in the Sugar Bowl against Hawaii replacing SEC champion LSU which was selected for the BCS National Championship Game. Georgia again donned black jerseys and routed the Warriors 41–10 to close out the season with an 11-2 record and ranked No. 2 in the AP poll, giving Richt his highest final ranking in that poll to date. It also marked Georgia’s highest end-of-season ranking since winning the national championship in 1980. The win also gave Mark Richt the distinction of being the only head coach at Georgia to win the Sugar Bowl game more than once during his career.
Florida celebration incident
On October 27, 2007, during the Bulldogs’ heated rivalry game against the Florida Gators, the entire Georgia football team rushed into the end zone to celebrate after Knowshon Moreno’s one-yard touchdown run gave Georgia an early 7–0 lead. The celebration drew two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties that eventually forced the Bulldogs to kick off from their own eight-yard line; during halftime, Richt told CBS sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson that he had told his offense to celebrate the first touchdown until they received a penalty. The entire team planned to rush the field themselves. Georgia went on to win 42–30. The victory gave Georgia their 47th win in the series with Florida, which Georgia leads 48–40–2 even though Richt is 5–8 against the Gators.
Richt later apologized in writing to Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive: “I apologize that I put everyone in that situation and specifically apologize to you, the Southeastern Conference, and the University of Florida. You can be assured I will not ask our team to do this type of thing again.” The Southeastern Conference took no disciplinary action against Richt and the NCAA also did not impose sanctions.
On March 6, 2008 it was announced that Mark Richt had been granted a pay increase from $2.2 million per year to $2.8 million per year, making him the fifth-highest-paid coach in the SEC. His contract runs through the 2013 season. Coming off of their eleven wins against only two losses during the 2007 season, expectations were high for the Bulldogs as they entered the 2008 season ranked number one in the country in the both the Coaches and AP Poll. His team finished the season with a relatively disappointing 10–3 record with losses to Alabama, Florida and Georgia Tech. The season ended on a positive note with the Bulldogs beating Michigan State in the Capital One Bowl and a ranking of tenth in the final Coaches Poll. The victory made him 6–2 overall in eight seasons and 3–0 against the Big Ten Conference in Bowl Games. His two offensive stars, quarterback Matthew Stafford and tailback Knowshon Moreno, declared for the NFL draft following the season and were both picked in the first round with Stafford becoming the number one pick overall.
An opening day loss against the 9th ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys in Stillwater, Oklahoma marked the beginning of an up and down season for Mark Richt’s Bulldogs. Highlights included two season ending victories at 7th ranked Georgia Tech and over Texas A&M in the Independence Bowl. Those wins gained Richt his 9th winning season in as many years as the Bullogs closed out the year with an 8–5 record.
A freshman quarterback, a new defensive cooridnator and scheme, inconsistent effort from his running backs, injuries to an already thin offensive line, the suspension of star receiver AJ Green for the first four games for NCAA rules violations, a seemingly endless stream of off field distractions from his players and the resulting disciplinary actions and an Athletics Director who was dismissed in disgrace were more than Richt was able to overcome over the course of a forgettabale 2010 season. The Bulldogs finished with a losing 6–7 record. Richt did manage to take the Bulldogs to their tenth straight Bowl Game. He also continued to dominate in state rival Georgia Tech by winning his second game in row over them making it nine victories out of ten games against the Yellow Jackets in his head coaching career.
Coming off of two straight dissatisfying seasons including his first losing season in 2010 during a stretch in which the SEC had produced five consecutive BCS National Champions among four separate conference members, Richt was under pressure to get the Bulldog program back on the winning track in 2011. Two losses to open the season made the prospects of doing that slim. But an infusion of young talent paired with a soft SEC schedule allowed the Bulldogs to rebound with ten straight victories. Their 10–2 record was good enough to win the SEC Eastern Division title and earned the Bulldogs their fourth appearance in the SEC Championship with Richt at the helm. Their opponent in the Championship game was the undefeated and #1 ranked nationally LSU Tigers. The Bulldogs were impressive in the first half taking a 10–7 lead over the heavily favored Tigers into the locker room. But the Bulldogs were brought back to earth in the second half as LSU took control for a commanding victory thumping Georgia 42-10. The Bulldogs’ 10 wins however earned them an invitation to the 2012 Outback Bowl. The Bulldogs lost the game 33–30 in triple-overtime to the Michigan State Spartans.
On June 7, 2012, UGA President Michael F. Adams announced that Richt had signed a three-year contract extension with the school, which would make him head coach through the 2016 season.
Coming fresh off a new contract extension which was reportedly worth $2.81 million annually head football coach Mark Richt and the bulldogs prepared for the 2012 season. Finishing with a 12-2 record with loses coming to the University of South Carolina and the University of Alabama in the SEC championship, the Bulldogs experienced one of their best seasons yet. After suffering a 33-30 triple overtime defeat in the Outback Bowl to end the 2011 season the Bulldogs were more determined than ever to be a solid football team. Under the guidance of junior quarterback Aaron Murray the Bulldogs got off to a strong start going 5-1 during the first half of the season with the only loss coming to the University of South Carolina. As the season progressed the Bulldogs made their 5th SEC championship appearance under Mark Richt taking on #1 Alabama. During the game Murray was 18 of 33 for 265 passing yards with one touchdown and one interception. The night however belonged to the rushing tandem of Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon who rushed for 181 and 153 yards respectively. This proved to be enough as Alabama went on to win 32-28. The loss in the SEC championship however did not spell the end to Georgia’s season as they went on to win the 2013 Capital One Bowl defeating Nebraska 45-31, and earn top-5 rankings in both the final AP and Coaches’ polls.
In early 2015, Richt received a two-year extension and an $800,000 raise, resulting in a $4 million annual salary. Despite finishing 2015 with a 9-3 record, Richt resigned his position as head coach at Georgia on November 29.
Richt is married to the former Katharyn Francis of Tallahassee, Florida. The couple have four children: Jonathan (born March 11, 1990), David (born December 1, 1994), and two children they adopted from Ukraine in 1999, Zach (born May 15, 1996), and Anya (born February 13, 1997), who was born with a rare disorder known as proteus syndrome. Richt is a Christian.
ESPN’s College GameDay featured a documentary on October 25, 2008 titled “GameDay looks at the Richt family’s adoption of a young boy and girl from Ukraine” detailing the Richts’ personal story of the adoption of their two youngest children Zach and Anya. The Richts declined on several occasions to publicly share their adoption story before deciding to proceed with the hope that it would encourage other families to explore the rewards of adoption.
Head coaching record
|Georgia Bulldogs (Southeastern Conference) (2001–present)|
|2001||Georgia||8–4||5–3||T–3rd (Eastern)||L Music City||25||22|
|2002||Georgia||13–1||7–1||1st (Eastern)||W Sugar†||3||3|
|2003||Georgia||11–3||6–2||T–1st (Eastern)||W Capital One||6||7|
|2004||Georgia||10–2||6–2||2nd (Eastern)||W Outback||6||7|
|2005||Georgia||10–3||6–2||1st (Eastern)||L Sugar†||10||10|
|2006||Georgia||9–4||4–4||T–3rd (Eastern)||W Chick-fil-A||23|
|2007||Georgia||11–2||6–2||T–1st (Eastern)||W Sugar†||3||2|
|2008||Georgia||10–3||6–2||2nd (Eastern)||W Capital One||10||13|
|2009||Georgia||8–5||4–4||T–2nd (Eastern)||W Independence|
|2010||Georgia||6–7||3–5||T–3rd (Eastern)||L Liberty|
|2011||Georgia||10–4||7–1||1st (Eastern)||L Outback||18||18|
|2012||Georgia||12–2||7–1||T–1st (Eastern)||W Capital One||4||5|
|2013||Georgia||8–5||5–3||3rd (Eastern)||L Gator|
|2014||Georgia||10–3||6–2||2nd (Eastern)||W Belk||9||9|