Following last Monday's win in the BCS Championship Game, Nick Saban won his third national title in four years and cemented himself as one of the best coaches in the history of college football. Saban has created a modern-day dynasty at the University of Alabama and doesn't show signs of slowing down anytime soon.
Mark Richt just completed his 12th season as the head coach at the University of Georgia. Richt has led the Bulldogs to two SEC Championships during his time in Athens, Ga., and three seasons where the UGA finished ranked in the Top 5. Richt is the longest tenured head coach in the SEC but has developed a reputation of struggling in big games. Because of these struggles, some question if Richt has the ability to guide Georgia to a National Championship.
As a graduate and fan of the University of Georgia, I'd take Mark Richt over Nick Saban any day of the week.
You can't argue with the results Saban has produced during his time at Alabama. The national championships speak for themselves and Saban has done a fantastic job preparing players to move on to the NFL. He also provides discipline for his players, which is one of the reasons you hardly ever hear of any off-the-field incidents at Alabama. In many ways, Saban is the perfect coach.
Yet, he comes across as one of the most unsatisfied people on the planet. When his players tried to hug him and celebrate with him after the BCS Championship Game, Saban seemed so uncomfortable that he didn't know how to handle himself. When he did a postgame interview with ESPN, Saban was already talking about how his team needed to get better and that he would soon begin preparing for next season.
At no point did it feel like Saban really celebrated what his team had just accomplished. At no point did he appear to have any pleasure or joy in what his staff, players and he himself had done. And at no point did it seem like Nick would take time to get away from the game of football and "the process."
I want a coach who is unable to contain his excitement after a big win. A coach who will bear hug his players and assistant coaches and look like a complete idiot because his team has accomplished something incredible and it's a feat that should be celebrated. A coach who will run around like Jim Valvano looking for someone to hug. With Saban, we never get anything close to that.
Maybe that's the cost and the sacrifice of becoming the most successful coach in college football. Maybe that's the mentality you have to have when you get to the mountain top and everyone else wants to knock you off.
Maybe that's the case - but I don't think Mark Richt will ever be that way.
Coach Richt has talked often about his priorities and where football fits in his life. It's VERY important to him, but it's not what is most important. For Mark Richt, his faith and family come first. He is a man who is satisfied and fulfilled, regardless of what happens on the football field. He talks often about his faith and his commitment to serving God in everything he does, whether that's coaching a football team, leading his family, serving in the community or taking mission trips around the world.
Coach Richt seems to have a peace and contentment about him I've never seen from Coach Saban. Richt coaches the game with a tremendous amount of passion and intensity, but afterwards he celebrates with his players and usually finds his wife to give her a big kiss. It's the perfect picture of how Richt has the proper perspective of his life.
For many SEC fans, the only things that matter are wins, losses, conference championships, and performances in rivalry games. We forget that this is nothing more than a game - played by 18-23 year old kids who are dealing with enormous pressure and expectations. We idolize them when they succeed and vilify them when they fail.
Mark Richt doesn't get caught up in this. Richt sees his players as what they are - not just as incredibly gifted athletes, but guys who are learning how to become responsible young men. In my opinion, Richt cares more about seeing his players develop off-the-field than on-the-field. And it's a big reason why Richt is one of the most respected coaches in all of college football.
So Nick Saban can continue to build his legacy and maintain his dynasty at Alabama. Maybe Mark Richt is never able to lead Georgia to a National Championship.
To me, that doesn't matter. There is not another person I'd rather have as the head coach at Georgia other than Mark Richt. He has been a great ambassador for the University and a tremendous leader for the Athens community.
Even though we don't like to think so, college football is about much more than winning and losing. And Coach Richt stands for so much more than just a great winning percentage.
Nick Saban may be the best, but I'd still rather have Mark Richt.