Mark Richt reported this week to the ACC Football Kickoff as a newly made member of the sporting media. He lacked the rumpled roundness of those truly committed to the profession. At 59, having spent most of his life doing rather than watching and his halftimes coaching rather than circling a buffet table, he has a lot of catching up to do.
For the first time in 18 years — twice as long if you count his time as an assistant — Richt arrived at July unconcerned about revving up some team for camp. While he answered a question or two about the Miami Hurricanes quarterback situation Wednesday, there was this time a comfortable distance between himself and the subject.
The hole this has left in him is hardly noticeable.
“Right now, I can’t say I’ve missed anything in particular,” Richt said. “What would I be doing right now? I’d be getting up at 5 a.m. for mat drills. And now they’re recruiting all summer long. I’m not missing that right now.”
Abruptly quitting at Miami last December — “retiring from coaching,” as he finitely put it — Richt has resurfaced as an analyst for the new ACC Network.
Nothing in his 15 seasons coaching at Georgia or three at his alma mater in Coral Gables suggests Richt will be the kind of TV personality to wear giant mascot heads on set or give the hot opinion that might melt the hashtags clean off social media.
His new life now will include a pregame show Friday evening on the ACC Network, another leading into Saturday afternoon and some halftime ruminations. All with the hope, he said, of providing “analysis of what’s going on, previews of games, and hopefully stories that are interesting and explain what goes into certain decisions.”
Richt’s sudden departure from coaching followed a tumultuous 2018 season at Miami. His return there after having been ushered out the door at Georgia was quickly souring. The Hurricanes suffered five losses in their final seven regular-season games, their quarterback situation -- and hence their offense -- was in shambles and the fan base was in the early stages of revolt. Three days after a 32-point loss to Wisconsin in the Pinstripe Bowl, Richt announced he was done, toast. The Hurricanes former defensive coordinator, Manny Diaz, who had been hired at Temple, was hired back to fill Richt’s void.
While never actually using the term burnout, it seems clear by Richt’s explanation Wednesday that professional hazard was in play.
Just as it has become clear to Richt in retrospect that jumping immediately back into coaching after such long haul at Georgia might not have been the healthiest course.
“I really didn’t do a great job taking care of myself physically. You can get into a grind with the job. I coached over 30 years, probably could have used a little decompression time (after parting with UGA),” he said. “But Miami was there, and it wasn’t going to be there next year. So, I took it, knowing there was going to be some heavy lifting in a lot of areas.
“I went into it with my eyes wide open, but 48 hours after leaving Georgia, I’m the coach at Miami and we’re grinding. I’m enjoying it, loving it, a lot of great things were happening. Doing the head coaching stuff, the coordinating stuff, play-calling stuff, we’re building a (indoor practice) building – I loved all of it. But I wore myself down to the point that I got a little concerned about the pace I was going at.
“And I also felt someone else might do a better job at this point in time than I would.”
Richt said there was no specific health scare that alerted him to the need to break from coaching, “but,” he added, “if I’d have kept going, you never know.”
“You only have one brain, only have one heart, only have one body. You got to take care of yourself.”
While never flatly declaring that his coaching days are done, Richt termed his venture into broadcasting “a career change.”
“I’ve said I’ll never say never, because people say never and life happens,” he said. “I’ll say this, if I felt the Lord saying to do it (coach again), I would do it. He’d have to tell my wife, too.
“Or, (smiling now) if she said you have to get out of here, I want to see you every so often but not quite this much, I’d consider it. I do look at this as a career change, not as a stop-gap.”
Coming with the career change was also a change of address. He and his wife Katharyn are in the process of selling his home in south Florida — “a head coach’s house, a big, mac-daddy house in the middle of Coconut Grove,” as Richt put it — and downsizing to a beachfront condo in the panhandle city of Destin. That puts them more in range of family members in Tallahassee and back in Athens.
The move from coaching football to talking about it has come with the full endorsement of his wife. And it seemingly has come at an opportune time of life.
“She likes (the career change),” Richt said. “She likes the fact that I’m not just doing nothing. I really mean it, we are still madly in love. Our kids are out of the house, we like spending time together. We’ve had a blast the last six months being able to do things together, visit grandchildren and family and do things you normally don’t get to do.
“With this job, I might have three days a week that I’m out of town. But I’ll have time in between to see family and be with her. She wants me to do something I’m going to enjoy, and she knows I’m going to enjoy this.”
His is a personality that, if measured like an EEG, would more resemble prairie than hill country. Through all these years of coaching, Richt has borne the burden of such descriptions as “a nice guy,” and “a man of strong faith.” How such traits will play in a field that values noise and jagged-edged opinion will be something to watch for in this analyst’s case.
He said his new bosses at the ACC Network want him to let his views range freely, and he will comply.
In his own way, of course. “I won’t have any problem saying I agree with this or don’t agree with that. I think how you say things is as important as what you say. I’m not looking to beat anybody up. But on the other hand, you want to say what you believe and try to do it in a respectful way,” Richt said.
Respectful? What’s he trying to do, give this business a good name?
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