By Arlie Martin
Senior Opinion Writer
Being a girl, it is easy to assume that all I know about football is that boys get on a field and then “do the thing and win the points.” But you would be entirely wrong. I will be the first to admit that I don’t know everything–I’m a work in-progress–but football is a game that I dearly love.
For any of you who know me, you know that living in this land of blue has done absolutely nothing to taint my commitment to the G. I still bleed red and black, and win or lose I love my Dawgs. If you have ever stopped to ask me, you know that I believe our Georgia Bulldogs coach, Mark Richt, is beyond the best.
Football is about more than just winning crystal footballs and conference titles; it’s about growing men to be successful and productive citizens in our society. Coach Richt balances this well with his desire to win. He models upstanding behavior on the field–he gives praise when needed and rarely screams.
His stoicism has gained him criticism from those who find football to be pure entertainment, whether because there are no great shots of him on the field or to justify their own overdramatic behavior. (Don’t take offense, I have been known to break things in joy and anger while watching a game.)
Mark Richt has been coaching the same SEC team for longer than any other coach in the league, beginning his thirteenth season this year. (He has also just come out of the most difficult starting schedule in the history of the school, facing three top 10 teams, and left these encounters 2-1.) This past weekend, his team faced LSU and their quarterback Zach Mettenberger, a former player for UGA.
Mettenberger is obviously a quality player and quarterback; you have to be to lead one the best teams in the SEC. It is a rare occurrence for a player of such high talent to go to a new team, and rarely is it the coach’s first decision. In this case, however, that’s exactly what happened. Mettenberger was dismissed from the team in 2010 after admitting to sexual battery.
As a fan, watching that talent leave was hard, but as a woman, I felt respected. It was wonderful to see a coach enforce rules, even when it didn’t result in the best situation for his winning record. He showed that there are rules you simply cannot break without consequences that are pretty painful.
If you were to ask any player about Coach Richt, they would tell you that they knew he genuinely cared about them and their success on and off the field. In an article I read over the summer about recruiting at Georgia, the recruits said that one of the things that really drew them to the program was the genuine feeling they had around Coach Richt. Sure, they knew that the program wanted their talent, but they said that Richt made them feel wanted for who they were and not only for what they could do. That is far more important than winning 12 titles in a row, because in 20 years, who cares if you had the most sacks in all of college football or threw 100 touchdown passes if you are sitting in jail because of drug abuse, sexual assault or even murder.
So for those of you who agree with the die-hards, calling for Richt’s forced retirement after the each loss, think again. We need more coaches like him in our nation. We need men who are going to step in and tell these boys that fame does not mean they can do whatever they want (cough Manziel cough), and that they still have a responsibility beyond just playing a good football game. We need coaches who will invest in the person, not just the talent.