December 27, 2000 - by

Florida State assistant Mark Richt is now top Dawg

Dec. 27, 2000


By PAUL NEWBERRY
AP Sports Writer

ATHENS, Ga. – While directing one of the country’s most dynamic
offenses, Mark Richt’s name came up from time to time as a potential head
coach.
He never thought about leaving Florida State, however, until Georgia fired
Jim Donnan and began the search for someone who could lead the Bulldogs to a
championship.
On Tuesday, Richt was named Georgia’s new coach, though he’ll work
double-time during his first week on the job. He will stay on as the Seminoles’
offensive coordinator until after the Jan. 3 Orange Bowl against top-ranked
Oklahoma.
“I’ve had some opportunities over the years, but when I found out that I
was a possible candidate for this job, it was the very first time that I got
really excited and eager about the possibility of making a move,” said Richt,
who spent 15 years on Bobby Bowden’s staff.
While he remains committed to Florida State for another week, Richt will
begin working the phones for Georgia, hiring a staff and touching base with
potential recruits.
He hopes to follow the Bowden formula, which made the Seminoles one of the
country’s most dominating programs.
“He’s a great man,” Richt said. “I’m excited about the chance to try to
build something very similar to what he’s built, and hopefully, I learned well
from him.”
The 40-year-old Richt said it will be difficult to leave Tallahassee, where
he worked with Heisman Trophy winners Charlie Ward and Chris Weinke.
But when Richt heard his name linked to Georgia, he decided to pursue a head
coaching job for the first time. He asked both Bowden and Grant Teaff, former
president of the American Football Coaches Association, to call Georgia
athletic director Vince Dooley with a recommendation.
“Our goal was to never leave Tallahassee or make one move,” said Richt,
accompanied to Athens by his wife and their four children. “We felt like if we
ever did make a move, we wanted to make sure it was a place where we wanted to
stay. We’ve made that commitment. We’re not looking back.”
That’s good news for Dooley, who hired Donnan five years ago after
then-Kansas coach Glen Mason accepted the job, then changed his mind.
Richt actually took the job last week, but remained mum until the Bulldogs
completed their final season under Donnan with a 37-14 victory over Virginia in
the Oahu Bowl.
Donnan, fired Dec. 4, finished his tenure at Georgia with a 40-19 record,
including four straight bowl victories for the first time in school history. He
was let go after the Bulldogs lost to Georgia Tech for the third year in a row,
which hasn’t happened since the early 1960s.
That was indicative of a lack of success when playing the school’s biggest
rivals. Under Donnan, Georgia was 6-14 against Tech, Florida, Auburn and
Tennessee.
After the news conference in Athens, Richt hurried back to Tallahassee to
rejoin the third-ranked Seminoles, who were flying to Miami on Wednesday with
hopes of winning their second straight national title.
“It’s been a great pleasure having him on our staff,” Bowden said. “He
and his family have been role models for our players and fans. We will miss
them very much, but wish them well at Georgia.”
A 1982 graduate of Miami, where he was a backup quarterback to Jim Kelly,
Richt joined the Florida State staff three years later. His tenure was
interrupted by a one-year break as East Carolina’s offensive coordinator in
1989.
Richt took over the play-calling duties from Bowden in 1993, directing some
of the nation’s highest-scoring teams. This season, the Seminoles led the
country with 549 yards per game and ranked third in scoring with a 42.4
average.
In addition, Richt has been the quarterback coach at Florida State for 14
years, sending five of his pupils to the NFL. He will call plays at Georgia and
may oversee the quarterbacks, as well.
“Whoever calls the plays usually gets most of the heat,” Richt said. “I
learned to deal with the good times and the bad times.”
Dooley and university president Michael Adams chose Richt after also
interviewing two NFL assistant coaches: Green Bay receivers coach Ray Sherman
and Miami offensive coordinator Chan Gailey.
Richt received a five-year, $3.75 million contract.
Georgia receiver Terrence Edwards, MVP of the Oahu Bowl, said the Bulldogs
will embrace their new coach.
“Coach Donnan is like a father to me,” Edwards said, “but I signed with
the University of Georgia, and that’s who I play for.”

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