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As Mark Richt Turns 50, the Georgia Bulldogs Turn a Corner

I admit it: I dropped the ball. I had business in downtown Atlanta today, and I’m getting geared up for a weekend of University of Georgia athletics that includes a gymnastics meet, a men’s basketball game, and four baseball games. Also, I was focused on saying "I told you so!" because, well, I told you so.

Accordingly, I completely forgot that Mark Richt turned 50 today. I remembered Wally Butts’s 105th birthday, but I forgot that our current head football coach just hit the big five-oh. That’s not on a par with forgetting my wedding anniversary---August 9, by the way---but it’s up there. Heck, I’m not entirely sure it’s appropriate for government offices to be open on Coach Richt’s birthday.

What is there for me to say about Coach Richt as he reaches the half-century mark? I’ve already taken a detailed look at the man’s professional achievements, after all, and the cat can’t so much as win a football game without me counting down to his eventual immortality, so what more is there to say? I guess I could attempt to lead the entire Dawgosphere in a rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday," but that wouldn’t really work in print, and there are intellectual property issues to consider, as I learned from an episode of "Sports Night":

Isaac: Someone holds the copyright to "Happy Birthday"?
Dan: The representatives of Patty and Mildred Hill.
Isaac: It took two people to write that song?

The best way I know to commemorate a Georgia head football coach’s 50th birthday, therefore, is to note the following:

Vince Dooley celebrated his 50th birthday on September 4, 1982. Two days later, in a nationally televised Labor Day season opener that marked the first night game in Sanford Stadium in more than 30 years, the Bulldogs defeated defending national champion Clemson to springboard an 11-1 campaign including an unbeaten run through the SEC, a national championship game appearance at season’s end, and the receipt by a Georgia player of the Heisman Trophy.

Wally Butts celebrated his 50th birthday on February 7, 1955. Although the football program was mired in mediocrity during this period, the 1955 Diamond Dogs claimed their second straight SEC tournament title in baseball under Jim Whatley. "Big Jim" coached baseball, basketball, and football in Athens after playing tackle at Alabama, where he started next to end Bear Bryant.

Herman Stegeman celebrated his 50th birthday on January 21, 1941. The following fall, the Bulldogs went 9-1-1 with wins over Florida, Auburn, and Georgia Tech, and capped off the autumn with an Orange Bowl victory.

Alex Cunningham celebrated his 50th birthday on July 9, 1936. In the football season that followed, the Red and Black staked their claim to a permanent spot in the college football firmament by tying mighty Fordham in New York City.

Good things happen in Georgia athletics after a Red and Black football skipper turns 50, which makes today a happy one for Coach Richt and for Bulldog Nation.

Go ‘Dawgs!