‘This is Home’

By Robert C. Jones, Jr.

‘This is Home’

By Robert C. Jones, Jr.
Former UM quarterback Mark Richt, who achieved coaching stardom at the University of Georgia, returns to the U as Miami's 24th head football coach.

His old school had come calling before, but Mark Richt, secure in a job in which he had achieved unparalleled success, had always told them “no.”

Then, at the end of the 2015 college football season, something happened—Richt, who compiled a 145-51 record and won two Southeastern Conference titles and nine bowl games during a 15-year stint as head coach of the University of Georgia, found himself out of a job.

So when Richt’s alma mater, the University of Miami, called this time, he listened. And on Friday, you might say both got what they wanted.

Mark Allan Richt, who played quarterback at the U under legendary coach Howard Schnellenberger and then went on to achieve coaching stardom at one of the SEC’s most storied programs, was named UM’s new head football coach on Friday, giving diehard Hurricanes fans something to cheer about after a rocky season in which the team fell short of expectations.

“Every sport looks for a difference-maker,” Don Bailey Jr., the Hurricanes radio analyst who was a teammate of Richt’s at Miami, said at the Friday press conference in the Shalala Student Center, where UM introduced its 24th head coach.

UM’s leadership, Bailey said, “has found a difference maker for Miami.”

Bailey couldn’t have said it better. Richt’s .740 winning percentage ranks fifth best among active FBS head coaches, and he is tied for ninth among the winningest head coaches in SEC history. He is one of only seven head coaches in SEC history to record four straight 10-win seasons (2002-05).

During Richt’s tenure on the sidelines in Athens, 77 of his players were selected in the NFL Draft over the last 14 years, including eight chosen in the 2002 and 2013 NFL Drafts—the most Georgia players ever selected in a single year.

“This is home,” Richt said of his hire.

Richt was actually considering sitting out a year and recharging his batteries after Georgia let him go. But two things changed his mind: An outpouring of support from current and former players who wished him well and thanked him for being a positive influence in their lives. “That was big, to know that in this position you have the opportunity to affect lives. So that got me,” said Richt, noting that he even received text messages from former players he dismissed from his teams for various transgressions.

“The other thing that happened was Miami,” said Richt, referring to the UM job opening up after UM dismissed its last coach, Al Golden, after a midseason loss to Clemson at Sun Life Stadium. “When you coach you want to go to a place where you’ve got a chance.”

Richt was referring to the chance of winning Atlantic Coast Conference titles and national championships, and that possibility is likely at UM, he said, because of a fertile South Florida recruiting ground—many experts call the region the best high school recruiting hotbed in the nation—that supplies the Miami program with exceptional players.

“We absolutely want to recruit this area,” said Richt, “but the problem is there’s too many for one school to have. We can’t get them all. We have to find the ones that fit our program the best. But we’re absolutely committed to recruiting Miami because for sure we know how great the players are.”

Richt said assembling a coaching staff will be one of the most important early decisions he makes as Miami’s coach. “You need more than just one man to do it. I’ll be deliberate and take my time to do the right thing,” he said.

Saying he would rather be “right than fast” in his hiring decisions, Richt said he will select a staff he feels is competent at what they do and committed to helping his players build character. There’s no shortage of candidates, he said, pointing out that he’s been receiving an average of about 200 text messages and 50 phone calls a day from coaches expressing an interest in joining his staff.

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News release on Richt:
http://news.miami.edu/stories/2015/11/welcome-home-hurricanes-hire-um-alum-mark-richt-as-head-coach.html

Watch the News Conference:
http://espn.go.com/watchespn/index?id=2716017
Full coverage: http://www.hurricanesports.com

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Richt, who also has had coaching stints at East Carolina and Florida State, where he served as offensive coordinator for the legendary Bobby Bowden, said he loves coaching at the collegiate level because the 18- to 22-year-old student-athletes are at what he considers the most important stage in their lives of becoming young men. “Sooner or later football is going to end. Then what?” said Richt. Players, he explained, have to be prepared for life after athletics, and coaches play a significant role in preparing them for that next stage.

He wants his players to “take care of business academically and behave socially and do their very best in every area of their lives. Being a coach is more than coaching football. It’s about educating young men and preparing them for life.”

UM President Julio Frenk, who noted the University followed the same rigorous screening process in finding a new coach that the school does in recruiting any position, said he was impressed with Richt’s winning record and shares with the coach a philosophy that student-athlete “success is measured both on and off the field.”

UM Director of Athletics Blake James said Richt puts UM in a position to win ACC and national championships. But Richt said he wouldn’t make any promises on when UM would win those titles.

He did commit to one thing: “This is our home. We love it,” said Richt, referring to him and his wife, Katharyn. “And this is where we’re going to finish our coaching career.”