When former Georgia head coach and athletic director Vince Dooley announced the hiring of Florida State offensive coordinator, Mark Richt, as head coach on Dec. 26, 2000; there was an excitement that swept over the Bulldog Faithful.
Many fans were thrilled with the possibilities of the high-octane offenses Richt would bring to Athens and the SEC.
Not only would he bring his offensive scheme, but he also brought his commitment to excellence, both on and off the field.
He brought discipline to a team that was in disarray, following coaches Jim Donnan and Ray Goff, who seemed to let stuff slide when it came to the off the field issues.
His motto, “Finish the Drill”, is a saying the team has used as motivation for eight years. It is a saying that everyone has believed in, from coaches to the casual fan.
It’s a motto that has led him to a 82-22 career record (fourth among active coaches) and two SEC championships (’02 and ‘05). He is one of only seven coaches to win 80 games in their first eight seasons.
He has been named SEC coach of the year twice (’02 and ‘05) and his teams have won at least 10 games in six of his eight seasons.
When it comes to “finishing the drill”, 16 out of his 82 wins have been after his teams have been tied or trailed going into the fourth quarter, with seven of those wins being against ranked opponents.
He currently holds a 34-3 record against non-conference opponents and a 30-4 record inside opponents stadiums.
So looking at what he has accomplished in his first eight years as the “Head Dawg”, where does he rank among the 24 others that preceded him at the University?
Coaches such as Glenn “Pop” Warner, W.A. Cunningham, Herman Stegeman, George “Kid” Woodruff, Henry Mehre, Wally Butts, and the legendary Vince Dooley.
As far as wins go, Richt’s 82 victories rank third on the list following Dooley (201) and Butts (140). His two SEC championships rank third behind Dooley (six) and Butts (four).
Both Dooley and Butts both have a national title to their credit, where as Richt has yet to accomplish that feat.
His eight seasons as coach rank fourth behind Dooley (22), Butts (21), Mehre (nine) and Cunningham (nine).
More than anything, coach Richt has brought a family atmosphere to the University. He has a family night where all the players can eat with the coaches and their families.
It’s a time where the players can see how a father and husband should act around their families. Some may see this as minor, but to many of the kids that come to Athens they do not have a father figure to look up to back home.
Not only has the family atmosphere helped develop most of these young kids into men, it has also brought the Bulldog nation together.
He has made the program into a place that we all feel we can send our sons, nephews and even grandsons. We know its a program that will still have someone who will instill the morals and discipline that we know they need.
We have a confidence as players and fans, that we can win no matter who we play or where we play. It’s a confidence we lost under the guidance of Goff and Donnan.
Before Richt, only Dooley was able to accomplish the feat of bringing us all together. After looking at the body of work of each coach, I would have to rank Richt at No. 2 behind Dooley.
Like Dooley, Richt will be able to coach at the University as long as he desires. Let’s all hope that his tenure is just as long, if not longer, than coach Dooley’s.