Richt an example of how patience can pay off

2012-12-08T17:00:00Z 2012-12-15T17:12:05Z Richt an example of how patience can pay offBy BRIAN CHRISTOPHERSON / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com

He’s been to three Sugar Bowls. He’s posted a 13-win season. He’s twice had teams finish in the top three of the final rankings.

And yet there were those headlines, the ones you see on the Internet and on blogs about coaches and hot seats.

Mark Richt, they liked to say, was sitting on one of the hotter ones, sure to burst into flames at any moment as Verne Lundquist dropped an “Oh my goodness!”

This all seems kind of odd now when you consider Richt’s Georgia teams have won at least 10 games in eight of his 12 seasons and were 4 yards from beating Alabama last week and earning a spot in the BCS Championship Game.

But after Georgia followed up an 8-5 season in 2009 with a 6-7 season in 2010, the naysayers came out with their megaphones.

Then the Bulldogs started 0-2 in 2011.

Was Richt in trouble?

Not after the Bulldogs rattled off 10 wins in a row. The wins weren’t always pretty. The schedule was favorable. But Georgia worked its way to a 10-win season with no apologies.

Patience.

It’s seemed to work out well for a Georgia program that this year was one play from competing for its first national championship since 1980.

"It is kind of a roller coaster, and sometimes you do go up and down, and you just don’t know how close you might be to having a really good football team if you’re just patient for one more year," Richt told reporters at a news conference in early November.

"I think a lot of teams go backwards because they make changes when maybe they are on the verge of something good happening, and then if you make change and you start over again, it’s hard for all the cumulative reps that you’ve had to all of sudden blossom.”

Certainly, the amount of patience any fan should have in a coach is up for debate — as you’ve perhaps heard in conversations around Nebraska this week after the Huskers’ 70-31 loss to Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game.

But Richt, who like Bo Pelini had never been a head coach before taking over his current job, might be one of the better examples for those who preach for patience with a coach.

Certainly, Richt helped build capital by rolling to 13 wins and a Sugar Bowl victory in just his second year.

But he has also suffered his share of blowout losses, too, losing by 39 points to Florida in 2008, whipped by Tennessee by 26 and by 24 by the Gators in 2009.

The Georgia coach admitted to reporters earlier this year that it can perhaps be difficult for others to tell how close you are to success when those types of games happen.

“I would imagine it’s hard to try to figure out as a decision-maker if that team is close or if they are not,” Richt said.

But by November of last year, most began to see that, in fact, Georgia was close to breaking through.

“May Mark Richt’s hot seat rest in peace,” a headline on a Georgia website read.

Of course, temperatures change quickly, something that is no news flash to Richt and Pelini, whose teams will square off in the Capital One Bowl in Orlando, Fla., on New Year’s Day.

Just a week-and-a-half ago, the Huskers were envisioning winning their first conference championship since 1999, something that would have brought forth a chorus of praise and optimism about what was next for the Nebraska program.

Instead came one of the NU's most embarrassing defeats.

And be sure the critics in these parts own megaphones, too.

“It’s not the first time we’ve gotten hit in the mouth,” Pelini said this week. “Everybody who plays the sport of football, or plays athletics, goes through a tough time. The way you’re defined isn’t by what happens to you, but the way you react to it.”

Bouncing back from such a blow is no easy task for a coach.

But Richt, born in Omaha and who grew up rooting for the Huskers, knows firsthand things can turn in a hurry.

"Obviously, I’ve been coaching going into 12 years now, and it is a very fine line,” the Georgia coach said at that November news conference. “Even the year we went 6-7, how much of a different team did we have than some of the teams that might have gone 10-2? Probably not a whole lot different.”

Reach Brian Christopherson at bchristopherson@journalstar.com or 402-473-7439. You can follow him on Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.

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