Mark Richt, who compiled a 145-51 overall mark as head coach at the University of Georgia, will be the featured speaker at the 2022 Mississippi College Dr. Don Phillips Athletics Dinner Feb. 8.

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Mark Richt has never been afraid of a challenge.

A talented quarterback prospect from Boca Raton, Florida, Richt joined legendary head coach Howard Schnellenberger at the University of Miami. During his collegiate playing career, he battled Jim Kelly, a future Pro Football Hall of Famer, for playing time. As an upperclassman, his quarterback competition included future National Football League standouts Vinny Testaverde and Bernie Kosar.

Although he wound up as a backup for the Hurricanes, Richt didn’t just watch the action from the sidelines – he observed. When he emerged as head coach at the University of Georgia more than a decade later, Richt led the Bulldogs to a pair of Southeastern Conference championships, six SEC West titles, and nine bowl games in 15 seasons.

He returned to his alma mater as head football coach, and within two years, won an Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division title and earned ACC Coach of the Year honors. After three seasons helming the Hurricanes, he ventured into broadcasting, where he has become a popular football analyst on the ACC Network.

Now, Richt is facing an entirely new challenge, one that is markedly different than any he has faced on the gridiron. He will share his inspirational story of faith and spiritual awakening that allowed him to recover from a near-fatal heart attack and is now helping him come to terms with a Parkinson’s disease diagnosis during the 2022 Mississippi College Dr. Don Phillips Athletics Dinner on Tuesday, Feb. 8.

Kenny Bizot, MC athletic director, said the dinner, an annual celebration of Choctaw Athletics, has become one of the most significant nights of the year for the athletic department. It is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. in Anderson Hall in the B.C. Rogers Student Center.

“The MC athletics dinner is a great night to hear an inspirational message and support Choctaw athletics,” Bizot said. “The dinner is important to the athletic department for many reasons. It is an opportunity to have fellowship with many of the supporters and fans. It also allows the opportunity for individuals to learn about Choctaw athletics.”

He said attendees will have an opportunity to take part in silent and live auctions and to hear testimonies from several Mississippi College student-athletes.

“The money raised at the dinner helps provide financial support to all 18 of MC’s NCAA-sponsored events,” he said.

Funds from the event have made a lasting impact on the athletic department, support that continues to be vital as men’s and women’s Choctaw teams look to compete in the Gulf South Conference and on a national level. During the last 17 years, the athletics dinner has raised proceeds of more than $2 million, including more than $205,000 last year alone.

The dinner is named in memory of Dr. Don Phillips ‘54, a dedicated trustee and board chairman who played a leading role in launching the athletics dinner.

Bizot said Richt is a “perfect fit” to speak at the banquet.

“Mark Richt is a high-profile coach who coached in the SEC,” Bizot said. “He is a man of character and integrity. He coached college football at the highest level, winning many games. He is known for coaching his teams the right way. He is a Christian mentor to his players and coaches.”

Born in Omaha, Nebraska, Richt began his coaching career as a graduate assistant from 1985-86 and a volunteer assistant from 1987-88 at Florida State University. He served as offensive coordinator at East Carolina University in 1989 before returning to FSU as quarterbacks coach.

He spent 11 seasons at Florida State, the last seven as offensive coordinator. During his time in Tallahassee, the Seminoles finished in the top 5 in scoring offense on five occasions, claimed two national championships (in 1993 and 1999), and was a national finalist in 2000. Under Richt’s watch as quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator, a pair of Seminole signal-callers – Charlie Ward and Chris Weinke – won the Heisman Trophy.

As head coach at Georgia, Richt compiled a 145-51 overall record and an 85-40 mark in Southeastern Conference play. In 2010, he was named to the American Football Coaches Association Board of Trustees, and in 2013, he received the Stallings Award for commitment to humanitarian and community service efforts.

In 2016, Richt was named the first honorary head coach of the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team for his commitment to giving back to others. In 2020, he was named the first national spokesperson for Send Relief, a joint compassion ministry effort between the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board. In his book, “Make the Call,” Richt shares his experiences on and off the field, offers wisdom for life and leadership, and encourages readers to make the most important call of all.

Richt and his wife, the former Katharyn Francis of Tallahassee, have four children – Jonathan, David, Zach, and Anya – and two granddaughters – Jadyn and Zoe.

Tickets to the 2022 Mississippi College Dr. Don Phillips Athletics Dinner cost $125 each, and table sponsorships are available. Sponsorship levels range from Blue (a $1,250 sponsorship that includes eight complimentary tickets) and Silver (a $2,500 sponsorship that includes eight complimentary tickets with preferred seating) to Gold (a $5,000 sponsorship that includes a private, pre-dinner visit, eight complimentary tickets with preferred seating, and three reserved parking passes) and Platinum (a $10,000 sponsorship that includes a private pre-dinner visit, 12 complimentary tickets with preferred seating, and four reserved parking passes).

To purchase tickets or a sponsorship, or for more information, visit https://www.mc.edu/athleticsdinner/.

MageeNews.com is an online news source serving Simpson and surrounding counties as well as the State of Mississippi.

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