Richt Is Not Like Fulmer

There was an article Wednesday in the AJC that compared the recent struggles of UGA and Mark Richt to Tennessee and Phillip Fulmer.

Both are long tenured head coaches who fell on hard times at their schools.  The similarities really end there, and the 1,362 words in this column are mostly stretching to try and prove a point.

What really got my goat about the article is it used TWO sources and only looked at one side of the issue…as we have learned; topics are neither black nor white.  This is not a post defending Richt, a 1-4 record or saying Fulmer shouldn’t have been let go. It is just easy to gloss over a small fraction of truth the week we play Tennessee, but once you dig a little deeper you see there is more to it than a one sided article from the once proud now laughable 

Here are approximately 1,400 words to combat the 1,362 that was posted in the AJC.  My TELE 3310 professor would be proud of me reaching back and using the old “Fairness Doctrine” in today’s post . 

Issue 1:  Tennessee slid further down with Fulmer than Georgia has with Richt

Tennessee played for the SEC Championship in 2001, Richt’s first year.  If UT had won against the Bayou Bengals, they probably would have played for the National Title that year.  Since Richt came on board, from 2002-2005 UGA was the dominant team in the division.  Tennessee had issues on offense and Florida was not able to get it done with Zook.

To me, UGA’s downfall can be traced back to 2008.  The bad year in 2008, UGA started #1 and finished 10-3.  Tennessee’s downfall really began in 2005…they started out #3 and finished 5-7.

From 2000-2008, Tennessee had seasons of 8-4, 8-5, 5-6, 9-4 and 5-7.  There were SEVERAL seasons of mediocrity.  So far, UGA has had 2. 

Tennessee had two losing seasons during Fulmer’s last years-2 in the last 4 to be exact.  Georgia is poised to probably have one this year.  But the down years for Richt have been 10-3, 8-5 and (hopefully) 5-7.  There is still young talent on this team, and we have a fresh defense that is going to take time (which is very precious right now, time we may not have) to implement and get the right players in. 

Take this year out-Georgia, realistically, has to get by Florida each year to get to the SEC Championship Game.  Now, that is no easy task with the streak Florida has been on the last 4 years.  When Florida hired Urban Meyer, the climb to the top of the East Division for Tennessee was impeded by Florida AND Georgia.  And Tennessee did make the SEC Championship game in 2004 and 2007-albeit they got very lucky to do so in 2007. 

On an annual basis, Georgia has to get past Florida to get to Atlanta. When Fulmer was at Tennessee,  they had to get past Georgia AND Florida. 

As bad as it may seem in Athens now, and don’ get me wrong it is pretty bad, it is nowhere near the dumpster fire that is Tennessee football.        They are two years removed from losing to UCLA and Wyoming. 

Issue 2:  Fulmer was a more beloved figure at Tennessee than Richt is at Georgia

Now I say that with a caveat, because some within the Tennessee community held a grudge against Fulmer for the way the ouster of Johnny Majors went down.  But at any rate, Fulmer invested 40+ years into Tennessee athletics as a player or a coach.  Richt has only been involved with UGA for 10 years. 

I am not saying that Tennessee was wrong to get rid of Fulmer, but to compare the two situations based on their longevity at the school is a stretch in my opinion.   Richt may be the “Dean of SEC Coaches” with 10 years at one school…Fulmer basically spent his entire adult life involved with Tennessee. 

Issue 3:  Richt’s Success has not revolved around 1 assistant coach/coordinator

Fulmer was never the same once offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe left in 1998 (he returned briefly in 2006). Georgia fans have centered on the departure of defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder (now with the Falcons) as a loss that Richt has yet to compensate for.

I know many will point out that the team has not been the same since Brian Van Gorder left in following the 2004 season. Van Gorder was a helluva defensive coordinator, no doubt about it.  But Willie Martinez wasn’t the devil UGA fans want to make him out to be either.  Without Van Gorder, UGA won an SEC Championship and finished #2 in the country.  Without David Cutcliffe, Tennessee was bad.  Tennessee had a losing record in 2005, brought in Cutcliffe, improved in 2006 and won the East in 2007.  Cutcliffe left and Tennessee had a losing record again. 

Now it seems that Mike Bobo and Richt are the idiots.  These delusional, angry fans spew their venom on people whom until a month ago were very successful. 

The defense was certainly exponentially better with Van Gorder roaming the sidelines, but don’t ignore the success past 2004. 

Issue 4:  Tennessee should be a cautionary tale

Save the ship. Toss the captain. The sentiment becomes increasingly viral with each loss.

I am not going to say we should fire Mark Richt or keep him around forever. There are still 7 ballgames left to be played, 3 against our biggest rivals.  However, I think the people who now are saying “Fire Richt today” are being short sighted.  

One, for those who compare Richt to Fulmer, look at the state of Tennessee football now.  If we do fire Richt, I am terribly afraid of what will happen not only next year but the next several years.  Do we toil away in something worse than mediocre for several years?  I am telling you, I am not convinced in Derek Dooley.  Tennessee is going to be very bad for a long time.  Look at Alabama…Mike DuBose, Dennis Franchione, Mike Price and Mike Shula were ruining that program before Nick Saban came in and saved the day.  There aren’t too many Nick Sabans around.  This is an aside, but as much credit as Mal Moore gets, don’t forget Dennis and the three Mikes…and Rich Rod stayed at West Virginia.  

UGA should look real hard at its rival to the north.  Not as a precursor of what is going to happen, but what could happen if the emotion of anger gets in the way of the voice of reason. 

Issue 5:  Don’t we want to be better than Tennessee fans? 

One cited by Mattingly was the scene at Neyland Stadium during Fulmer’s last year, in the fourth quarter of a 20-point loss to Alabama. The stands had largely emptied, leaving the place to be claimed by happy Crimson Tide supporters. The takeover galled some boosters.

While Georgia is favored over Tennessee, it will be significant to note the reaction of the home crowd if things go sour. And down the road, do the seats stay full and the boosters stay satisfied?

Prior to the debacle that went down in 2007, we were in a grocery store in Knoxville, when a Tennessee fan wearing orange (he was on his way to the game, then hunting on Sunday, then off to work on the side of the road on Monday) came up to us and said “I hope you kill us.  If so, we are probably going to fire Fulmer on Monday.”

What scares me the most Saturday is not that we lose: is that what happens if we go 3 and out on the first few drives of the game.  We shouldn’t have to worry about our fans acting like a bunch of classless clowns, but I am afraid-in fact I know-they will.  That is, those fans who are still in the stadium.  A scene like this should never happen:

That is from the Arkansas game and that is the upper deck STUDENT section-the so called “Fraternity section.”  That was with around 6:00 minutes left in the game. 

 The UGA program is bigger than one man, than a coaching staff, and even some players.  Show up, go to the game, enjoy Athens and a fall Saturday, and cheer.  Provide a raucous home field advantage for the young, inexperienced Tennessee team to fear.  Fans can talk about the coaching staff giving up, the players giving up, whatever.  The fact of the matter remains that if YOU as a fan give up, then you don’t really have any room to talk either.

The only people that should be booed Saturday are: Michael Adams, the Tennessee team as they run out and Barbara Dooley if they happen to show her on the jumbo-tron (yeah, I went there…you were all thinking it).  



8 Responses to “Richt Is Not Like Fulmer”

  1. 1 royal dawg October 8, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    I’ve been spewing my venom about Bobo the Clown since ’07. He is an idiot. To blow several key play calls over the last four years is unacceptable. While not everything our offense does is his fault. He should be able to fix several of the things that are going wrong, and “blindly calling plays” is not the way that a smart football coach would go about fixing the problems that are infecting this offense. Now I’m not calling for him to completely lose his job, but I think that he shouldn’t be allowed to call plays. I was watching the game with my dad this past Saturday and as soon as Georgia started moving the ball he joked that Bobo must have gone to the bathroom and let a grad assistant call the plays while he was gone.

  2. 2 TuxedoDawg October 8, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    I’d like to “upper deck” Mike Adams.

    Click if brave:

  3. 3 SOWHAT October 8, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    Richt and Fulmer may not be identical, but Richt can be fired, identical or not, and UGA’s football program will get on fine without him. Contrary to a lot of statements to the contrary, Richt is not the alpha and omega of UGA football.

    To conclude that if UGA cans Richt at season’s end, their situation may end up like the situation at UT is hypothetical at best. If Adams and McGarity have the brains to go out and find and then hire a competent head coach, the UGA situation may mirror Bama and FL instead. I will give McGarity credit for having more brains then his peer at UT, at least for now.

    Lastly, let Richt get beat by UT, and then let him hang around after the season. See what kind of recruiting year UGA ends up with.

    • 4 RedCrake October 8, 2010 at 8:33 pm

      You’re right. Concluding that canning Richt will cause UGA to end up like UT is hypothetical at best. Concluding that doing so will result in UGA ending up like Alabama or Florida is no less hypothetical… and that seems to be what much of the fanbase thinks would happen.

      • 5 Corbindawg October 8, 2010 at 8:44 pm

        I didn’t mean to imply that by firing Richt would lead us to be like Tennessee…I just meant that was a risk. And there aren’t Nick Sabans and Urban Meyers all over the place.

    • 6 Corbindawg October 8, 2010 at 11:42 pm

      “UGA should look real hard at its rival to the north. Not as a precursor of what is going to happen, but what could happen if the emotion of anger gets in the way of the voice of reason.”

      By using the word “could” happpen simply implies that it is hypothetical.

  4. 7 Mr. Georgia Football Returns October 8, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    Greg McGarity, “Where’s the bottom?”

    Georgia’s Football program is not “in the hunt”.

    The Football program is “not improving”.


  5. 8 BoWeevil October 9, 2010 at 12:06 am

    (1) 3-8 vs Top 10 Final AP Poll teams CMR Era back to 2001

    (2) 17-21 vs Top 25 Final AP teams CMR Era back to 2001

    (3) 10 additional lost CMR Era back to 2001 who were not Top 25 Final AP Poll teams.

    Items 1 and 3, are frankly quite poor.

    Only item 2 resembles acceptable.

    That is ON the field.

    Off the field, it has been a disaster.

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