MEMPHIS – Mark Richt coached teams to double-digit victories in six of his 10 seasons as head coach at Georgia and for 11 seasons as quarterbacks coach and then offensive coordinator at Florida State from 1990-2000.
He’s known nothing but winning seasons with the Bulldogs or Seminoles including as a volunteer assistant and graduate assistant at Florida State.
Even in his one season as offensive coordinator at East Carolina in 1989, the team managed a 5-5-1 record.
Which brings us to Friday’s Liberty Bowl, where 6-6 Georgia needs a win over Central Florida to avoid the first losing season of Richt’s coaching career.
“I hate to bring this up,” Richt said, “but I did coach Pope John Paul (II) High School. I was an assistant coach. We were 0-10. Well, I think we did win one game because a team had some illegal players.”
Richt had just been cut by the Miami Dolphins in 1984 and while he waited until the winter semester to hook on as a college graduate assistant, the head coach at the Boca Raton, Fla., school, heard that Richt, the former University of Miami and Boca Raton High quarterback, was back in town.
Richt coached the quarterbacks that season, four years after the school opened.
“I don’t even know if I got paid,” Richt said. “If I did, I got paid a little bit.”
A story in the Miami Herald back then had this headline: “Richt Hits The Small-Time As High School Assistant.”
Richt and Georgia are trying to avoid the Bulldogs’ first losing season since the 1996 team went 5-6 in Jim Donnan’s first season.
Many current Bulldogs say they’ve never even played on a team with a losing record.
Linebacker Justin Houston doesn’t want that to change.
“Hopefully that won’t happen,” he said. “I started playing football in seventh grade and I’ve always been on a winning team.”
Quarterback Aaron Murray said he’s never experienced a season with more losses than wins.
“Nope. Not in any sport,” he said. “We’re going to keep that streak going in this game.”
Linebacker Darryl Gamble said he last was on a team with a losing record his freshman season at Bainbridge High, but he actually was on the junior varsity, so he doesn’t have to count that.
The Bulldogs are seeking their fifth straight bowl victory.
“I can’t leave the University of Georgia without winning a bowl game my senior year,” Gamble said. “We’re 4-0 right now and just trying to make it five.”
Richt wants to head into another offseason with a victory after a difficult 2010.
“I’m most concerned about how our seniors feel in that locker room after that last game because there’s going to be that scene when you’re in there and you’re saying goodbye and you’re thanking them for everything they did and you want to be able to do that during a time when you’re celebrating, not when you’re licking your wounds,” Richt said. “I want a great memory for those guys. I have a lot of respect for our seniors and what they’ve done for us over their entire careers, not only this season, but their entire careers. That’s a big deal for us.”
Said receiver Tavarres King: “We want to leave this game with a smile on our face.”
A bowl win and a winning season would do the trick.