White: Richt quietly approaches milestone moment

College football programs are a superstitious bunch.

They rub rocks and hit signs on the way to the field, wear specific colors on certain days and come up with some creative ways to reference their rivals.

So it’s no wonder that before this week there was little mention of Georgia coach Mark Richt nearing his 100th victory this fall. The team’s media guide plays up his winning percentage, his Southeastern Conference championships and even mentions he won 90 games in his first nine seasons.

But nowhere in his biography does the No. 100 appear.

Even many of Richt’s athletes learned only this week that the coach needs but one more win to reach the century mark.

Since the word leaked after last Saturday’s victory against Mississippi State, it has created a buzz in the locker room and added another layer of drama to today’s game at Tennessee.

“I feel like a lot of people started to tell everybody, and now it’s starting to mean so much more,” Georgia tight end Orson Charles said. “It’s a big game, but now it’s starting to be a little more personal because we’re trying to do it for Coach Richt, because I know a lot of people have kind of been bashing him.”

One hundred wins is one of those milestones coaches often shy away from commenting on, or if cornered about it, play it down with an aw-shucks demeanor and put the credit on their hard-working staff and the great kids they recruit each year. Maybe they even pretend they didn’t know they had reached 99 victories.

Instead, Richt embraced it when asked about it this week, and he has every reason to break an unspoken coaching tradition and talk about what a win today would mean to him and his program.

Since last season, he has been at the center of the hot-seat discussion, and he has the opportunity to hit a significant mark in one of the most hostile stadiums in the country and against a bitter rival.

The path to 100 wins has been — until recently — a mostly smooth one for Richt, who said he did not anticipate being in this position when he was hired.

“I never thought I’d get to 100,” Richt said. “I didn’t know if I’d get to 100 games period.”

But if there is a single coach in the country who might take more satisfaction than Richt will this season, I don’t know who it is, and it’s refreshing to hear a coach openly admit he is savoring the opportunity.

“The sweetest part of it would be if it happened this week,” the coach said on Tuesday. “I would think there’s a pretty good chance this season to get to 100, but I sure would like it this week because it’s Tennessee and it’s so important for where we are right now and the race we’re in.”

Richt is hardly out of the woods yet with more than half a season yet to play, but reaching 100 wins and putting it in perspective can only help his case if he hopes to stick around another season. Consider that he can reach the mark significantly faster than any Georgia coach that came before him. Wally Butts (140 wins at Georgia) and Vince Dooley (201) took 14 seasons to reach the mark.

If nothing else, Richt’s next victory should be a welcome relief in a season that began with so much concern.

“One-hundred wins, that’s a lot, especially in the SEC,” Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray said. “To be with the same program to get that 100th win, too, that’s pretty impressive. I know we all love Coach Richt, and it would definitely be something I know he would enjoy, and I know the rest of the team would enjoy seeing him get that 100th win.”

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