UGA's Coach Mark Richt: Will His Chase for the National Title End in 2012?

Georgia ByrdContributor IFebruary 12, 2012

Coach Mark Richt will celebrate his 52nd birthday on Feb. 18
Coach Mark Richt will celebrate his 52nd birthday on Feb. 18Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Georgia Coach Mark Richt will turn 52 this Saturday. By all appearances, Richt has held his age well. Aside from a slight paunch around the middle and thinning hair, he has maintained a stellar image for the University of Georgia since he became the head coach in 2001. And in an age where coaches have been canned like tuna in a fish factory, that's something to be quite proud of.  

For this morally motivated college coach—once a star high school quarterback— Richt has learned to rally when the times get tough. In fact, he's become the poster child for success, literally.

How's that? In 2006, Richt was selected by those who decide who goes on the Wheaties' box to do just that. To date, he's the only Georgia coach in history to ever grace the cover of the "Breakfast of Champions." Break out the milk and let the cheering begin!

Richt is a champion. In his tenure at Georgia he's won two Southeastern Conference Championships (2002 and 2005), and through 2011, he has won five SEC Eastern Division titles (2002, 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2011). His team represented the SEC in three BCS bowl appearances with a record of 2–1, and finished in the top 10 of the final Associated Press poll five times (2002–2005, 2007).

This past year, his Bulldogs invaded Knoxville and took home his 100th career victory, creating a fairy tale weekend for Dawg fans.  

Richt is no stranger to adversity. He's also not afraid of it either. When talk turned bitter after his first two losses of the 2011 season, he bowed up and defended his critics finishing with two losses short of a perfect regular season and a postseason marred with an SEC Championship loss to LSU and a bowl-game loss, but heavy with promises of better times to come.  

As the bitter cold of a North wind gone south blows through Athens today, Richt stands on the threshold of his Feb. 18 birthday facing a few stinging obstacles. He's kicked two players off the team. That, coupled with the departure of three defensive backs since the last season, are just the beginning of his challenges for a 2012 team that is slated to do great things.  

With all the kudos a good man could achieve in a lifetime, there is one thing that Richt might be wishing for as he blows out the candles on his birthday cake this week. That would be the wish for a Bulldogs' national championship in 2012.  

But Richt is well aware that the road to the National Championship has to start somewhere. And the first stop on that journey is just around the corner as spring unfurls on a practice field in Athens, Georgia.