Loran Smith - Mark Richt
LAS VEGAS – Not sure how many halls of fame Mark Richt will become a member of, but there are a few which have not yet been established such as “The nice guy Hall of Fame,” and the “Gentlemen’s Hall of Fame.” He belongs in those two as much as he does the College Football Hall of Fame to which he was inducted here Tuesday night at the Aria hotel where the multi-billionaire company posted a deficit for the room, he and his wife Katharyn occupied during their stay in Vegas.
Not a single alcoholic beverage was charged to their account and the FBI, with the latest in technology, would never find his fingerprints on any of the slot machines or dice at the gaming tables in the casinos. The only time he has ever gambled was on the football field when he tried to make a first down to keep a drive alive for the Georgia Bulldogs. There is no sin in that except for bringing about alumni discontent—if the play failed.
Even when fans fussed and complained when he was active on the UGA sideline, he turned the other cheek and forgave them because he was above all that and truly tried to exercise patience in dealing with hurt feelings and frustrations.
Then there is the “Golden Rule Hall of Fame,” you know, the one which has the toughest test of all, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” He would be a charter member of that Hall of Fame if it existed.
He belongs in the “Good Neighbor Hall of Fame,” and the “Selfless Hall of Game.” The “Forgiveness Hall of Fame?” Oh yes! How about the “Good Works Hall of Fame?” For sure, he belongs to that one, too.
If there is a Hall of Fame out there which recognizes good over evil, if there is one made up of a membership which puts service above self, if there is one whose tenets require extending a helping hand to its fellow man, continued from page
if there is one that underscores faith, hope and charity, then Mark Richt deserves membership in all of those, too.
For the College Football Hall of Fame, it was an easy vote for him to gain admission even though the official induction ceremony took place in a place known as “Sin City,” an anathema to the moral fiber which is as central to the makeup of the second winningest coach in UGA history as his nervous system.
As a quarterback and as a coach, he knew what his mission was—to win games and championships. He was as serious as the next guy when it came to competition. He wanted to do his opponent in but never crossing the line when it came to rules and ethics.
While I am not sure about what was going on with Michigan, as of late, regarding the sign stealing episode, I am confident that if an assistant coach had come to Coach Richt with a fool proof plan of skullduggery that would have enhanced victory, he would have refused to allow the practice to move forward. Victory, for him, must be based on honor and fair play.
I have so many fond memories of the time spent with him. Lunches in his office where we talked football. He was always eager to learn about Georgia history. The lore that I had recorded from conversations with some of the outstanding coaches in the business such as Bud Wilkinson, Duffy Daughterty, Bo Schembechler, John McKay, and others seem to intrigue him. I remember Bulldog club trips where he signed autographs with the patience of Job, but politely asking a loyal fan who was on the way to inebriation to set his beer out of view of the camera for the photo op the fan had requested. That was not the image he wanted of himself and as a representative of the University of Georgia.
He received an unusual number of requests during his time as head coach including people wanting him to pray for friends who were in need or were in a state of hopelessness; to speak to this church group with which he had no connection; every charity wanted him and his altruistic message; there were requests to offer encouragement to someone on his death bed.
Never would I suggest other coaches have not been asked for similar requests, pleas and exhortations, but I doubt that as many of them played the role as a Good Samaritan or functioned with the missionary zeal and commitment that Mark Richt did. He is a good man whose integrity, fair play and goodwill set him apart.
He deserves the highest of praise for his ability to win football games and to try to make the world a better place.