EATONTON – Spring practice just wrapped up a little more than 72 hours earlier and the next season has already arrived for Georgia football coach Mark Richt.
Georgia coach Mark Richt will officially begin his speaking tour of Bulldog Clubs today at the Savannah Golf Club.
On this Tuesday night, Richt is smiling for photographs, signing autographs and the main attraction at the “Bulldog Bash” at Rock Eagle Dining Hall. It’s an event put on by the Lake Country Bulldog Club and Richt’s coaching staff was in attendance as well.
He is just getting started.
This event – which cost $20 for adults and $10 for children with a prime chance to eat with Richt at a table for eight for $750 – isn’t on the official tour of Bulldog Club stops that he will embark upon this spring starting tonight.
This day – which included a Mark Richt Golf Tournament at Harbor Club on Lake Oconee – helps send players to Richt’s summer football camp. A Herschel Walker light board that used to hang in the Butts-Mehre building fetched $2,000 in a live auction.
Richt made eight appearances at Bulldog Clubs last year – all within the state – as part of the spring tour, and nine in 2009.
This year’s tour includes 11 stops, starting tonight at the Savannah Golf Club and continuing with a stop in Jacksonville on Thursday and next week in Augusta amd Macon.
“Today was a long day because we did the golf thing that goes with it, but most of the other clubs I might leave the office at 4 or 5,” Richt said beforehand. “The time at the office this time of year is not as hectic – it’s probably the least hectic of any time of the year. Even though we do the clubs, it’s enjoyable. The people are great and the people are excited about Georgia. They’re usually done in a really timely fashion. I usually get home sometimes by 9 or 10 o’clock, which isn’t too bad.”
Richt will also make appearances in the coming weeks in Charlotte, N.C., and Greenville, S.C. Men’s basketball coach Mark Fox is slated to attend all but the Savannah and Albany stops.
This is the 11th year that Richt has made the rounds at the Bulldog Clubs – but the first time after a losing season.
After Georgia finished 6-7, Richt said in January that “things are being put in place that are going to help free me up to spend more time doing the things that I love the most, which is study the game of football and be an expert and be on the cutting edge.”
He’s not freed up from the speaking engagements. He’s contractually obligated to do them.
“This is the time of year that you’ve got to do that,” said athletic director Greg McGarity, scheduled to join Richt in Jacksonville. “You’re dipping in, dipping out some and you’re able to get a full day’s work and you hop on the plane.”
McGarity expects Richt will have a lighter in-season load from Aug. 1 to Jan. 1, with fewer touchdown club appearances and a better opportunity to focus on football.
Richt said he’s already studied film of season-opening opponent Boise State “for the last month,” and also watched some of South Carolina this week.
Richt said the reception from fans at Bulldog Clubs isn’t dependent on the won-loss record from the previous year.
“This time of the year, everyone’s really optimistic about the future,” Richt said. “There’s a few people that want to talk about last year every once in a while, but for the most part they want to talk about the future.”
That was the case on this night before a crowd of some 400. During the question and answer session that lasted about a half hour, Richt and his assistants received no questions about the 2010 season.
Among the topics touched on:
► Richt on the emergence of nose guard Kwame Geathers: “Everybody is talking about Kwame Geathers. Nobody would have been able to predict that he would do what he did in the spring.” Richt endorsed the possibility that both Geathers and junior college transfer John Jenkins could see the field at the same time.
► Offensive line coach Will Friend said there are “seven or eight guys that we think can compete right now that give us a chance to be pretty good. We need to get that number up to about 10.”
► Richt said if there’s another G-Day player draft next year, that he might “make it some kind of Internet event. Let the Bulldog Nation watch the guys pick. That probably would be fun.”
► Richt on playing a netural-site game against Boise State in the Georgia Dome. “I think the Georgia Dome would be a great neutral site for the Georgia-Florida game, I don’t know about you.”
That drew applause.
“Anyway, I’m not allowed to talk about that,” Richt said. “Yeah, just win the game.”