UGA coach Martinez, two others lose jobs

Three members of Georgia’s defensive coaching staff – including defensive coordinator Willie Martinez – are out after the Bulldogs completed their worst regular season since Mark Richt became head coach in 2001.

Also out are defensive ends coach Jon Fabris and linebackers coach John Jancek after the Bulldogs (7-5) allowed 26.4 points per game this season – just shy of the school record of 26.6 points per game set in 1990.

All three have been asked to coach in Georgia’s upcoming bowl game.

Reached by cell phone Wednesday afternoon, Georgia coach Mark Richt declined to comment, but later released a statement through the university.

“I cannot express enough my thanks to all three for their contributions to our program,” Richt said. “However, in the final analysis I’m charged with providing the leadership and direction for the Georgia program and sometimes that means making difficult decisions. This was one of them.”

Georgia’s players learned the news during a 10-minute team meeting at 4 p.m. at Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall, less than a half hour after the school announced the firings.

When they emerged, fifth-year defensive tackle Jeff Owens had a one-word reaction intitally.

“Bummer,” Owens said. “You need to talk to some of the young guys. The young guys, it really affects.”

There has been speculation about possible coaching changes for weeks. Still, Owens said, “Yeah, I was surprised. You love the coaches. First of all, you play hard for them, give it all you’ve got.”

Sophomore linebacker Marcus Dowtin, who was heading into the locker room before a weight room workout, said “I don't have no reaction to it. I’m looking forward to the next coach, I guess.”

A Georgia sports communications staffer then requested that reporters leave the first-floor lobby area.

Martinez, 46, has been a common target of angry Georgia fans’ wrath in the past two seasons, when the Bulldogs surrendered 37 or more points nine times after giving up that many points just twice in Richt’s first seven seasons.

Martinez and Richt were former teammates at the University of Miami. Richt hired Martinez on his first Georgia staff in 2001 and he spent his first four seasons as the Bulldogs’ defensive backs coach.

Fabris was also a member of Richt’s first Georgia staff, coaching defensive ends and coordinating some of the Bulldogs’ special teams units. He also drew fire in recent seasons for some of the kickoff coverage strategies he employed.

Jancek joined Georgia’s staff in 2005 and was named co-defensive coordinator before this season after turning down a coordinator position at South Florida.

Georgia won the 2005 Southeastern Conference championship in Martinez’s first season as coordinator and finished No. 2 in the final poll in 2007, but Georgia’s defense has slipped every season since he was quickly promoted after VanGorder left to coach in the NFL.

Georgia finished in the top 20 in scoring defense and total defense from 2005-2007, but was 59th in 2008 and is 71st this season.

The Bulldogs are tied for fewest turnovers gained among Football Bowl Subdivision teams with 10. But Georgia’s offense has made the defense’s job tougher by committing 27 turnovers, 20 in Georgia territory, which led to 105 points.

“As I look back, I’ve never had a season where the turnover ratio was just so poor,” Richt said after Saturday’s win over Georgia Tech. “If you just take that one thing and maybe just break even, we probably win two or three more games without changing just one thing, but you can’t do that. There are definitely things that we need to correct, but I think everything’s correctable.”

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