Former Georgia coach Richt would be a good fit for Gamecocks

col-tbuzz-2The only thing worse than a season-ending loss to Clemson is the limbo the Gamecocks football program finds itself in while it searches for its next head coach. Every day that goes by is like a ticking clock on recruiting and the next kickoff in nine short months.

After Steve Spurrier slipped out the side door midway through a miserable season, South Carolina has had a wish list of candidates that seem to be quickly disappearing. Virginia Tech snapped up Memphis offensive mastermind Justin Fuente; front-runner Tom Herman is close to closing a deal to stay at Houston; and Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart is suddenly high on the radar for the recently opened Georgia job.

Which brings me to the point of this column, not just to rub it in. The Gamecocks should immediately hire fired Georgia coach Mark Richt to bring some stability to its slipping football program. I’m sure such a suggestion to hire a former hated rival will draw a few groans from Gamecock fans (although Spurrier was also a bitter enemy when he was at Florida), but hear me out.

At only 55, much younger than South Carolina’s previous two coaches before their successful stints, Richt went 145-51 during 15 seasons at Georgia. He won two SEC titles (two more than Spurrier and Lou Holtz combined to bring to Columbia) and he has deep recruiting ties to the region from his time in Athens and as a longtime assistant at Florida State. He could bring a ready-made staff and hit the recruiting trail running to stop the steady flow of decommitments from having no coach in place at the most critical time of the season.

Richt didn’t hesitate when asked if he would like to coach again. “Oh yeah, no doubt,” he said at Monday’s awkward press conference at Georgia. “I’ll say this: If and when I do coach again, I’ll look forward to coaching again, being more hands on. I miss coaching quarterbacks; I miss calling plays.”

That could create a perfect opportunity for the revival of his coaching career and the Gamecocks’ good fortunes. Unlike when Holtz and Spurrier arrived, South Carolina is on fairly solid footing if someone can plug some leaks in the Gamecocks’ ship. There’s no need for a massive overhaul; just some new parts for a rebuilt engine that Richt could provide  right now.

Most of all, Richt brings instant credibility and an impeccable reputation to the team lucky enough to land him. Yes, Georgia had off-the-field issues under Richt’s watch, as has every other SEC program over the past few decades. But he runs a clean program, sets a shining example for his players and has the respect of his peers. He might not be the sexy big-name hire the Gamecocks are looking for, but he could provide some much needed direction from a program that is currently floating adrift. Richt is the man to right the ship.

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