It was another crazy week in the SEC this past weekend – not because there were monumental upsets or playoff-impacting losses, but rather, because of the drama surrounding two of the most successful, longest-tenured coaches in college football. Mark Richt was let go at Georgia after 145 wins in 15 seasons, while Les Miles, to just about everyone’s surprise, was spared from the chopping block at the last second.
Georgia will reportedly owe Richt $4.1 million, while Miles, who is under contract through 2019, would have been owed $15 million. His buyout would decrease to $12.9 million if he were fired after Jan. 1.
“All of this (is) tough when coaches are making the amount of money that they make nowadays,” CBS Sports lead college football analyst Gary Danielson said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “And remember, all of these coaches are demanding four- or five year contracts because they have to go out and recruit against there schools, so we’re always going to be in this situation where a coach has $8-, $10-, $12 million owed to them. So if you’re an administration and you feel your program is underachieving – whatever that measurement is – you think you’re good but as an administration you feel you’re paying top-dollar to be great and you’ve given your coach two or three or four or five years, (you expect results).”
Especially at Georgia. Richt, 55, led the Bulldogs to two SEC titles, but none since 2005. Georgia came within one play of beating Alabama in the 2012 SEC Championship – and thus, playing for the national title – but the Tide prevailed, 32-28.
It’s been downhill for Georgia ever since – and by “downhill,” we mean 27-11 with a top-seven ranking each of the last three seasons.
“He’s a good coach, great guy – we know that,” Danielson said. “All of these guys are great guys. But Mark Richt, in a very weak Eastern division the last there years, (has watched) Missouri play twice in the SEC Championship and (had), I think, (an) average to below average Florida team win this year. I think the administration has a right to say, ‘We can’t settle for good anymore.’”
That mindset isn’t unique to Georgia, either. It permeates the culture at LSU, Alabama and a number of SEC programs.
“There’s a lot of conferences out there where there’s a couple great teams and then the rest of the conference is satisfied with being good,” Danielson said. “They’ll make the wave up every once in awhile when they have a senior-laden team or a hot quarterback and be good and they’ll say, ‘Let’s move on to basketball season.’ This conference has six, seven or eight schools where good isn’t good enough. They want to be great at football. I think that’s what’s unique about the SEC. Now, did LSU handle it well? Heavens no. But I do not have a problem with anybody in any business risking the status quo of good to be great – and there’s no guarantees when you want to be great.”
LSU started the year 7-0 and was ranked No. 2 in the initial College Football Playoff rankings. The Tigers, however, went 1-3 in November, failed to crack 20 points in all four games and fell to No. 21 in this week’s rankings.