Mark Richt, The Next Phil Fulmer?

Trent MoodyCorrespondent IMay 20, 2010

ATHENS, GA - NOVEMBER 21:  Head coach Mark Richt of the Georgia Bulldogs against the Kentucky Wildcats at Sanford Stadium on November 21, 2009 in Athens, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The 2010 season will be crucial to Mark Richt and his future with the Georgia Bulldogs.  Richt will be entering his 10th season with the Dawgs where he has compiled an impressive 90-27 regular season record (50-22 in the SEC) and a 7-2 record in bowl games.  During the 9 year stretch Georgia has won 2 SEC titles and finished in the AP top 10 five times.

With that type of record one can't help but wonder how Mark Richt finds his coaching seat a little warm going into this year.

Upon further review the people of Athens are disappointed in his 2-7 record against Florida and losing 3 of the last 4 meetings with Tennessee, the Dawgs two biggest SEC East rivals.

As a life-long supporter of the Tennessee Vols, the grumblings from Georgia sound very familiar to the doubts that arose about former coach Phillip Fulmer late in his career.

Fulmer in his first 12 seasons had a 119-31 record, 2 SEC Championships and a National Championship. Then came the dismal 2005 season and a 5-6 finish that made the natives restless.  The next 2 years were successful with a 10 win season and SEC Championship game appearance, but Fulmer then had another 5 win season that proved to be his last in 2008.

I do not believe the Dawgs will be staring at a losing record this year and be forced to let Richt go, however, there are some factors that are weighing against Richt that Fulmer did not have to deal with.

The main reason it was difficult to let Fulmer go was the fact that he was a UT alum and he had won a national title, Richt has yet to play for one.  The other reason Georgia fans are on edge is based on the huge success the other SEC schools have had during Richt's tenure with 5 national championships from the likes of Florida, LSU (both two time winners) and Alabama.  Urban Meyer and Nick Saban have lapped the field in terms of coaching in the SEC and athletic directors are only going to sit back so long giving coaches chance after chance to prove they will compete.

Fulmer's demise also weighed heavily on the fact that he was unsuccessful in replacing long time offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe.  This may also prove to be a pivotal point for Richt because he has now hired his second defensive coordinator since Brian VanGorder left after the 2004 season.

With all this being said, I believe that Mark Richt is a hell of a coach and any school in the country would welcome him with open arms.  While Fulmer had two losing seasons before he was dismissed, Richt may not be so lucky to have that many chances given the surrounding circumstances. 

Being so close to a title in the previous years makes Georgia fans wonder if their time to be on top has passed them by.  A 30 year national championship drought and the continued success of Saban and Meyer are increasing expectations every year for teams and coaches in the SEC.  Richt may soon be a casualty due to that fact. 

Is it fair?  If that time does come for Georgia fans and the answer is yes, be careful what you wish for.