Those of you who have been following the news for the last month are no doubt aware that Jim Donnan has been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, largely on the strength of his accomplishments at Marshall where he went 64-21, made frequent appearances in the 1-AA national championship game, and even slipped up and won it one year. And during the course of his acceptance speech, he made some remarks about how he had helped (or at least would like to think that he had helped) Mark Richt get off to a positive start at Georgia.
To be sure, Jim Donnan did have his moments at Georgia. Except for his debut season, he won more games than he lost and he took Georgia to a bowl game every year. That was an improvement over what his predecessor, Ray Goof, had done. And he did manage to slip up and beat Steve Spurrier and Philip Fulmer once during the course of his time at Georgia.
Nevertheless, he had some serious off-the-field problems at Georgia. Now, what most people have in mind when they think of this is his demeanor with the fans and the media on call-in shows and postgame talk shows–which got quite ugly at times. But this would never have been an issue if not for the more serious off-the-field problems of his era. Problems like his complete and utter inability to implement meaningful player discipline. Those of you who think Mark Richt is soft on player discipline, you had better think again. Let me call your attention to the way in which he coddled Quincy Carter throughout the course of his time at Georgia, running off all the other quarterbacks in the program and no doubt helping him toward the complete self-destruction of his life and NFL career. And how can you forget that tumultous 2000 season, when rumors of a complete lack of control, of rampant drug use and other problems among the players, of coaches looking the other way and even bending the rules concerning player suspensions to cover it up? (Now, the world of college football is rife with urban legends and much of this probably falls into the category of urban legend, but subsequent events have shown that there was at least an element of truth to those legends.)
Let me remind you that it was Mark Richt who induced Quincy Carter to defect to the NFL while the getting was good. It was Mark Richt who finally kicked Jasper Sanks off the team when it became clear that he would not get his act together. It was Mark Richt who implemented the mat drills which were so crucial to Georgia’s success in the early part of this decade. And it was Mark Richt who saw the implementation of changes to the rules concerning player suspensions which would ensure that the things which were whispered about during that tumultous 2000 season could never happen again.