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Many coaching greats survived setback seasons
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Forsyth County News


The scoreboard at Jordan-Hare Stadium still read Auburn 49, Georgia 31. Auburn coach Gene Chizik barely had enough time to limit post-game questions to the game only.

But already, at least one columnist had Mark Richt’s bags packed and headed to Boulder, Colo.

Yes, Georgia lost again. Georgia has lost six games for the first time since 1996. Georgia’s lost 11 games over the past two seasons, or two more than Richt’s teams lost from 2002-2005.

Richt set an awfully high standard in his first eight seasons. By comparison, his last two seasons have been abysmal.

Many partisan observers feel that Richt hasn’t kept up with the rest of the SEC. Les Miles, Nick Saban and Urban Meyer have all won national championships. Now Steve Spurrier has finally won something at South Carolina.

Has the league passed Richt by? Can he win big again, or are his best days past?

I keep humming the chorus from , “Big Yellow Taxi,” Joni Mitchell’s standard: “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone?”

Everyone who wants Richt to hit the road envisions Georgia hiring the next Saban or Meyer.

They don’t appreciate that it’s far more likely the new coach will be Jim Donnan or Ray Goff.

Look northward. Tennessee faithful had no rest until they ran Phillip Fulmer out of a job. Two coaches later, look where the 4-6 Vols are: 41-14 losers to Georgia.

Sometimes it works in reverse, to be sure. Chizik was greeted with catcalls when he arrived to accept the Auburn job after winning five games in two years at Iowa State. Now he’s lost five games in two years at Auburn, and it’s doubtful that Tigers faithful would trade him for Saban.

Wonder if Alabama fans would make the trade at this point?

Remember how LSU fans had enough of Miles and his putrid game management last fall? Remember the four losses and the botched finish at Mississippi? Now he’s got Huey P. Long’s favorite school back in the top six.

Sadly, we live in an era of instant gratification. Everything must move at warp speed. Patience remains a virtue that went out with vinyl records and electric typewriters.

Yet it might be wise to recall that patience has its rewards.

Georgia Tech’s greatest coach, Bobby Dodd, began his career with a 4-6 record in 1945. His next two teams went 9-2 and 10-1. Then, the let down. Dodd went 7-3, 7-3 and 5-6.

What if Tech had axed Dodd after that 1950 season? The Jackets would have missed out on the best run in the history of Tech football. From ‘51 -‘56, Dodd’s teams went 59-7-3. They went undefeated in ‘51 and ‘52, lost once in ‘55 and ‘56. They won six straight bowl games, becoming the first school to win all four major bowls with a Cotton Bowl win over Arkansas on Jan. 1, 1955. And they beat Georgia every single year, too.

Auburn’s Shug Jordan started 5-5 in ‘51, then went 2-8. There followed seasons of 7-3-1, 8-3, 8-2-1, and 7-3. Nothing spectacular. Had Auburn given up on Jordan at that point, the Tigers would have missed out on a 10-0 national championship season in ‘57, and a 9-0-1 season in ‘58.

Through the mid 60’s, Jordan lost at least four games for five years running. But Jordan rewarded the faithful’s patience with 9-2, 9-2, and 10-1 seasons to start the 70’s.

Even Bear Bryant had his moments of doubting faithful. Despite shares of three national championships, Bama’s backers were most displeased by five-loss seasons in ‘69 and ‘70.

Hard to imagine grumblings over Bryant’s record? No harder than hearing the grumblings in State College when Joe Paterno had a few substandard seasons a few years ago.

Had Bryant been asked to step down after the ‘70 season, Alabama would have missed out on three more national
championships, and a 10-season record of 107-13. Guess the game hadn’t passed him by after all.

Georgia faithful need look no further than Athens for their own history lesson. In 1964, a young assistant coach got his first head coaching job. He took a losing program and immediately produced two winning seasons.

In two of his next three years, he won SEC titles, lost only one game, and finished in the top eight in the final polls.

But in five of the next six years, his teams lost at least four games. Grumbling got loud. Protestors became vocal, visible.

Then came two good years, and another SEC championship and top ten finish. But the roller coaster continued with seasons of 5-6, 9-2-1, and 6-5.

Had Georgia fired Vince Dooley after the 1979 season, there’s no 1980 national championship, no three SEC titles, no four year mark of 43-4-1, no stretch of four years in the nation’s top five.

History tells us that patience gets rewarded time and again. Funny thing about patience, though. It takes time.