The Pole Position

Winning it all? Mark Richt is in the best position he's ever been in to do just that.

HOOVER, Ala. - Mark Richt is better positioned to win the national title now than at any time in his career in Athens.

The most notable exception, I might add, was with the moment before Chris Conley caught a tipped ball in the shadow of Alabama’s end zone at the 2012 SEC Championship.

He’s better positioned not because Mike Bobo is gone or that Jeremy Pruitt has appeared. Richt might be better off at quarterback this fall, and a little worse at center, but the players are not necessarily the reason, either.

For the first time in his career at Georgia, Mark Richt has full support of the University of Georgia behind him. That is to say he’s getting what he needs to win for the first time ever. We saw proof of that the first part of this year when the University of Georgia’s Athletic Department committed between $40 and $50 million to the football program in the last six months (indoor practice facility and coaching salaries).

I asked Richt today about that investment.

“We are going to do what it takes to compete at the highest level,” he told me.

For the first time in a very long time I think he’s correct - that’s not always been the case in my view. I can’t say that any more.

I wrote on January 7th: “If Georgia wasn’t serious before - it certainly is now (about football).”

Is money the only judge of things in athletics? Not at all, but when you see a spike in spending the way Georgia has spent something is going on. A new attitude is going on.

I can see now that Georgia wants to win in a way that it never has before.

I had a person I’ve known for a long time that’s involved with the football program tell me of the total change since the new year.

“They have not been told ‘no’ once,” he said. “Plane trips for recruiting; T-shirts for camps; whatever… the answer is always yes now. Always.”

When I visited Mike Bobo in May we talked about Richt and his chances in the future. I asked Bobo if he thought Richt could win it all.

“Are you crazy?” he said with a huge grin on his face. “Of course. They just need to give him everything he needs.”

Unbeknownst to Bobo, who is busy running his own football program at Colorado State now, Georgia has ramped up its commitment to football in a big way. But all of this happened after Bobo left.

Why has this happened? I’m not sure the why matters a ton, but keep in mind that former UGA president Michael Adams is gone. He was replaced by Jere Morehead, the first alum of Georgia to ever be president. Morehead graduated law school the same year Georgia last won the national title in football - 1980.

All I know is that for years I could not say with a straight face that Georgia was serious about football in the way that Alabama and the like were. I’m fairly certain I can’t say that any more. The money is one thing - yes, Georgia is spending money; but there is something else about the program that’s different now.

Several former players have told me that Mark Richt “isn’t the same guy” as he was when they were there. That could be true as well. Richt may sense that this is his best shot at leaving his mark nationally - at no longer being Charlie Brown or the bridesmaid.

In college sports there is so little we know for sure, but listen to me carefully when I tell you that something is different. Something is new. It happened in January - whatever it was. Some folks think major boosters were outraged that Bobo was allowed to leave so easily, and that lit a fire we’ve not yet seen in Athens.

I don’t know what caused this major shift in things, but one thing is certain - that shift leads me to believe that this is the most opportune time in Mark Richt’s career to win it all.

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