Georgia has won 44 games in the last four years, posting at least ten wins in each season. Only two coaches in SEC history have posted five straight seasons with double-digit victories. Do you know who they are?
Granted, winning ten games is easier now with a 12-game season than it was for Spurrier in an eleven game years, just as it was easier for Spurrier with eleven games and a possible SEC Championship game than for Vince Dooley, Shug Jordan, Paul "Bear" Bryant and others because they had just ten-game seasons with a bowl. And it was much tougher to get a bowl bid back in those days too.
Still, a ten-win season is still a tremendous accomplishment and for Richt to have a chance to be only the third SEC coach to do it five years in a row is pretty darn impressive if you ask me.
Answer: Steve Spurrier 1993-98 (6) and Bear Bryant (5) 1971-75
Saluting the Great Coach Ever
Before we put Richt's five year-run into context with other recent stretches, it appropriate to take a few minutes and remember some of the amazing numbers Bear Bryant put up, and we'll just look at the greatest decade in the history of college football.
Beginning in 1971, Alabama posted a 54-and-6 record over the next five seasons. They lost ONE SEC game in those five years, claimed five SEC Titles and were National Champs in '73. After a dreadful 9-and-3 season in '76, the Tide rolled to a 44-and-4 mark, three more SEC titles and a pair of National Titles.
SO in a ten-year run from 1971 through 1980, Alabama posted a record of 107-and-13. They won eight SEC Titles and three National Titles. They posted a 63-and-4 record in conference games. In a word, dominance!
Richt, Saban, Spurrier and Fulmer
In the last 20 years there have been four coaches who had tremendous success in the first five years at their school. Let's compare the four.
Phillip Fulmer ----- I don't count the four wins as interim coach in 1992, nor do I give him credit for a 1993 forfeit. Still, Fulmer's first five years at Tennessee were incredible. He posted a 49-and-12 record and won the SEC in his fifth season (1997). Fulmer led the Vols to high national finishes, but failed to be Florida in any if those first five seasons.
Nick Saban ----- After coming down from Michigan State, Saban set about building a champion in Baton Rouge. His 48-and-16 record included two conference titles and the National Championship. Saban was 2-and-3 against the Gators, twice winning in The Swamp.
Mark Richt ----- After an 8-and-4 season in 2001, Richt has gone 44-and-9 the last four seasons including a 13-win campaign. Richt, like Saban has two SEC Titles to his credit. The biggest drawback? A 1-and-4 mark against the Gators in Jacksonville.
Steve Spurrier ----- By just about any measure this is clearly the best five year run to start tenure at an SEC school in recent conference history. The HBC posted a 49-12-and-1 record, almost identical to Fulmer's, but there's really no comparison. Spurrier won three SEC Titles his first five seasons at UF, and his '90 squad deserved one as well. Spurrier was 5-and-0 against Georgia and 3-and-2 against Tennessee. Take away his 1-4-1 mark against FSU to that point and the record jumps to 48-and-8. None of the other coaches had to face a perennial powerhouse outside the conference every year like Florida did.
You have to give Spurrier and Fulmer the edge over Richt in their first five years and you can argue for Saban since he won a national title in year five even though Richt has a significantly better overall record. Still, any way you look at it, Mark Richt has had one helluva run. He has a pretty good shot at making it five straight ten-win seasons, but it won't be easy as he searches for a quarterback.
It also won't be easy for Richt to keep pace with Spurrier and Fulmer in his sixth season in Athens. Fulmer went 13-and-0 and won it all in his sixth season in Knoxville, while year six for SOS in Gainesville was a 12-and-1 campaign and # 2 in the nation.
In case you were wondering, here are some other SEC Coaches and their records in their first five years at their school: