Mark Richt, the head coach of Georgia, entered this season on the proverbial hot seat, and two weeks into the season, the Bulldogs are 0-2.
They were embarrassed in the last weekend by Boise State, and despite a spirited fourth quarter rally Saturday, lost to South Carolina, 45-42.
You’ll hear dozens of names over the next two months of possible replacements for Richt. Of course, there’s a slim chance he keeps his job – he’s very well-liked as a human being, he’s a terrific recruiter, and he’s a good enough coach that Georgia could finish the regular season 8-4 or even 9-3 (they only have two ranked teams left on the schedule: Mississippi State and Florida, neither of which is unbeatable).
But you know the win-now atmosphere in college football these days – this is a business, and sometimes, business decisions hurt. Richt is one of the 10 highest-paid coaches in the country (just over $3 million a year), and everyone else in that group is winning – or in a conference where 8 or 9 wins is acceptable.
Surely many Georgia fans would say that Richt has put too much into the program over the last decade to unceremoniously be dumped mid-season. However … waiting until the end of the season could put Georgia up against other major programs who are in the market for a coach for whatever reason (thinking out loud here: Ohio State, UCLA, Penn State; someone abruptly retires or takes an NFL job), and then maybe you don’t get your first option.
Some names you’ll surely hear mentioned … whether they have a chance or not, who knows:
Chris Petersen, Boise State: Ordinarily I’d laugh this off because Petersen doesn’t even take calls to talk about potential jobs … but the NCAA is poking around Potato U, and Boise’s longtime AD was fired recently. It seems unlikely the Broncos will get hit with major sanctions, but with Kellen Moore and a senior-laden team departing … does he at least listen to offers? I think he’s the best coach in the country.
Mike Leach, unemployed: The obvious name because he’ll be linked to every opening. I don’t see it, frankly.
Gus Malzahn, offensive coordinator at Auburn: Offense hasn’t necessarily been an issue at Georgia, but Mahlzan’s probably the hottest coordinator in college football right now. He got a nice raise in the offseason, but that was probably just to stave off suitors. Will they give him another raise if an SEC rival comes calling?
Kirby Smart, defensive coordinator at Alabama: Passed on the chance to be the Georgia defensive coordinator in 2010, but that could have been because when he leaves Nick Saban, he wants to do it for a head coaching job. Is Georgia too big of a gig for a first time head coach? For a school that hasn’t played defense in years, Smart would be my guy. Maybe his third tour of duty in Athens (1999, 2005) would be the charm.
Dan Mullen, Mississippi St.: Would crawl to Georgia. Would crawl anywhere, really. Georgia hosts Mullen’s Bulldogs on Oct. 1 and if Miss. St. wins in Athens … it could be a knockout punch to Richt. He’ll be on the list, that’s for sure.
Gary Patterson, TCU: If he was going to leave, I thought it would have been last offseason, when half his team graduated. He’s 51 and going to the Big East next year where his team will be in the BCS hunt (assuming it still exists) every year. Can’t imagine him being a serious candidate.