Richt NCAA's most underrated?

Given the $4 million-per-year contract he recently signed to rebuild Alabama's program, Nick Saban would get a lot of votes as college football's most overrated coach. So, who is its most underrated coach?

Interestingly enough, it could be that the most underrated coach conducts business in the same conference (Southeastern) as the most overrated coach. That would be Georgia head man Mark Richt.

Richt lacks the golden-boy image of Florida's Urban Meyer. He lacks the notoriety of Saban. He lacks the longevity of Penn State's Joe Paterno and Florida State's Bobby Bowden. He lacks the NCAA title rings of USC's Pete Carroll. He lacks the name recognition of South Carolina's Steve Spurrier.

All Richt does is win … consistently. He wins with great teams (2003). He wins with good teams (2005). He wins with average teams (2006). Is he the most underrated coach in college football? Quite possibly.

Pete Fiutak of recently tackled that question in a mailbag column entitled: "Ask CFN … The Most Underrated Coach." What follows is the question and Fiutak's reply:

Is it just me, or is Mark Richt the most underappreciated coach in America? I cannot think of anyone else that has won as much as him and received less notoriety. – BH

A: Les Miles is the only one who's a close second. To me, The Sporting News preseason annual is the only one worthy of note, but it lost me when it ranked Richt the nation's 25th best BCS coach behind coaches like Dennis Erickson, Mike Bellotti, Butch Davis, Houston Nutt and Bill Callahan. On an all-time scale, Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno are on the Mount Rushmore of coaches, but you'd have to be dumber than a box of hammers to take either of those two legends over Richt right now. I'm a huge fan of Frank Beamer (ranked 6th by TSN) and Kirk Ferentz (11th), but if you really think about it, has either of those two accomplished what Richt has?

If we're all in agreement that the SEC has far and away been the best conference in America over the last six years, than how can Richt be anything other than one of the top ten coaches in college football? O.K., he hasn't really come close to a national title game, but during his tenure, the Dawgs have gone 61-17 (78%) with two SEC championships and three East titles.

All Les Miles has done is go 11-2 in two seasons at LSU, including the Katrina year of 2005, and TSN ranked him 41st behind coaches like Rich Brooks, Brian Kelly, Mark Mangio and Al Groh. "But Miles is doing it with Nick Saban's players," you say. Maybe, but outside of one magical year, Saban didn't do it with Saban's players with only one season with fewer than three losses. Miles beat that in just two years.

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