Richt, Georgia parting ways after 15 seasons

Coach Mark Richt is out at Georgia, one day after the Bulldogs beat Georgia Tech 13-7 to finish the regular season 9-3.

Georgia announced that Richt was stepping down as its football coach, but a source told ESPN that Richt had been fired.

“I appreciate the opportunity of serving the University as well as considering any other options that may present themselves in the future,” Richt said in a statement.

Georgia will owe Richt a buyout of $ 4.1 million, according to the contract extension he signed in January. He has yet to sign the contract, but athletic director Greg McGarity said the school would honor the deal.

He has agreed to coach the Bulldogs in their upcoming bowl game, sources said. With a victory, Richt would pick up his 10th double-digit-win season at Georgia.

There has been speculation about Richt’s future since losses to Tennessee, Alabama and Florida ended the Bulldogs’ hopes for an SEC championship.

Georgia closed the regular season with four straight wins, but that was not enough to make up for failing to land a spot in the SEC title game. The Bulldogs were the preseason pick in the SEC East.

With a 145-51 record, Richt ranks second on Georgia’s all-time wins list and has guided the Bulldogs to a bowl game in each of his 15 seasons at the helm. He won SEC championships in 2002 and 2005, and his teams played for league titles three other times.

Strongly religious, Richt was respected for his integrity but criticized for failing to keep pace in the SEC’s recent string of seven straight national championships. Georgia’s last national championship, under Vince Dooley, came in 1980.

Richt had the fifth-best winning percentage among active FBS coaches, behind only Ohio State‘s Urban Meyer, Oklahoma‘s Bob Stoops, Alabama‘s Nick Saban and TCU‘s Gary Patterson.

Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, a former Georgia defensive back, is expected to be among the leading candidates to replace Richt.

Georgia defeated only one FBS team with a winning record this season. The Bulldogs lost tailback Nick Chubb, a Heisman Trophy candidate, in their sixth game at Tennessee.

The Bulldogs said a news conference would be held Monday to discuss Richt’s departure.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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