We know the fates of most of the principle characters from Saved By The Bell: Zack and Kelly got married, Screech pursued work within the educational system and Slater got engaged to the Doritos girl but cheated on her just before their wedding day. These are all the things we know.
But among the things we don’t know is the ultimate fate of Mr. Belding.
During the series finale,1 Mr. Belding relays to us that he is taking a job at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. If this feels strange it should, but for a reason.
It’s strange because Mr. Belding, after years in the California school system, decides to uproot his family to move to Chattanooga. I live in Chattanooga and I’ve frequented the UTC campus. NO ONE is leaving California to live in Chattanooga and they certainly aren’t leaving to become the Dean of Students there. It’s not a bad school by any means. It’s just not worth leaving California.
This is especially true when you factor in his age. Through a variety of context clues, we can reasonably discern that Mr. Belding was born no later than 1951.2 Understanding this, at the time of his announcement about moving to Chattanooga, he would have been about 50. While this certainly isn’t ideal, it is a strange age to make a huge life decision to uproot your family and move cross country.
Moreover, there’s the issue of his teacher/administrator pension.
I’m not sure of the specific details, but let’s assume he needs to have taught 30 years to receive any kind of substantial pension. We know that he couldn’t have begun teaching at 20 because he completed 3 tours of duty in Vietnam. So lets assume he graduated with an undergrad degree in 4 years, lets add 2 more years for a masters degree and then 4 more years for time in Vietnam3 and we are left with, best case scenario, Mr. Belding starting his teaching career at 28.
That gives him 22 total years in the California school system at the age of 50, so I highly doubt that he would walk away that close to retirement / 30 years in the school system. I realize that California’s institutional competency is like watching a group of stoners play Jenga, but that wasn’t explicitly known back in 2000 when Mr. Belding was making his decision, so we can’t assume that he was fleeing the dumpster fire that is California legislation.
So, essentially, I’ve wasted your time to prove that Mr. Belding’s move to Chattanooga was nothing more than a throwaway detail in the series finale. If all that wasn’t enough to convince you, there’s also the fact that since the actor who played Mr. Belding4 is from Chattanooga, this detail was most assuredly a wink and a nod to him. I probably should have led off with that to succinctly explain away the red herring of Chattanooga, but I’m a sucker for overly explicative analysis.
SO, understanding that Mr. Belding did not end up in Tennessee, in terms of a logical conclusion, we are free to speculate about where he ended up.
A few theories:
1) Remained as a principal at Bayside
Probability: Highly improbable
Because Zack and the gang were such a unique group and because Mr. Belding was so thoroughly invested in them, it was probably difficult to replace that dynamic or proceed forward. Moreover, it didn’t help that he was saddled with Screech as an admin assistant, which is like having sex and being left with a super-obnoxious and socially repugnant STD.
2) Climbed the educational ladder to become superintendent of a school system / district.
Probablity: Highly probable
If we consider the Hawaii trip where Mr. Belding organized and led a coalition of high profile educators and principals, we know that he had the sway and support of his peers, so parlaying this sway to a job further up the ladder would probably not be too presumptive.
3) Wal-Mart Greeter
Probability: Moderately improbable.
While he does have the gregarious personality and while he would probably prefer the mindless workload of it in contrast to years of intense paperwork and administration, it’s probably just too much of a step down.
4) Front Man for a Contemporary Jazz Band Named What Is Going On Here and The Hey Hey Heys
Probability: Virtual certainty.
Some people just have the jazz gene and Richard Belding, like Ron Burgundy and John Coltrane, just seems to be one of those people.
What do you think happened to Mr. Belding?