Richt's new deal leaves door open

Now that Georgia coach Mark Richt’s contract has at last been finalized, what’s it mean for all parties involved?

For starters, Richt – who’s entering his 12th season at Georgia – no longer has a buyout if he chooses to walk away or decides he wants to go coach elsewhere or maybe even go into missionary work full time.

Keep in mind that Richt has said repeatedly that Athens is his home, and he has numerous family members living within minutes of him. Plus, his two younger kids are entrenched in their respective schools, and Richt in no way wants to uproot them.

Richt’s salary will essentially stay the same ($2,811,340 per year), so he didn’t get any more guaranteed money despite playing in the SEC championship game last season. His opportunity to earn more money will come in the incentives part of his financial package. He can make up to $800,000 in incentives for such accomplishments as winning the SEC championship, winning the BCS national championship and appearing in BCS bowl games. That’s double from what he could have made in incentives under his old deal, which was set to expire following the 2013 season.

Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity, who did get a raise, emphasized Thursday to reporters that the new contract was a win-win for both sides.

And from a recruiting standpoint, it’s good that this thing was finally put to bed after six months of discussions. Of course, when you look at the way the Bulldogs are recruiting right now (No. 5 nationally in ESPN’s early rankings), it’s hard to say they’ve been negatively affected in any way.

What I read into this new deal is that the door has been left open for both sides to walk away in a year or two if they see fit. When you look at all the numbers involved and how they break down, it almost looks like post-2013 is when Richt will be re-evaluated the closest.

It would take a dreadful season in 2012 for Georgia to fire Richt, and I think we’d all be shocked if the Bulldogs aren’t right there this November competing for the Eastern Division title.

But once we get past the 2013 season, the buyout money Georgia would owe Richt if he were to be fired starts to go down dramatically.

Georgia would owe him $4.8 million if he were to be let go after the 2012 season, and it drops to $2.4 million following the 2013 season and then decreases by $800,000 each year afterward.

One thing we’ve learned in the SEC is that schools aren’t hesitant about paying truckloads of money to send coaches packing if they’re convinced those coaches aren’t the long-term answer.

Tennessee paid Phillip Fulmer $6 million to walk. Auburn paid Tommy Tuberville $5.1 million after he “resigned.” Sylvester Croom pocketed a $3.5 million buyout to “resign” at Mississippi State.

And just this past season, Houston Nutt walked away with $6 million after being fired by Ole Miss. Nutt also collected $3.5 million when he and Arkansas parted ways following the 2007 season.

So schools in this league will clearly pay whatever they feel like they need to pay to get it right in football.

We’ll see where Georgia and Richt are in a year or two. McGarity acknowledged Thursday that this new deal would cost Georgia less money and Richt less money if the two sides decide it’s time to go their separate ways.

There’s also the flip side. If the Bulldogs go on to win the SEC championship in 2012 and have a great season, this is all a moot point. Georgia would then have to pony up and sweeten Richt’s deal considerably.

McGarity said he didn’t see “anything negative here at all” regarding Richt’s new contract, which now runs through 2016.

I wouldn’t call it negative, either. To me, it’s more reality.

And that reality is that McGarity and the Georgia administration simply aren’t ready to throw a lot of guaranteed money at Richt right now because they don’t want to be stuck with a pricey buyout if they decide two years from now that Richt isn’t the answer long term.