ATHENS, Ga. -- A funny thing happened to Georgia football coach Mark Richt as he hopped off the hot seat by winning the Southeastern Conference's East Division title.
He landed in the gossip pool.
Richt has begun negotiations with athletic director Greg McGarity for a contract extension, though he continues to be mentioned as a candidate elsewhere through unsubstantiated media reports or Internet message boards. He was rumored for the Texas A&M vacancy before that was filled by Houston's Kevin Sumlin and learned Friday that his name was being linked at Penn State by Nittany Lions fans.
"I know that A&M [rumor] got bigger than life, and is that what's happening now?" Richt said. "Anybody who could have possibly represented me in any way, shape or form never said to me, 'Hey, A&M is interested.' I don't know where all that came from.
"That was interesting to me to have that much smoke and no one that I know of got contacted on it. I have not heard a thing or word from Penn State."
The Houston Chronicle, citing one unnamed source, reported that Richt was a candidate for the A&M job and then reported he turned it down. The rumor had resided in the message-board realm until the Chronicle's report, and Richt felt the need last Saturday to issue a statement that he had not discussed any openings elsewhere, nor was he interested in doing so.
Bulldogs players haven't taken any of the reports seriously.
"It just sounded silly to me," junior inside linebacker Christian Robinson said. "I knew that wasn't going to be an issue at all. Coach Richt has always told us that he wants to end his career here. It was never in my mind that he was going to leave."
Richt said after being hired at Georgia in December 2000 that he wanted to coach the Bulldogs for as long as they would have him. He is a firm believer in stable coaching staffs in an era when assistants and head coaches often bolt quickly at other opportunities; he got that belief working 15 seasons under Bobby Bowden at Florida State.
With 11 seasons at Georgia almost in the books, Richt is the longest-tenured coach at the same Southeastern Conference school by four years over LSU's Les Miles and South Carolina's Steve Spurrier.
"I've coached with a couple guys along the way who have never seen a class go from freshman to senior in their whole career," Richt said. "They never stayed four or five years anywhere long enough to see a guy through to the end. You see guys like Ben Harden, Justin Anderson and Bruce Figgins -- you see them in their house when they are 17-year-old kids and then you see them all grown up ready for life.
"I enjoy that a lot. That's a big part of why I coach. You don't get that if you are always looking for something better. There's always going to be something that might look better, but for me there is no place that is better."
Richt isn't bothered by reports linking him to other jobs, admitting that it hasn't been that big of an issue. It does, after all, beat the alternative of having to address your job security.
Parents of prospects in recent months have questioned Richt's job stability, but McGarity is expected to extend his contract through at least the 2015 season.
"There are no great details to talk about, but it's an atmosphere of sensing the excitement of what the future is holding for Georgia," Richt said of his meetings with McGarity. "I feel like we've created a lot of really positive momentum and just want to keep it going. We want to do everything it takes to keep it going."