Mark and Katharyn Richt survive long season together

ATHENS — The passionate kiss that Mark and Katharyn Richt shared at the end of Georgia’s SEC East-clinching victory over Kentucky on Saturday drew quite a bit of commentary in and around Athens. It also solicited a good bit of discussion within the Richt household.

“Well, I thought it was a good one,” Richt said of the kiss, shared for all the world to see behind the Georgia bench immediately after the Bulldogs’ 19-10 win. “I personally thought she was mauling me. I went there just for a nice, friendly kiss, and she started to wear me out. I didn’t know what to do other than go with it. That’s the way I saw it.”

Realizing what he had just told multiple media outlets Sunday, Richt laughed a sheepish laugh, “She’ll be so mad at me.”

Katharyn Richt didn’t catch her husband’s commentary until a day later. But considering what he has been through this season, she gave him a pass.

“If my husband is happy and having a little fun with it right now, I’m going to let him,” said Katharyn, who will be married to Richt 25 years in March. “If he wants to humble me, I can take it. But after that, I’ll tell him, ‘don’t come near me.’”

She was kidding, of course.

The Richts’ amorous embrace revealed a great deal. Obviously, it showed they’re a couple still in love. But it also provided a glimpse into their partnership approach to the job — he the coach and she the “water girl” — and divulged the joy and relief they felt about the season’s accomplishments.

This was, after all, a real Houdini act that Richt pulled off with the 13th-ranked Bulldogs (9-2) this season. The hot-seat talk that dominated the UGA conversation after last year’s 6-7 season and that intensified following an 0-2 start morphed into things like, “how much of an extension do you think Georgia will give him” and “who do you think they’re going to play in the SEC championship game?” That’s what can happen when your team wins nine in a row.

“Winning the division is what was significant more than winning nine in a row,” Richt said. “That gave us a title. It’s not the SEC title, but it’s an Eastern Division title, which is very coveted by everybody on our side of the league.

“But I just think it’s a grind whether you’re winning or losing. It takes mental toughness either way. It tested us to our limits, and everybody came through pretty good.”

A man of faith who has never hidden his strong Christian beliefs, Richt said recently that praying and reading scripture got him through the early-season's rough waters. But make no mistake: Richt’s ability to traverse difficulties has as much to do with Katharyn and his family.

Asked on whom Richt relies most for advice and consultation, his brother-in-law Kevin Hynes said: “He has two confidantes: The [Bible] and his wife.”

Katharyn said her husband doesn’t necessarily bring his work home with him, but that she does talk to him often about his job.

“We do talk about work and things that go on, he and I,” she said. “Even after this victory Saturday, there were a few things that he was very upset about that we talked about on the way home. But we walked into the door to a house full of company and it was like, ‘OK, I’m done with that.’ He doesn’t hang onto things, I guess, is the best way to describe it.”

Katharyn Richt said player behavior does more to affect her husband’s mood than anything.

"Losing games he doesn’t like because he’s such a competitor," she said. "But when the boys get in trouble, that affects him much more because he takes it personally. It really hurts his heart when the boys get in trouble.”

While this has been a better season than some others in that regard — the Bulldogs have encountered just one known player arrest to date this year — Georgia has had its share of non-football-related difficulties. Offensive lineman A.J. Harmon and tailbacks Washaun Ealey and Caleb King had to leave the team before the season started. Since then, at least six players have missed all or parts of game for disciplinary reasons. One of those — junior tailback Carlton Thomas — has had three one-game suspensions.

“I think what he’s done the best job of is not letting those things be a distraction for the rest of the team,” said Cornelius Washington, who was arrested on DUI charges Oct. 2 and missed the next two games as a result.

“He addresses them calmly and in private. That’s kind of the way he handles things, in a way that we can stay focused and remain in a state of mind where we can still get ready for the games. I give him kudos for that.”

Katharyn Richt said the one thing neither she nor her husband worries much about is his job security.

“The bottom line is if God wants us at Georgia, then we’ll be at Georgia,” she said. “If he doesn’t want us to be here, if he’s ready for us to move on, he’ll move us. Both of us know that, and we trust him.”