As the saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
Mark Richt, the longtime University of Georgia head coach, who was relieved of his duties over the holiday weekend after 15 seasons, will take the same position at his alma mater, the University of Miami, with the official announcement expected to come as early as Friday.
For the 55-year old Richt, another 9-3 campaign in the SEC East at Georgia ultimately wasn’t enough to keep his job. The cries for a National Championship in Athens continued to grow louder and louder by the year, with fans across Bulldog Nation pointing only to the fact that Richt was 14-23 against ranked opponents in the last eight seasons.
The theme of “What have you done for me lately?” rings clearly in the minds of any rational college football fans, who instead point to the fact that Richt owns the fifth-highest winning percentage among active head coaches, and would have been competing for his tenth 10-win season in 15 years at Georgia if he was kept around for the bowl game this winter. As if those statistics weren’t enough, only three coaches in NCAA history have won more games in their first 15 season than Mark Richt’s 145 victories: Bob Stoops (160), Barry Switzer (148), and Tom Osborne (147).**
But in the end, that still wasn’t enough, and Mark Richt “resigned” in an awkward press conference with Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity by his side last Sunday. With rumors swirling about perhaps stepping away from the game, it became clear that the perfect situation would have to arise for him to coach in 2016.
Enter Miami, Richt’s aforementioned alma mater, and a team that was at the pinnacle of college football for the better part of two decades from the 1980s up until the early 2000s, that has unfathomably lost at least four games in each of their last 10 seasons. Gone are the days of Howard Schnellenberger, Jimmy Johnson, Dennis Erickson, Butch Davis, and Larry Coker. Just as far into the past are the five national championships that the team won in that two decade span, with the most recent coming in the 2001 season.
With the program at a crossroads, mired in mediocrity and chained with dated facilities and an off-campus professional stadium for their home games that is only about a quarter-full on most football Saturdays, Mark Richt will bring a calm, soothing mentality in the eye of the storm. Known by all as a stand-up man with more integrity than anyone you’ll ever meet, Richt brings a different flavor to a school that became known for their “bad-boy” mentality when the team was at its peak. Miami does not have to be run the same way it once was to have the success upon which the tradition of the football program was built. Instead, they must turn their weaknesses into strengths and flip the script on the downward spiral that has characterized recent years relative to the sustained success endured throughout the ’80s, ’90s, and early 2000s.
With a proven winning pedigree, an extensive network of relationships with high school coaches throughout the southeast for recruiting, an unquestioned track record of sending players to the professional level (Matthew Stafford, A.J. Green, and Todd Gurley just to name a few), and a willingness to re-build his alma mater and take them back to the Promised Land, there could not be a better hire for the Hurricanes than Mark Richt.
Right away, he will coach a team with an All-ACC quarterback in a very winnable ACC Coastal Division next season. The reigning division champs, the North Carolina Tar Heels, will be replacing their starting quarterback Marquise Williams and multiple playmakers on offense. Virginia Tech will have a new coach and quarterback of their own, while Georgia Tech, the team that has given conference teams fits over the last couple of seasons, will be trying to pick up the pieces from a much-maligned 3-9 campaign.
There’s no better time than the present in Coral Gables. Mark Richt will coach in a notably easier conference than the SEC, boost school revenue with a potential opportunity to play for an ACC title immediately in 2016, and bring the excitement level of Hurricanes students and fans across the nation back to a palatable level, beginning on the recruiting trail this winter before his team even plays a game.
This is a home run hire in every sense of the phrase.
Welcome back to prominence, Miami.
**Stat credited to ESPN.com