CornDawgs: Richt’s family balances love for Georgia, Nebraska

Attention, Georgia fans: If you’re sitting in one the school’s sections at Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium in Orlando for the Georgia-Nebraska Capital One Bowl matchup on Jan. 1 and happen to hear some fans near you rooting out loud for the Cornhuskers, don’t be alarmed.

It just might be one of Mark Richt’s cousins. Really.

“I’m sure they’ll be cheering for the Huskers,” said Bill Richt, first cousin of the Georgia football coach, of his brothers Greg and Dave, who could split the family’s loyalties for this game. “They’ll have to be kind of quiet because I think they’re getting the tickets through the Georgia athletic department. I’m sure they’ll be fine. I know they’ll be bringing our banner and they’re bringing all their T-shirts.”

They call themselves the “CornDawgs.” They travel with a “Nebraskans For Georgia” banner that includes an insignia of a Bulldog with an ear of corn on its head.

They are proud of their homestate Nebraska football team and their adopted Georgia Bulldogs, coached by one of their own.

“I was born in Nebraska, I was a Nebraska fan,” said Mark Richt, who grew up in Omaha before moving to Colorado on his seventh birthday and later to Boca Raton, Fla. “I was really a Nebraska Cornhusker fan probably until high school when I started getting opportunities to start visiting schools and things of that nature, and of course I became a Miami Hurricane out of high school. I’ve kind of known about Big Red for a long time. It’s been kind of ingrained in my family.”

The bowl projections didn’t make a Georgia-Nebraska matchup look likely, but that’s what happened after both teams lost their conference championship games.

Bill Richt, a retired English and history teacher who lives in Lincoln, Neb., and is now a substitute teacher, isn’t going to the game, but three of his brothers who live in Nebraska will be there. Bill already made vacation plans for Phoenix, but folks keep wondering where his allegiance will be.

“People keep asking me all the time,” he said. “I’m a lifelong Husker fan, but I said, ‘I have to cheer for my cousin.’ Myself and my youngest brother, Tim, we’re more towards the Georgia side.”

Bill Richt, whose late father, Bill Sr., was the older brother of Lou Richt, Mark’s father, puts out a monthly “CornDawgs” newsletter during football season to about 150 people — mostly friends and family.

“It kind of grows a little bit every year,” he said. “I probably send it to 30 to 40 to people in the Athens area that we’ve met at away games. It’s a real positive thing. Like I do a game prediction thing. Well, I’ve never picked Georgia or Nebraska to lose a game.”

Richt’s parents are divorced. His mother, Helen, also was born in Omaha and now lives close to Mark. All but one of Mark Richt’s siblings were also born in Nebraska. Richt’s uncle Tony, Lou’s younger brother, still lives there.

“I’ve got a lot of ties there,” Mark Richt said.

Lou Richt worked for Western Electric as a tool and die maker in Nebraska.

“Sometimes we had to work a Saturday and someone would bring a radio in and listen to the games,” said Lou Richt, who moved from Nebraska to Colorado to work for IBM and lives now in Watkinsville. “My father always listened to the games.”

Mark Richt remembers his next door neighbor in Omaha being an Oklahoma fan.

“We had this feud between the neighbors every time Nebraska and Oklahoma would play,” Richt said.

Lou Richt said his nephews told him “for Georgia to take it easy on Nebraska.”

Richt got back to the state he was born in when Georgia made a College World Series trip in 2008. He visited Memorial Stadium, where the Cornhuskers football team plays, during the visit.

His relatives come to Athens to see him and the Bulldogs.

“One time we went to the Georgia game and they brought their “Nebraskans for Georgia” banner that we hung up in Sanford,” Lou Richt said. “Of course, they made them take it down.”

Eighteen of Richt’s family members from Nebraska made the relatively short trip to Missouri to see Georgia’s victory there in September. They also traveled to Georgia for the Vanderbilt game.

“After the game, they usually stop by. When they come to the games, they’ll wait for Mark to come out and get a chance to talk to him,” Lou Richt said.

They held a “CornDawg” party once this year when Nebraska and Georgia played at different times, watching both games.

Now the Richts’ two worlds collide on the same field.

Said Mark Richt: “It’s going to be fun for my family.”

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