Success—On and Off the Field
About the Guest
When you’ve become the head coach of a major NCAA football program and delivered a brilliant winning record in five seasons, haven’t you earned a few bragging rights? Wrong, says Georgia Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt. Today, we’ll hear about how a Christian couple keeps it all in proper perspective as they live life in the fast lane of college football.
Mark and Katharyn RichtMark and Katharyn Richt live in Athens, Georgia where Mark is the head football coach of the University of Georgia Bulldogs. Their world was rocked in 2006 when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. “Katharyn handled her cancer as faithfully as anyone could,” says her friend Vanessa Miller.
When you’ve become the head coach of a major NCAA football program and delivered a brilliant winning record in five seasons, haven’t you earned a few bragging rights?
Success—On and Off the Field
Mark: I don’t see how a guy can get too puffed up in this business because there are so many responsibilities and pressures and things that can happen that you have to deal with. At any given week during the season you can get your tails whipped and that is humbling in itself. I think for me personally it’s probably the very thing I need to be doing.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, August 28th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife Dennis Rainey and I’m Bob Lepine. We’re going to hear about the ups and the downs of being a major college football coach today as the college football season gets under way.
Welcome to FamilyLife Today thanks for joining us. I wish our listeners could be where we are and see the drawing on the board over here. There is a big dog dressed up in a football uniform.
Dennis: It’s a bulldog. Not just a dog, Bob.
Bob: That’s right and then there is a coach right next to the big dog in the football uniform and right above the big dog it says life’s tough get a helmet.
Mark: That’s our son, David. He’s got a great imagination. He drew a helmet with the Georgia G on it and said life’s tough get a helmet. Don’t complain.
Bob: Is that coach supposed to be you there next to the dog?
Mark: Well, you know what that was a picture that was already drawn on a piece of paper that our son John probably five years ago drew it up there. Since that time there has been additional drawings by other family members and of course David’s life’s tough get a helmet.
Dennis: Here’s the thing Bob. You’ve asked me who I wanted to interview—a coach or a movie star. I want to ask you if you were going to interview a coach would you want to interview a coach who knowingly broke a rule in the game when they scored a touchdown.
What about a man of character? A man of discipline who I have admire and I couldn’t believe this happened!
Bob: I wasn’t watching the game but boy it was the lead story on SPORTSCENTER that night. Tell everybody about what you did.
Bob: This was against Tennessee, is that right?
Mark: No, sir.
Bob: Oh, against Florida.
Mark: As fast as I can say it. Tennessee had something to do with it though. We had played Tennessee and got whipped. We had no spirit. We had no fight. We had no enthusiasm. It was almost like we got whipped and we enjoyed it. So I knew something had to change and it had to change in a hurry.
We had an open date before we played Florida and the very first time I met with the team after the game, not right after the game in the locker room, but the next time we were back in town I said, Men, we have got to have some enthusiasm. We have got to have some spirit. We have to get it going. I said, even if we have to fake it we are going to have enthusiasm on this team. As a matter of fact when we score our first touchdown against Florida we are going to celebrate. I want you all to celebrate long enough until the official throws the flag and we take the 15 yard penalty.
Now, here’s the deal. My intention was for the team on the field after the score to jump up and down in the end zone and the official throws the flag and everybody gets excited. That’s what I meant by the team. Well, as the two weeks went on if a kid would score against the scout team he’d spin the ball or take the ball and pretend like he’s throwing it up in the bleachers. Or a couple of guys would do a little dance and I saw where this was going.
So finally it’s game day. We are getting ready to go from the hotel to the stadium. I said, men a little house keeping before we get started. I did promise that you could celebrate after a score but here are the ground rules. Number one if we don’t score in the first half we are not celebrating anything. I’m not going to celebrate when we are down 35-7.
Number two, I saw some of you working on individual celebrations and it’s not going to be that. It’s a team celebration not an individual celebration. Again, I meant the team on the field. They misunderstood when I said I expect the team to celebrate. As a matter of fact if you guys don’t celebrate hard enough to get a flag I am going to run everybody.
So again I was putting pressure on the 11 players in the game. I told the guys the reason it’s going to be a team celebration is because the defense will probably set it up and the line will probably block for that back to get in the end zone. It’s a team deal. So anyway when we scored I was expecting the guys on the field to celebrate which they did. Then all of a sudden little by little they start trickling out and …
Bob: The bench cleared.
Mark: It was like the dam broke and it was a stampede. Only one guy stayed on the side line and he had been in my doghouse before. He’s like I’m not going on the field. They all ran out there and I was like oh my goodness what is happening. It shocked me but then when I saw the exuberance on the field I got fired up.
Dennis: I thought it was cool.
Mark: I’m like thank you for the spirit that has come back to this team where I thought it was dead. Now, I didn’t even think about the ramifications of it. It could have been a fight. The goal was not to demean anybody. The goal was to celebrate. I made my apologies and we moved forward.
Bob: You did win the game, right?
Mark: We did win the game and it was an exciting game.
Dennis: We’ve talked about your marriage and how you came to faith and how Katharyn came to faith. Your surrender to Christ has really been the foundation of your marriage. In Matthew 7 it talks about the house that is built on the rock withstands the storms.
I can’t think of many professions that take place in the midst of a flood plain more than a head football coach. Let’s talk for a moment about how this profession impacts your marriage and how you have weathered it.
Bob: You know, when you started off by saying I want to talk to Katharyn because she has a unique profession I thought I wasn’t thinking water dog I was thinking coach’s wife.
Bob: That is a unique profession. I remember talking to Bill McCartney head coach at the University of Colorado. He said at the beginning sometime in July or August we have a barbeque with all the coaches and their wives and it was called the football is here--good bye dear barbeque.
Dennis: That is what they called it.
Bob: Because we knew that from then until the bowl game we weren’t going to be around very much. Is that what life is like for you?
Katharyn: It is. Although here at Georgia and it’s one of the things we’ve taken from Coach Bowden we have one night of the week usually typically Monday nights which is family night.
All the coach’s families get to come up here and get to have dinner with their husbands. Every other week the players join us for dinner. We encourage family very strongly here. A lot of the little boys you’ll see out on the field are the coach’s sons and a lot of the wives especially with younger children bring their kids to practice a great deal.
Mark: We have four practice fields. Two are for our football team and the other two are for our coach’s kids.
Katharyn: Yes, they have a great time. We have probably 40+ children on staff. So we try to encourage family as much as we can here.
Mark: The other thing we do is we don’t start our staff meetings until 10:30. That doesn’t mean we don’t’ come to work until 10:30 but we do that to allow our coaches who have children to take their kids to school every day. Every day I’m home I take the kids to school. We get up and have breakfast together and then we have a devotion together. Then I take them to school. That is nice and normal. The coach’s who have children that age most all of them take their kids to school.
As Katharyn said a lot of our water boys are coach’s sons. Also, we’ll have meetings where a coach’s little daughters may jump in the room and hug their daddy and hang around on his lap a little bit and then hit the road. There are a lot of football offices where young kids are not allowed in there so we allow that. We encourage that.
Dennis: We’ve been to the Colts headquarters and interviewed Coach Dungy and they have a similar schedule. What’s hitting me as you are talking is that you can win and protect family.
Dennis: You can do your job and be successful. You don’t have to sacrifice your family to be a winner.
Mark: No. As a matter of fact if we sacrifice our families for the reward of a ring or a championship or a bonus it’s pretty sad actually.
Dennis: It’s pretty shallow.
Mark: Very shallow. I really tried to hire men who are family men. I want them to love their wives. I want them to love their children. I want them to be that example for our players. It’s another reason why we have the family night and we invite the players so they can see that modeled. There are so many of our young men who never really saw that in their life growing up.
So that is a very important piece of the puzzle and I also want our coaches to know what it is like to have a child and to turn their child over to someone. It could be school or a sports team and expect their child to be treated a certain way. That is the way I want our players to be treated. That is very, very important when it comes to hiring a coach here at Georgia.
Bob: Katharyn there have to be Mondays when you open the newspaper or I don’t know if you listen to sports talk radio.
Katharyn: No, and I don’t open the newspaper either.
Dennis: You don’t go to the blogs?
Bob: You know that on particular days your husband is pardon the expression “in the dog house” and there are folks who are saying it is time for a new coach at Georgia.
Mark: Oh, yes.
Bob: It’s got to be hard to be in the grocery store and somebody says, did you see what they were talking about Mark on the TV last night?
Katharyn: Right. A lot of times I’ll say I didn’t see it and I did that on purpose. You know what is going on. You don’t have to read the newspaper or listen to the radio. If we played poorly or if we lost it all comes down to winning and losing. I know the reality is that we are here for God’s purposes. God brought us here and He will keep us here at Georgia as long as He wants us here. So I just have to rest in that.
Mark: Right. The other thing is when you talk about how things are going even if you don’t read the newspaper or listen to the radio if you go to church and everybody comes up to you and says they are praying for you…
Mark: I’ll say gosh it must be pretty bad out there.
Mark: I try not to read that stuff or listen to it either or even with the correspondence that I get from people. If it is constructive criticism in the right spirit I will read it and answer it. If it’s just foul and mean spirited I just tell my secretary to dump it.
Dennis: Yes. Has there ever been a dark moment in your marriage where your covenant or commitment to each other was tested?
Mark: I can’t think of a time. I really can’t. I don’t know how you feel Katharyn.
Mark: We have just been so blessed. We always have submitted our wills to the Lord and I can’t think of one time when that happened. I’ll say this, too, about the coaching profession.
I think for me personally it’s probably the very thing I need to be doing because it is such a humbling job.
I don’t see how a guy can get too puffed up in this business because there are so many responsibilities and pressures and things that can happen that you have to deal with. At any given week during the season you can get your tails whipped and that is humbling in itself. I think I probably needed to have a job where it was humbling and I needed to rely on God completely.
Bob: You were on the staff at Florida State as an assistant and you started getting calls from different universities saying we are looking for a head coach. How many calls did you get like that before you said maybe it time?
Mark: Well, a few. One in particular five years prior to taking the Georgia job was the University of Pittsburgh. Athletic directors don’t’ like to come out and say they offered you a job because if you turn it down they don’t want to say Coach Richt turned down the University of Pittsburgh. When Katharyn and I were leaving for our trip there the athletic director said if you would spend the night we have a basketball game tomorrow and we can introduce you as the new head coach at Pittsburgh. So I took that as an offer of the job…
But we said no we have to go home first. I remember telling Katharyn we cannot decide on the trip because we are going to want to go. It’s just like a recruit. You go on that trip and you get excited and you want to commit but then you go home and 48 hours later you are not sure if that was the right thing to do. So, we decided to come home and pray about it. As much as we wanted to go I never thought Katharyn would want to go because her home was Tallahassee. She grew up there and we were at Florida State in Tallahassee.
Anyway, after thinking about it I remember thinking to myself…and I thought I asked Katharyn the question and she maybe denies this but I asked, honey to you want to live in Pittsburgh for the rest of your life? She said, probably not. Why do you ask? I said, well, I don’t want to take this job knowing that it would be a stepping stone to go somewhere else.
I said if we ever leave Tallahassee which I love and we love. I want it be a place where we feel like we could spend the rest of our career because I never want to walk into that player meeting and say hey guys I really appreciate what you did for me. But I want to go to this better place than to be with you. There is no better place for me than to be with our players here at the University of Georgia.
At that time even though God was saying you are not ready for this opportunity I knew I wasn’t ready. I believe God said you get ready because it is coming. When it comes you will know it and it was five years later then when the Georgia job opened up.
As a matter of fact the year that Pittsburgh came open was the year that Georgia had come open also. So when Coach Donnan took it over and we had a little discussion and thought that would be a neat place. It was probably out of our range but that would be a neat place. Then five years later Georgia did come open.
Bob: So are you saying if Miami, your almamater, called or Nebraska?
Mark: Well, I’ll say this.
Dennis: The decision by Coach Katharyn. She’s just shaking her head no.
Mark: Well, Miami was actually in the mix during the Georgia time. Then since I’ve been at Georgia Miami has opened again. It could have been a possibility but we’ve dropped anchor. We decided before we got here that we were going to love Athens. We weren’t going to wait to see if we liked it or test the waters. We had made a commitment to this program and we knew on the front end before we set foot in this town that this was our home and we loved it. We couldn’t wait to become a part of the community. We couldn’t wait to raise our kids here and it’s been awesome.
Bob: A lot of coaches find out that they don’t get to stay as long as they had hoped.
Mark: Right, and we didn’t know. I was a first time head coach and it was the Eastern division of the Southeastern Conference. It was the toughest division in all of college football. Who would have thought that we could have survived more than three or four years. We had no earthly idea but I think I had to be ready not only mentally or in a professional way but I had to be ready in a spiritual way, too.
Katharyn helped me understand that even at the Pittsburgh job. I needed to ready spiritually to handle everything that was about to happen. By doing so it helped me understand how we need to operate. We need to operate in this way. The bottom line is the way I want to operate is a way that would honor God. If that is good enough to keep the job great and if it’s not, that’s fine too. If we have to cheat to win or skirt the rules to get things done or cover things up to make it happen then I just as soon do something else for a living.
Dennis: I really appreciate that about you. It’s been fun to meet you and talk with you both and get more of the story behind you. I’m thinking of a passage in the Old Testament. I think it’s the Old Testament prophet Amos who said how can two walk together unless they be agreed. You have agreed on who your master is going to be.
Dennis: You’ve agreed on your mission. You are building into young men and more than just making football players who are successful and as citizens. They are responsible men who care for their wives and families. You have made a great impact in the community of Athens, Atlanta, the state of Georgia, and around the country. It has been a real privilege to be with you. I’ve got a friend here who helped arrange this. Ken Daniels who is going to buy me a Bulldog tie after this is over.
Mark: That’s right.
Dennis: I won’t wear it to a Razorback game.
I’m going to get hate mail because I am saying this anyway but we all have to have our fans.
Dennis: I’m big fans of yours and you know that.
Mark: I don’t mind you cheering for your team. If everybody cheered for the same team it would be no fun.
Dennis: All but one game next year I will be cheering for you.
Mark: All right.
Dennis: Thanks for being with us.
Mark: We enjoyed it.
Katharyn: Thank you. We appreciate it.
Bob: You’ve just got us in real trouble now with all of our friends in Oklahoma because Georgia plays Oklahoma State next weekend. In fact, kickoff is at 3:30 E.S.T. on ABC and I guess we know who you will be cheering for.
I’m sitting here thinking about the college football sports fans and there are a lot of them who we know. I want to encourage our listeners if you know someone who is either a big Georgia fan or a big Southeastern Conference fan or just a big football fan. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com and get a copy of the CD that features our conversation this week with Mark and Katharyn Richt. Give them that CD just because you know they are a football fan. Find out how God will use that in their life. It may open the door for you to have a spiritual conversation with them. It may get them thinking about the fact that there is more to life than football. But it is something that they will be interested in because they are football fans.
Again, our web site is FamilyLifeToday.com. There is information available right there for about how you can get the CD of our conversation with Mark and Katharyn Richt. Also there is information about how you can get a copy of Coach Tony Dungy’s book, Quiet Strength. Of course Coach Dungy was until last year the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts in the NFL. He led the team to Super Bowl a couple of years ago. Again, if you know a sports fan this would be the kind of book they would love to read. In the process of reading it they would find out about Coach Dungy’s faith, values, and what is most important in his life.
Again the information about these resources can be found on our web site FamilyLifeToday.com. Or if it easier call toll-free at 1-800-FL-TODAY. That’s 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in Life and then the word TODAY. If you call and get in touch with us, someone on our team can answer any questions you have about these resources or make arrangements to have the ones you need sent out to you.
We have had over the last couple of days a number of listeners who have stopped by our web site FamilyLifeToday.com and have viewed some of the “Take Five” videos that we put there. These are brief accounts of how God has been using the ministry of FamilyLife in the lives of some real life couples and the videos take about five minutes to watch.
If you have a few minutes today I encourage you to go to FamilyLifeToday.com and watch one or all of these videos. Especially for those of you who help support this ministry with your donations. This is how you can see how your contribution is paying dividends in the lives of couples all across the country. We want to say thanks for your support of this ministry.
We are wrapping up our fiscal year here at FamilyLife this month. We are hoping we can end this year in as strong as financial condition as possible. We hope in these last few days of August those of you who are FamilyLife Today listeners will consider making a special fiscal year end contribution to FamilyLife Today. You can do that on line at FamilyLifeToday.com or by calling 1-800-FL-TODAY. Let me say thanks in advance for whatever you are able to do. We do appreciate your support of this ministry and your partnership with us.
We hope you have a great weekend. We hope you and your family are able to worship together and I hope you can join us back on Monday. Steve and Candice Watters are going to be here. Candice has a message for single, young women. Get married and she is going to talk about what you can do to improve your chances of getting married. That all comes up Monday. I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today Robbie Neal and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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