While University of Miami fans weren’t happy with the way things had gone for the Hurricanes this season – culminating in an embarrassing 35-3 loss to Wisconsin in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl this past Thursday – and they were calling for change, no one saw this coming.
Mark Richt announced Sunday morning that he will be stepping down as Miami’s head football coach and will retire from coaching.
Richt released a statement:
“Dear Hurricane Family:
A few hours ago, I informed UM Director of Athletics Blake James that it is time for me to retire from coaching so I am stepping down as the Head Coach of UM Football. The decision came after a great deal of thought, discussions with my family, and prayer. This was my decision.
The University of Miami has been a part of my life for more than three decades. It shaped me as a young man and provided me with the coaching opportunity of a lifetime. My love for The U is simply great. My true desire is for our football program to return to greatness, and while terribly difficult, I feel that stepping down is in the best interests of the program.
I want to express my sincere appreciation to the entire Hurricane Family for welcoming me back home and for supporting the outstanding young men in our program. I only wish that we could have achieved greater things in return. I also want to thank President Frenk and Blake for their incredible support, as well as the outstanding men and women in UM Athletics. Most importantly, I want to thank the incredible coaches, staff, and their families who gave their all to The U each and every day, and our student-athletes, who wore The U jersey with pride and who worked hard towards their degree.
Katharyn and I will be cheering on the Canes in the years to come and The U will never leave our hearts.
The abrupt departure comes after three seasons, where Richt led the Hurricanes to a 26-13 record and three straight bowl game appearances.
Richt, a former Hurricanes quarterback, was hired to revive the program shortly after he was fired after 15 seasons as Georgia’s coach in November 2015. Richt had a 145-51 record with the Bulldogs, leading them to SEC championships in 2002 and 2005.
Richt’s first two seasons at Miami were promising, as the Hurricanes went 9-4 in 2016 and then started 10-0 in 2017. But after climbing to No. 2 in the CFP rankings, Miami lost its last three games in 2017, including a 38-3 defeat to Clemson in the ACC championship game.
2018 was a tough year for the 58-year-old Richt, though. For a season that began with UM being ranked in the top 10, things started off on the wrong foot with the team’s big season-opening loss to LSU and only got worse as they limped to the finish line with a 7-6 record following a second straight loss to the Badgers in a bowl game.
This past season marked only the second time in Richt’s 18-year career that his team failed to win at least eight games.
To his credit, however, Richt did lead UM to its first-ever ACC Coastal Division title and appearance in the ACC championship game. He also snapped the program’s seven-game losing streak to rival Florida State and beat the Seminoles in consecutive years. Richt also led Miami to its first 10-0 start and highest poll ranking since its “glory days”.
Fans weren’t necessarily calling for Richt’s head. They were asking that the University of Miami alum who shelled out $1 million of his own money to help fund the school’s indoor practice facility do two things: give up play calling and remove his son as the team’s quarterbacks coach.
The Hurricanes ranked 13th in the ACC in total offense (358.8 yards per game), 12th in passing (167.3 yards) and ninth in scoring (28.8 points) this season and didn’t even look as good as those numbers say.
Richt’s play-calling became almost predictable, lacking innovation as much as it lacked execution.
Fans were also upset with the way Richt juggled quarterbacks this past season. He initially named redshirt senior Malik Rosier the starting quarterback at the beginning of the season, then pulled him in favor of redshirt freshman N’Kosi Perry, then vacillated back and forth between the two – including playing both during Thursday’s bowl game loss.
It would seem, though, that instead of making the wholesale changes to his offensive staff – at the very least relieving his son of his duties and relinquishing play-calling – Richt just decided to step away.
University of Miami athletic director Blake James released a statement following the team’s loss to Wisconsin essentially saying that the school and Board of Trustees still believed in and wanted Richt as head coach, but also wanted to see some tangible changes made the offense.
When speaking to reporters Sunday following Richt’s retirement announcement, James said that he and the former coach spoke about the changes but didn’t say specifically what they discussed.
“Mark and I spoke at length yesterday afternoon and into the evening, I was surprised by his decision this morning. The details of our conversation will remain between us,” James said.
“The decision for Mark to retire is his and his alone. While my tweet after our bowl game noted our performance was unacceptable, I also tweeted that Mark and I were committed to fixing it and that those discussions had already begun. At no time did I or anyone at Miami ask for or suggest that Mark step down. He truly made the decision based on his love of The U, his family and his desire to move forward and write the next chapter of his life in retirement.”
James did not announce whether the team would name an interim head coach.
Having lost defensive coordinator Manny Diaz to Temple University a few weeks back, the team could look at newly appointed associate head coach and defensive line coach Jess Simpson or one of the other assistant coaches still on staff.
Many names are sure to emerge as candidates for Miami’s now vacant head coaching position.
Fans love to scream for former Canes head coach, now Florida International University head coach Butch Davis. They also clamor for another UM alumnus, Mario Cristobal, who’s about to finish his first season leading the University of Oregon.
Even with all its struggles this season, Miami remains a top-notch destination for prospective coaches. The weather, the city, the natural pipeline of talent mere miles away from campus, and the rich tradition and history of the program keeps “The U” in the national spotlight.
While Richt’s tenure was largely better than those of his two predecessors – Al Golden and Randy Shannon – the Hurricanes have not truly been able to take a seat at college football’s “big boy table” with the likes of Alabama, Clemson, and Ohio State. While Richt got things going in a better direction, it’ll be the job of the next coach that the program hires to try to get the Canes back near the top.
And James knows it.
“I know there will be much speculation and rumors and innuendos about candidates and the process, but I encourage everyone to be patient and to not believe everything they read,” James told reporters.
“We will begin a national search for a new head coach today. We will work quickly but comprehensively to identify the right fit for Miami. I am confident there will be a great deal of interest in our program as our fan support, tradition, facilities, recruiting base, conference affiliation and world-class university all make this an attractive job.”