The other day, Jace Walden posted a diary asking about Bulldog Nation's certainty that Mark Richt is in Athens for the long haul. I stated my case for the proposition that he is, which convinced Jace (who, to his credit, is a frequent Dawg Sports diarist whose points otherwise invariably are positive).
The one point in all of this that remained shrouded in doubt, however, concerned Coach Richt's buyout clause. Jace was under the impression "that Richt's contract has an opt-out clause for an undisclosed school." I was of the belief that there were no exceptions to Coach Richt's buyout clause. Neither of us, though, had substantive evidence to support his opinion.
Fortunately, a Dawg Sports reader, Noah from Macon, sent me an e-mail directing my attention to the Coaches Hot Seat website, which has what purports to be a .pdf copy of Coach Richt's signed contract.
Naturally, I cannot state with certainty that this document is genuine, although the Georgia Supreme Court ruled in 1986 that documents relating to the assets, liabilities, income, and expenses of the University of Georgia Athletic Association were public records subject to the Georgia Open Records Act, so such a document undoubtedly could have been obtained by other than underhanded means. That being the case, I am going to proceed from the understanding that this is Coach Richt's contract until someone indicates to me that the signatures on the 26th page of the document are not those of Michael Adams, Damon Evans, and Mark Richt.
The contract is dated January 1, 2006, and supersedes a previous contract dated July 1, 2003. In other words, this deal was renegotiated after Coach Richt's second S.E.C. championship to replace the deal renegotiated after his first S.E.C. championship.
Under Paragraph 14A, the contract term extends through December 31, 2013. Pursuant to Paragraph 9, Coach Richt is scheduled to receive a longevity bonus of up to $2,400,000 in January 2014, when Paragraph 21 has the parties scheduled to meet to discuss extending the contract term (provided they have not done so already).
Paragraph 14A(2) gives Coach Richt the option of terminating the contract by "giving the Association not less than 30 days written notice." In the event that Coach Richt exercises this right, Paragraph 17 kicks in and that provision, in its entirety, states as follows:
Yeah, I know a lot of that is in lawyer instead of English and that some appreciable percentage of Dawg Sports readers is comprised of citizens who are not members of the State Bar of Georgia, but I wanted to quote the entirety of Coach Richt's buyout clause in order to make it absolutely clear that there is no exception whatsoever for the Florida State Seminoles, the Miami Hurricanes, or any other football team, collegiate or professional.
The remainder of the contract contains standard provisions in Paragraphs 25 and 27 stating that any modifications of the contract must be in writing to be valid and all other agreements, whether written or verbal, are of no further force or effect.
If Mark Richt leaves Georgia to take another coaching job somewhere else before his current contract expires, he will have to pay the athletic association two million dollars or more. If Mark Richt remains at Georgia through the end of his current contract, the athletic association will have to pay him more than two million dollars.
The decision whether to stay or to go cumulatively makes a difference of $4,400,000 or more in Coach Richt's bank account. That's some serious scratch to sacrifice for the privilege of leaving a team that narrowly missed playing in the national championship game in order to go coach a team that went 7-5 and earned a bid to the Music City Bowl to face a Kentucky team your current team beat, much less to go coach a team that went 5-7 and lost at home to a Georgia Tech team your current team beat on the road.
Relax, Bulldog Nation. We have our man. He wouldn't have signed a contract like this one if he didn't intend on fulfilling it and, if he makes it through the end of the 2013 season, Mark Richt will have been in the Classic City for thirteen years. Guys who coach in Athens that long finish their careers at Georgia.
Forget about the rumors that Jimbo Fisher is going to West Virginia. I'd be willing to bet that's one of Jimmy Sexton's ploys, but, even if it isn't, the most it could mean is that Coach Fisher won't succeed Bobby Bowden, not that Coach Richt will. Have no fear. Mark Richt is staying.