Georgia coach Mark Richt chuckled when responding to speculation that he might retire after the No. 13 Bulldogs' 37-14 victory over No. 21 Louisville in the Belk Bowl on Tuesday night.
"I have no idea," a smiling Richt said.
When Richt was asked if he'd be back on the sideline next season, which would be his 15th at Georgia, he said: "That's the plan. You can go ask the team."
Richt, 54, has been among the winningest coaches in college football since 2001. His .739 winning percentage (136-48 record) ranks fourth among active FBS coaches who have coached at least 100 games in FBS conferences, trailing only Ohio State's Urban Meyer (.843), Oklahoma's Bob Stoops (.792) and Alabama's Nick Saban (.752).
Richt is one of only five coaches in NCAA Division I history to win 115 games or more in his first 13 seasons, and he has guided the Bulldogs to two SEC championships, five appearances in the SEC championship game and 14 consecutive bowl games.
However, Georgia hasn't won an SEC championship since 2005. The Bulldogs have knocked on the door of the BCS championship game but never broke through. In 2002, Georgia finished 13-1. In 2007, the Bulldogs went 11-2 and might have been the best team in the country at season's end. In 2012, Georgia went 12-2 and came within 5 yards of beating Alabama in the SEC championship game and reaching the BCS National Championship Game.
Richt has three years left on a contract that pays him $3.2 million annually and runs through the 2017 season. He is the seventh-highest-paid coach in the SEC. The school would owe Richt $800,000 per year if he was dismissed before the end of the contract.
Over the next few weeks, Richt and Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity will meet to discuss the future of the program. Richt's supporters want UGA to invest in its football program like other SEC schools are doing, according to multiple people close to the situation.
Earlier this month, UGA offensive coordinator Mike Bobo left to become Colorado State's head coach. With Bobo directing the offense, Georgia set a single-season school record for scoring in 2014, despite playing much of the season without star tailback Todd Gurley, receivers Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley and while playing with a first-year quarterback, Hutson Mason.
Despite the results, Bobo, a former Georgia quarterback, wasn't among the highest-paid coordinators in the country, making $525,000 annually (he'd received a $240,000 raise in 2013 to make his compensation more competitive). Bobo ranked only 40th in salary among assistants in the country, according to a recent survey of salaries by USA Today.
During the past couple of months, Georgia's assistants have openly politicked for an indoor practice facility, as well as a renovated locker room and recruiting suite at Sanford Stadium. Georgia's locker room at Sanford Stadium still has cinder-block walls and has seen better days. Without those improvements, Richt's supporters say, he can't be reasonably expected to compete with other SEC schools.
Next season, Georgia expects to bring back seven starters on both offense and defense. Linebackers Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins and Mitchell have said they'll return to school, instead of entering the NFL draft, although Gurley is turning pro. The Bulldogs will bring back four of five starters on the offensive line, as well as Chubb and freshman tailback Sony Michel. They'll have to break in a new quarterback, with Brice Ramsey, Jacob Park and Faton Bauta expected to compete for the starting job.
Richt will have to hire two new assistants after losing Bobo and Will Friend, his former offensive line coach, who is joining Bobo at Colorado State. Georgia tight ends coach John Lilly might have been auditioning for the offensive coordinator job during the Belk Bowl, and former Florida offensive coordinator Kurt Roper might also be a candidate for the job.