Gazette sports editor

Head football coach Mark Richt did what everyone in the Bulldog Nation hoped he would do. He returned the University of Georgia team to the promised-land filled with sugar coated trophies.

For his efforts the second year head coach automatically became a ten-year head coach (as far as the contract is concerned) as Richt recently signed an eight-year deal worth a reported 12 million dollars.

Sure, that's a lot of money, but there can be little argument that Richt is worth a lot of money. He has clearly done many things well in a relatively short period of time. Hopefully, the good times will continue. For 12 million dollars, there are many who expect nothing less.

But lets talk for a minute about the people who make the jobs of people like Mark Richt, Bobby Bowden and Mike Price just a little easier. I speak of the high school football coach.

These would be the people who toil on the sidelines on Friday nights and who open the weight room early in the mornings during the summer months. These are the guys who shoulder a multitude of responsibilities. They mow the grass, wash the uniforms, drum up support from the community and market their players to the coaches at the next level. And of course they must, in the midst of all of this activity, create a winning football team. And sometimes, even that is not enough.

Take the case of the recently disposed Valdosta head coach Mike O'Brien. Here was a guy who led his teams to 70 wins in a seven-year span. The Wildcats made the playoffs in six of those seven years and managed to win a state championship. Here's a man who, from all appearances, was getting the job done. So why was he fired? Nobody knows...or I should say that nobody's saying, because certainly somebody knows. First guess goes to the principal.

You see, this is how it works at the high school level. According to what I've been told by board members and administrators who should know, everybody at the high school, including the head football coach, works for the principal. He (or she) decides to hire a head coach and makes a recommendation to the board of education, which will either approve the recommendation or not.

Of course, it's not that simple. The principal answers to the board and the superintendent, and these two bodies have been known to influence the decision making process. Now I'm not suggesting that the board of education and the superintendent not have a hand in the hiring and firing of personnel. I am, however, suggesting that these people of power get the facts before they support what could be a bad decision.

For example, I have been told that some board members "heard" that Mike O'Brien wasn't working hard enough. I hope that's not the case because to displace a head coach and more than a dozen assistants for something that was "heard" would be a travesty of justice, and I'd like to emphasize the word justice.

As a registered voter and a tax-paying supporter of the local school system, I would demand that each board member get out from behind his or her civilian desk and thoroughly investigate a situation before making a costly decision.

That's right, I'd demand it. Because in case you've forgotten, the board of education works for us and it is our right to demand that the board of education do its best. And basing a decision on hearsay is not doing what's best.

React to this story:


Trending Video