Coach Richt to Christian athletes: Fight to keep FCA in schools

Coach Richt to Christian athletes: Fight to keep FCA in schools

Miami coach Mark Richt walks the sideline during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Georgia Tech in Atlanta in November 2018. (AP Photo/John Amis, File)

Coach Richt to Christian athletes: Fight to keep FCA in schools

Former University of Georgia and University of Miami football coach Mark Richt has taken note of the dwindling presence of God on high school and college campuses and is urging Christians to fight to maintain the influence they still have in these pivotal areas.

Richt made his comments to a Fellowship of Christian Athletes gathering in Tupelo, Mississippi, Sunday evening. FCA, which has almost 20,000 certified campus groups – "Huddles," it calls them – in 114 countries, seeks to lead coaches and athletes into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and his Church.

Richt has a longtime association with FCA and is a member of the group's Hall of Champions. In 2021 he announced publicly that he has Parkinson's Disease. On Sunday, he spoke while seated with one other person in an interview format.

"FCA is in the schools. It's a miracle that FCA can still be in the schools. They won't let the Church in the schools. They got rid of prayer. We've got to fight to keep FCA in those schools," Richt told the crowd.

"Not only are the coaches affected, the players affected, but everybody they influence is affected. I've never been a part of an FCA Huddle that didn't invite all students. We need Christ, period – but we absolutely need him in our schools. FCA can do that."

Richt, 63, resigned from coaching following the 2018 season at Miami citing burnout. His career spanned 18 seasons, and he never failed to lead his team to a bowl game. Only four times did his team fail to end the season ranked in one of the major polls.

He went 26-13 in three seasons at Miami, his alma mater, 145-51 in 15 seasons at Georgia before then. Richt's Georgia teams won two Southeastern Conference championships and six Eastern Division titles.

Born in Omaha, Nebraska, Richt came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ in 1986 while serving as a graduate assistant coach for Bobby Bowden at Florida State. He was moved by Bowden's address to Florida State players after the tragic shooting death of their teammate, Pablo Lopez.

"The next day was a team meeting on Sunday. I was in the back of the room. Coach Bowden was visibly hurt like everybody was. He stood up, and he said, 'Men, I don't know where Pablo is right now. I do not know where he'll spend eternity because I don't know where he was in his faith.

"‘But I do know this. There's a God in Heaven who loves you, who created you, who wants a relationship with you and wants you to live in Heaven with him for all eternity.' Basically, he was preaching the gospel to the team. He said, 'If that was you last night instead of Pablo do you know where you would spend eternity?'

"Well, he was talking to the team, but the Holy Spirit was speaking to me," Richt said.

Confidence in faith

The Parkinson's diagnosis was not Richt's first health challenge as an adult. It was an earlier one that gave him clear affirmation that his faith is real.

Richt and his wife were living in Destin, Florida, after Miami and had settled into a routine of visiting a local gym. It was in the gym that Richt suffered a heart attack. He began to feel his body going numb.

"I'm laying there with my eyes closed then there was this blackout. Dead silence in my spirit. I'm thinking, 'This is it. I'm done, I'm about to die.' But guess what I felt? I felt peace. I felt peace that surpasses all understanding. Not only did I feel peace, I felt excitement. I knew where I was going for all eternity. As my spirit was experiencing this peace, my body was still gasping for air trying to live," Richt said.

"I got so excited and thankful. I wasn't thankful that God saved my spirit and my life at that moment because I was ready to go to Heaven, to be honest with you. I was just so excited that the decision I made in 1986 was real. I'm on my deathbed, and I can't wait to go to Heaven. It was an awesome feeling."