Dec. 8, 2002
By PAUL NEWBERRY
AP Sports Writer
Mark Richt learned nearly everything he knows about coaching from Bobby Bowden. Now, the student will try to use those lessons against his teacher.
The Sugar Bowl announced Sunday that fourth-ranked Georgia (12-1) will meet No. 16 Florida State (9-4) in the New Year’s Day game at New Orleans.
Georgia, which finished third in the Bowl Championship Series standings, earned a spot by winning its first Southeastern Conference championship since 1982. Despite the four-loss season, the Seminoles qualified for the BCS by winning the Atlantic Coast Conference for the 11th time in 12 years.
The most intriguing matchup will be on the sideline. Richt spent 14 years working as a Bowden assistant at Florida State, calling plays in some of the school’s most glorious seasons.
“I spent a lot of my life there,” Richt said. “My mentor was Bobby Bowden. Just about everything I learned about coaching, handling players and people in general, I learned from him and learned from being at Florida State.”
Richt left after the 2000 season to take the head coaching job at Georgia. He didn’t waste any time getting the Bulldogs back to the top of the SEC.
“When an assistant coach becomes a head coach, you don’t know how they’re going to work out,” Bowden said. “I can’t believe what he’s done in just two years.”
As for his own team, Bowden sounded a bit embarrassed that the Seminoles qualified for the BCS. No other team in a major bowl has more than two losses.
“It’s not fair for Georgia to come in there (12-1), and we have those four losses,” Bowden said. “I just hope we can make a good showing.”
The last four-loss team in the Sugar Bowl was Alabama in 1945, a team Bowden remembers well from his boyhood. The Crimson Tide lost to Duke 29-25.
The Sugar Bowl wanted to match the Bulldogs against No. 5 Southern Cal (10-2), but the Orange Bowl got the Trojans because the Miami game has a slightly higher payout.
Still, Sugar Bowl executive director Paul Hoolahan said he was “absolutely satisfied” with this year’s matchup of “two exciting football teams with great traditions.”
“As far as I’m concerned, I think everybody ended up healthy at the end of the day,” he said.
Richt looks forward to meeting with some old friends in New Orleans, but he doesn’t think his relationship with Bowden and the Seminoles will have any impact on the game.
“I think I’ll be able to take the emotion out of the game and look at it from a business point of view,” Richt said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun from me, but I think I’ll be able to separate friendships from the game.”
Bowden has gotten used to going against close friends – and those who are even closer. In the ACC, he gets to face son Tommy (the Clemson coach) and former assistant Chuck Amato (North Carolina State) on an annual basis.
“I’m getting tired of it already,” Bowden said. “Chuck at N.C. State has beat me twice. Here comes Mark with a team that has just been dynamic this year and makes us look like we don’t belong. It’s good, I guess, but it’s kind of embarrassing.”