Spring 2021 Magazine

Mark Richt might still be coaching had he better listened to 'what God has to say about rest'

The first weekend of college football is almost here, and for the first time since the 1984 season, Mark Richt won’t be preparing for an opponent.

Had the longtime Georgia and Miami coach done a better job resting, however, he might still be on the sidelines instead of in the studio with the new ACC Network.

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“I kind of wore myself really, really thin, and if I would have just done a better job of listening to what God has to say about rest, I might still be [coaching], to be honest with you,” Richt said recently on the Sports Spectrum Podcast.

But he’s not too upset. He’s quickly gotten used to sleeping in and spending time with his family. And he’ll still be deeply involved with football, discussing the action as a broadcaster for the brand-new network, which launched on Thursday.

“I’m looking forward to talking about ball,” Richt said. “I still love the game of football. I still believe it’s the greatest team sport ever invented.”

While a student at Miami, Richt played behind Jim Kelly in the late ’70s and early ’80s. He then briefly backed up more Hall of Famers in John Elway and Dan Marino in the NFL. But Bobby Bowden opened the door to Richt’s coaching career when he gave him a shot as a graduate assistant with the Florida State Seminoles in 1984.

Richt moved up the coaching ranks, and in 2001 he was hired as the head coach at Georgia, where he remained until 2015. He was then the head coach at his alma mater from 2016-2018 until announcing his retirement from coaching last December.

He showcased his coaching acumen by winning two SEC titles and one ACC title during his stint as the head man. Yet it was his time coaching with Bowden at Florida State that he received something of infinitely more value: a relationship with Christ.

Tragedy struck the Florida State football team in 1986 when offensive linemen Pablo Lopez was shot and killed at point-blank range. Bowden addressed the entire team and coaching staff, including Richt, following Lopez’s murder.

Richt recalled on the podcast what Bowden said in that somber locker room so long ago:

“I believe there’s a Heaven and there’s a hell, and God created us and He loves us. And we all fall short of the glory of God because we sin and we can’t meet God’s standard of perfection, but that’s why He gave us His Son Jesus to live that perfect life and be that perfect sacrifice for our sin. If we would just accept that gift of salvation from His Son Jesus, then we can be saved from the judgment that God has for sin and we can live in paradise with God.”

Richt visited Bowden’s office the next day and received Christ as his Savior. His perspective on life soon shifted. “My goal became to try to live a life that was pleasing to God,” he said.

Richt understands the importance of a personal relationship with God, which he cultivates through daily quiet time reading the Bible and praying. And now that he’s traded in his spot on the sidelines for a seat in the broadcast booth, Richt has more time and less stress than he did as a coach. He’s adapting to a slower pace.

“[God has] taught me that it’s important to rest,” Richt said. “I didn’t do a very good job of resting [as a coach]. I didn’t do very good with the Sabbath. God gave us the Sabbath for a reason.”

Richt’s former team, the Miami Hurricanes, kick off the college football season Saturday night at 7 p.m. ET against No. 8 Florida. The game is at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fla.

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