Sunday, November 29, 2015

Saying Good Bye to THE Coach of My Generation

Posts here at Bubba 'N Earl are a rare occurrence these days.  But given the circumstances of today, I felt it appropriate to dust off the ole' blog. For those of you who know me, I have shared my opinion about the firing of Coach Richt on Facebook. The TLDR version, I'm saddened and shocked but I understand it may be for the best in the long run.

But how I feel doesn't matter, Mark Richt is no longer the head football coach at The University of Georgia. Let that sink in for a minute.  I enrolled in Georgia during the summer of 2000 and was (unfortunately) witness to the final year of the Donnan administration.  So while I may have seen someone else man the sidelines for Georgia since I officially became a Dawg, Mark Richt is the only one that matters.  And that is why some many in my generation are sad today.

We know the legends of the glory days, of Trippi and Hesrchel, of the Junkyard Dawgs and Erk, and finally getting the championship.  But I was born in August of 1981 and the earliest memory of have of Georgia is watching Georgia play Tech during Thanksgiving break circa 1991.  My family is from Ohio and my parents went to Morehead State University, not exactly a football powerhouse. So I grew up with no real allegiance, just a kid watching the games for fun. I got more into football as I approached high school and almost played my freshman year (though a bout with Mono one week into summer practice quickly ended my career).  My high school classmate David Greene led us to the state playoffs in '98 and '99 after we'd gone 0-10 in '97.  So when it came time to pick my school, a good football program factored in my decision to go to Georgia.

So after a Quincy Carter disaster of a season in 2000, Georgia fired Jim Donnan.  Not gonna lie, I was pissed.  I thought it was a bad decision.  In comes Mark Richt, fresh off FSU getting their tails whipped by Oklahoma.  I had no real expectations because back in the days before blogs and tons of coverage, you just didn't know a ton about assistants outside of your own school.  But Richt came in and by that fall had named Greene the starter, so I had a reason to like him.  Things started fine with a cupcake win and then we went up to Tennessee.  We all know what happened - The Hob Nail Boot. The previous generation had Run Lindsay Run, but my generation will always have the Hob Nail Boot.  And we were off to the races.

2002 was magic. From the opening win over Clemson, to the clincher at Auburn, we all thought Georgia was just getting started.  A couple mental mistakes (Billy Bennet misses and a Terrance Edwards drop) cost us a national championship shot, but there was no reason to think there would not be more to come.  Richt beat his old coach in Bobby Bowden in the bowl and it was like a passing of the torch.  We were ready and we had the right man to do it.

And the last two years of my college career were great, but once again we just missed out. We had some of the best players to ever come through, in Greene, Pollack, Thomas Davis, and Jon Stinchcomb. 2005 was another what if year, where if Shockly doesn't go down against Arkansas things may have been different.  But we beat LSU and Stafford was coming.  Things looked bright.

The next ten years went by so fast.  We saw the emergence of Evil Richt in '07 and the blackout.  The program was cool again and we opened at #1 in 2008.  Some more legends came through, like Jarvis Jones, AJ Green, Aaron Murray, and Nick Chubb.  And despite having everything from a losing season to a year where we were 5 yards from the National Championship game, Richt was still the man.  He has been an continues to be a wonderful human and leader of men.   Paul Oliver was at Georgia when I was and hist death hit home for me.  I was so proud to see the establishment of the Paul Oliver Network and I hope it continues.

But now it's over. For my generation, Coach Richt has been the man that we have grown with.  He finally lead Georgia back to the top of the SEC mountain, and for most of us, that was good enough.