Richt gets deserved raise, extension

Georgia's Mark Richt deserved at least an extension on his contract in 2011 after getting the Bulldogs to the SEC championship game despite an 0-2 start.

He didn't get an extension or a raise, which raised more than a few eyebrows. In fact, the buyout in his deal was reworked to make it easier (and less expensive) for both sides to walk away.

On Tuesday, Richt got his extension and a $390,000 raise after leading the Bulldogs to their second straight SEC championship game appearance and their first 12-win season since 2002 when they won 13 -- Richt's second season in Athens.

Richt's contract now runs through the 2017 season, and his salary increases from $2.81 million to $3.2 million.

He deserves every bit of it, too.

I realize that some Georgia fans are convinced that Georgia will never win a championship under Richt (and I hear from you often). But to win one, you have to first be in position to win one, and he's had the Bulldogs in the SEC championship game each of the past two years. For that matter, he was a tipped pass from playing for the national title this past season.

From where I stand -- and most reasonable people stand -- he has the program pointed in the right direction.

I understand the frustration of fans when they see Georgia go to Columbia, S.C., last year and lay a huge egg against South Carolina. Those same fans look at the amount of talent that has flowed through Georgia the past several years and wonder why the Bulldogs haven't won an SEC title since 2005. It was equally disappointing for Georgia fans that the Bulldogs missed out on many marquee in-state prospects this recruiting period.

Still, only Alabama, Florida and LSU have won more SEC games than Georgia over the past five years, and the Bulldogs have beaten the Gators each of the past two years -- the first time that's happened since Georgia won three in a row from 1987 to '89.

Richt's longevity probably works against him. He's entering his 13th season at Georgia, and head coaches in the SEC aren't supposed to last that long. For a lot of fans, it's a rush when a new coach comes in promising a new attitude, new system and new way of doing things. But new isn't always better, and new certainly doesn't guarantee more wins ... or a championship.

And what a lot of fans forget sometimes is that it can always get worse.

Tennessee fans know a little something about that.

Richt has proved that he'll have Georgia in that SEC championship mix, and if he keeps getting there regularly, he'll win another one. Plus, Richt has represented the university with the utmost class and dignity since arriving in 2001.

My sense is that he'll be one of those rare coaches in this league who leaves on his own terms.

That said, I don't think Richt will still be coaching at Georgia (or anywhere, for that matter) five years from now. He loves football and loves coaching football, but it doesn't define who he is. A deeply spiritual man, Richt has other callings in life he would like to tackle down the road.

My advice to Georgia fans is to enjoy him while you can, because there's no guarantee that the next guy who comes in will win 75 percent of his games, win 10 or more games eight times in a 12-year span and generate six top-10 finishes in the polls in those 12 years. That's a pretty impressive run by any standard.