2. Mark Richt
While Georgia had climbed out of mediocrity under Jim Donnan, the Bulldogs weren’t considered championship contenders. In the SEC East, they were behind Florida and Tennessee. At the time the Bulldogs were also having problems defeating their rivals.
So when Athletic Director Vince Dooley needed someone to bring the program back to its former glory, he hired Mark Richt who had been the offensive coordinator of Florida State. Richt coached two Heisman winning quarterbacks at Florida State and the Seminoles won two national titles in the 1990’s.
The impact of Richt coming to Athens was immediate. The Bulldogs went 8-4 in 2001, no better than previous years, but Georgia did defeat a top-5 Tennessee team in Knoxville on a last-minute drive by David Greene that produced one of the Bulldog Nation’s favorite radio calls from Larry Munson.
But 2002 signalled the resurrection of the Georgia football program. They finished the year 13-1, won their first SEC Championship Game, winning their first conference title since 1982. The 2002 season also so the rise of David Pollack who earned All-American honors as a sophomore. By his senior year, he had become Georgia’s second three-time All-American.
Georgia returned to the SEC Championship game a year later in a losing effort to LSU to finish the year 10-3.
An upset loss to Tennessee early in the 2004 season kept Georgia from playing for that years SEC title, but Georgia returned to Atlanta in 2005 and defeated LSU to win their second SEC Championship in four years.
Georgia struggled in the middle of the 2006 season which was plagued by quarterback issues. And things were beginning to look bad in 2007 when Georgia began the year 4-2. But with quarterback Matthew Stafford and running back Knowshon Moreno, Richt righted the ship. Georgia finished the regular season 10-2, but early SEC losses kept them out of the SEC title game.
After an upset heavy championship weekend, Richt’s Dawgs looked to have a shot at playing for a national title. But the BCS chose 11-2 LSU instead (who had ended the regular season 4-2), despite winning conference title games not being a prerequisite for going to the national title before that year.
The following three years were a rough patch for Richt’s time at Georgia. In 2008, Georgia started the year at no. 1, but they lost three games that year and ended up 10-3. In 2009, Georgia finished 8-5 and in 2010 Georgia fell to 6-7. At that point Coach Richt was considered to be on the hotseat.
That seat got hotter after starting the 2011 season 0-2 with losses to South Carolina and Boise State. But Georgia, led by quarterback Aaron Murray won 10-straight games to return to the SEC Championship game. Georgia lost that game and their subsequent bowl game to end the year 10-4, but it was a vast improvement from 6-7.
The 2012 team was Georgia’s last to get close to a national championship. After an 11-1 regular season, Georgia lost to Alabama after Murray’s pass was deflected to receiver Chris Conley as time expired. Georgia ended the year with a win in the Capital One Bowl to end the season 12-2.
An injury riddled 2013 finished the season 8-5, but the Bulldogs managed to win 10 games in each of their last two seasons under Richt. However, Athletic Director Greg McGarity elected to fire Richt after the end of the 2015 season.
In 2016, Richt returned to his alma mater Miami to fill their head coaching vacancy.
In 15 years in Athens, Richt went 145-51 overall and 83-37 in the SEC. Georgia also won two SEC Championships, six SEC Eastern Division Championships and he had 9-5 record in Bowl games. After one year at Miani, his record is 154-55 and 10-5 in bowl games.