The college football world lost one its best coaches when Mark Richt announced his retirement on Sunday. He ends his career with 171 victories and a .728 winning percentage in 18 seasons. He won seven division titles (outright or shared) and two conference championships as the head coach at Georgia and Miami while posting just one losing season and going 10-7 in bowl games. Only a handful of current coaches will finish stronger.
Richt’s career had many high and few low moments. In all of them, he carried himself with dignity and class. Here are the 10 biggest moments of his football life.
Richt was a standout quarterback at Boca Raton High School, where he led his team to the state semifinals his senior year and earned all-state honors. His teammates nicknamed him “All-Turnpike” because of the numerous accolades across the state and Florida’s famous highway.
After receiving offers from schools that included Miami and Florida State, Richt chose to play for Lou Saban in Coral Gables. He played sparingly during his freshman year in 1978, but a lot changed in '79. First, Saban resigned and was replaced by Howard Schnellenberger. The new coach decided to redshirt Richt for the 1979 season. Meanwhile, Jim Kelly also arrived in 1979 and solidified his role as the team’s starting quarterback by '80. However, Schnellenberger also hired Earl Morrall as the team’s quarterbacks coach and Richt had an opportunity to learn from one of the best backups in NFL history. When Kelly was lost for the 1982 season to injury, Richt assumed the starting duties and went 5-3.
After a brief stint in the NFL backing up John Elway, Richt went into coaching. He spent four seasons as a graduate assistant at Florida State and one as offensive coordinator for East Carolina before returning to Tallahassee to be the quarterbacks coach. Richt coached six quarterbacks who went on to the NFL, including Charlie Ward, the prototype for today's running and passing quarterback. In 1993, Ward won the Heisman Trophy and led FSU to its first national championship.
National Champions (1999)
Richt was promoted to offensive coordinator after Brad Scott left for the head-coaching job at South Carolina. Under his leadership, the Seminoles were ranked in the top five in scoring offense in his seven seasons in that position. In 1999, he directed an offense that averaged 38 points a game en route to an undefeated season and a national championship.
SEC Champs (2002)
Richt became the head coach of Georgia in 2001 and led the team to an 8-4 record and the Music City Bowl his first year. The next season, Georgia went 13-1 and won its first SEC championship since the days of Herschel Walker.
SEC Champs (2005)
The Bulldogs entered the 2005 season predicted to finish third in the SEC. Instead, Georgia went 6-2 in conference play to edge past Florida and South Carolina to win the East. Then in the conference championship, the Bulldogs blew out LSU 34-14 to win Richt’s second SEC title.
Five Yards Away from a Championship (2012)
Georgia shook off a 35-7 loss to South Carolina earlier in the season to win the East and enter the SEC Championship Game ranked third in the country. After a seesaw battle against No. 2 Alabama, the Crimson Tide pulled ahead on a 45-yard touchdown pass from AJ McCarron to Amari Cooper to take a 32-28 lead with 3:15 left. Georgia drove all the way down to Alabama’s 8-yard line and Aaron Murray threw a pass towards the end zone that was deflected into the hands of receiver Chris Conley, who caught it, but five yards shy of the goal line. The clock expired before the Bulldogs could run another play. Alabama throttled Notre Dame in the BCS title game a month later. Georgia probably would have too had the Bulldogs beaten the Tide.
Walter Camp Coach of the Year Award (2017)
Richt was fired after a 9-3 season in 2015 and was quickly hired by his alma mater. In his second year, Richt guided Miami through a three-week layoff due to Hurricane Irma and then led The U to a 10-0 start and No. 2 ranking. Miami ultimately lost its last three games, but Richt’s leadership earned him the Walter Camp Coach of the Year Award.
New Indoor Practice Facility
Recognizing Miami’s need for a new indoor practice facility, Richt launched a fundraising campaign to get one built. He then donated $1 million of his own money to the effort. A few months later, Miami Athletic Director Blake James announced plans for a $34 million facility, which opened last year.
The U Network
A devout Christian, Richt spent much of his career giving back to the community. One example is with The U Network that he and his wife, Katharyn, launched in 2016. The intent of this program is to help former players find work after their football days are over. The program held its first event in 2017.
— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.