Mark Richt gives Miami Hurricanes a proven winner, but is he a good fit?
Mark Richt’s unemployment didn’t last long. According to a Wednesday report from Peter Ariz from CanesInSight.com, and confirmed by SI’s Thayer Evans and ESPN’s Brett McMurphy, the former Georgia coach has agreed to become the next head coach at Miami.
News of Richt’s apparent move from Athens to Coral Gables arose just three days after Georgia fired him following 15 seasons in town. On Monday Richt said farewell to the Bulldogs in a press conference alongside athletic director Greg McGarity. At the time, the coach said he wasn’t sure if another coaching job was in his immediate future. “I think there are going to be a lot of options to weigh,” Richt said, adding, “I’m going to listen to anyone who has interest in me, coaching or not.”
It appears Richt didn’t need much time to decompress. Now Miami lands a coach with a proven track record. Richt went 145–51 in 15 seasons with the Bulldogs, winning 75% of his games, the fifth-best mark among active head coaches. He also claimed six SEC East titles and two conference crowns with the Dawgs.
But Richt was unemployed for a reason, and that’s because he failed to lead Georgia to the next level. His last SEC title came in 2005, and this season the Bulldogs were picked to play for the SEC Championship but limped to a three-loss campaign. In fact, Georgia never played for a national title under Richt. The Bulldogs expected more for the primary program within the talent-rich state of Georgia.
Now Richt will try to bring that same consistency (9.6 wins per season at Georgia) to Miami, a program that languished in mediocrity under Golden. The ‘Canes went 32–25 during the coach’s five season, including a losing record (17–18) against ACC competition. How far had Miami fallen from the top of the league? Golden’s final game was a 58–0 home loss to Clemson, the worst defeat in program history.
Richt’s arrival at Miami has already sparked reaction from a few alums, many of whom seemingly didn’t approve of the program’s direction under Golden.
Mark Richt? Finally we get a winner!! He was one play away from winning the National Championship a couple years ago. No Temple this time!— Seantrel Henderson (@66_Henderson) December 2, 2015
On the surface, Richt is a home-run hire. He’s proven he can win at a high level against SEC competition. He can also recruit; his 2016 class at Georgia ranked No. 6 nationally, per Rivals.com, and included No. 1 pro-style quarterback prospect Jacob Eason. Plus, Richt played quarterback at Miami (1979–82) and spent 15 years as an assistant in the ACC at Florida State.
But personality-wise, it’s easy to question Richt’s fit at Miami. The ‘Canes’ goal is to return to “The U,” a moniker that harkens back to an era when the program won four national titles between ’83–91. Under coaches Jimmy Johnson and Dennis Erickson, Miami thrived off a showboating style and off-field transgressions that ultimately resulted in NCAA troubles. Just four years ago, the NCAA hit Miami with sanctions following a well-documented scandal surrounding booster Nevin Shapiro.
Richt, meanwhile, is known for having kept Georgia out of trouble. He routinely suspended or booted players for issues other programs might dust under a rug. On Monday, Richt recited a Biblical parable during his farewell press conference at Georgia. His personality doesn’t exactly lend itself to South Beach.
Richt also recruited well at Georgia, but he held the reins to the dominant team in that state. At Miami, the coach now must rebuild—and recruit—against two daunting in-state foes: Florida and Florida State. The Seminoles are already a perennial power under Jimbo Fisher, and Jim McElwain has the Gators in the SEC title game in his first season. Richt’s ability to recruit will be put to the test from the get-go at Miami.
But Richt could benefit from a fresh start. Fifteen seasons at one place is a lifetime in college football, and Miami feels like a sleeping power awaiting resurrection. Still, Richt faces a challenge in competing with Clemson and Florida State at the top of the league. In the Coastal Division alone, Virginia Tech will be revitalized with new coach in Justin Fuente, adding to the existing challenges of facing improved programs at Duke, North Carolina and Pitt.
But a school’s primary objective in a coaching search is hiring a winning coach. Richt knows how to win. The question is, can a change of scenery help Richt win bigger at Miami?