Mark Richt was introduced Friday afternoon as the twenty-fourth head coach in University of Miami football history. Richt came off as expected; confident, laid back, humble, straight-forward, giving shout-outs to his faith and his family, all without over-promising or hyping expectations.
UM’s top brass was in full-force; proud of their recent coup and with the back-slapping and bro-hugs one would expect after the hard work and effort that went into this recent six-week search and eventual out-of-nowhere hiring.
Yes, Miami reached out to Richt weeks back, but with Georgia the only thing on his mind, Richt declined. With the Bulldogs sent him packing six days back, the change of heart was underway.
Outside of all that, there’s little to report from the event—which all in all is probably a good thing. An introduction of this nature generally brings a lot of big talk, empty promises and hot air.
Miami fans witnessed it five years ago when Al Golden waltzed into Coral Gables by way of Philadelphia.
Lots of chatter about the tradition and history, rattling off championship-related stats, welcoming back former players and a whole lot of media focus on deserving victory, 300-page binders and a new coach’s process.
True to his demeanor and personality, Richt checked all the fanfare at the door with his no-frills speech. The presser didn’t provide any soundbites or signature moments—outside of those U-hands being tossed up officially for the first time—and the let’s-get-to-work attitude is appreciate after so much drama these past weeks, months and even years.
The biggest subplot in the wake of Richt’s hiring; the discontent amongst certain sects of Miami’s fan base.
Divided often during this decade of disaster, the opposite ends of the spectrum aren’t going to come together anytime soon—the Hurricanes almost nine months from taking the field with Richt at the helm, with a lot of down time in-between.
The result will bring theory, speculation and differences of opinion that won’t get solved until a new regime gets busy on Saturdays next fall.
THE DAVIS-OR-BUST CROWD NEED TIME TO COME AROUND
A large portion of this fan base clamored for the return of Butch Davis; something the detractors felt was nostalgia-based and doomed-to-fail had it played out that way.
Things went a completely different direction; and the result is a new layer of division—the pro-Richt crowd wanting Butch faithful to shake off the disappointment, while instantly labeling anyone critical of Richt’s tenure at Georgia a “hater”, of sorts.
Fact is, Davis’ return was on some level a possibility for six weeks. A year, actually, if you go back to his introduction at the premier for “The U Part 2”, the hype that surrounded it and growing feeling that Golden’s time would soon be up.
Richt popped front and center onto the radar at the tail end of the search, and 72 hours after his firing by the Bulldogs, had him the Canes’ front runner.
By week’s end, the marriage was official—and the door was shut for good regarding a Davis return to the university he rebuilt two decades back, leaving a large portion of the fan base wondering what the hell just happened.
One side won, the other feels like it lost big, and those who got what they wanted fail to see the hypocrisy in their telling the disappointed to simply get over it.
MALIGNED AD; FROM GOAT TO G.O.A.T. IN ONE FELL SWOOP?
Look no further than the overnight turning of the tide regarding athletic director Blake James. Whether one erred on the side of Davis or a different option, the take on James was somewhat universal over the past few years.
In over his head, no power or say and talk that he was botching this search process royally at every turn. Fans were damn-near calling for James’ job as loudly as they were venting about Golden.
Conversely, we backed James here, as hard as we backed Davis—reminding the Canes fam that he’d only been out under Donna Shalala for months, that this hire was a signature moment in his career, that he knew how big all this loomed and that James’ pre-season talk regarding expectations for the football program proved that he knew the gravity of the situation and would take action.
Many of those vocal for years about their frustration with James; they’re now same crowd telling the anti-Davis folks to cheer up, while labeling the athletic director “a boss” for his handling of the Richt hiring, as well as social media imagery of the private jet commissioned to go pick up the Canes’ new leader.
Further proof that all segments of this fan base remain a little off their rocker these days—and will remain there until winning-with-style becomes the norm again.
Being all aboard the Richt train in a matter of days is no more sane than the other side still feeling there was a missed opportunity regarding Davis.
RICHT NEEDS TO WIN BIG TO END “WHAT IF” GAME
Richt might very-well be just what the doctor ordered. Time will tell, as results are undeniable and there will be nowhere to hide; just ask the last three guys UM fired.
The University of Miami very well might’ve hired the perfect fit for righting the ship. Richt had long-term success at Georgia, recruited well and developed players. He had some banner years in arguably the sport’s toughest conference and his style has left a lasting impact on countless players during his tenure.
Furthermore, Davis’ schtick might not have worked with his second head coaching go-around at UM. Maybe that whole boot-up-the-ass, harder approach that played so well for those kids in the mid-to-late nineties wouldn’t fly with today’s athletes.
Hell, just the notion that Georgia players tossed up U-hands when Richt officially bid them farewell this week in his final team meeting—genuine and good-natured as it was; doesn’t seem like something players from yesteryear would’ve ever partake in.
Maybe, just maybe this softer, more heartfelt approach of treating today’s players with kid gloves is what it takes to succeed—or maybe it isn’t when looking at the likes of an Urban Meyer or Nick Saban; hard-asses who will kick your ass up and down, demanding success.
Impossible to argue the success of that type of coach—and expect it’ll eventually work for the likes of Jim Harbaugh in Michigan or Charlie Strong at Texas.
None of those guys are there to be anyone’s buddy, life-long mentor or father figure-type. It’s about doing a job and winning football games first, with everything else secondary.
Davis seemed a bit closer to that mold, while Richt couldn’t be further from that type of coach or man. There’s obviously a lot of good in that regarding Richt’s character—but let’s track how important that remain to this fan base should the wins not pile up.
Lest not forget the respect for Golden when he stuck around through an NCAA investigation, or cradled the injured Malcolm Lewis mid-field after injury in 2012. Sports is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business at this level; which is why Georgia ultimately parted with a head coach that the Canes jumped on within days.
One’s man’s trash is always another man’s treasure; doesn’t matter the situation or profession.
CLOCK OFFICIALLY TICKING ON RICHT ERA
Richt will either be reborn, proving that a change of scenery and a return to an alma mater was his personal recipe for success—or he’ll prove to be that does-less-with-more guy that he has been his entire career, while not showing up in the big game; getting his program close, but not over the hump.
As much as some are choosing to ignore facts in all the hype; Georgia fired Richt because of those aforementioned shortcomings. After 15 seasons in Athens, there were a few SEC titles, too many losses to rivals and no national title game appearances, with more big-game face-plants than signature moments.
Furthermore, Richt was admittedly ready to take a year off—regrouping away from coaching—when Miami called. The ultimate reason for the about face; a realization that this job wouldn’t be open next year.
Timing forced Richt’s hand and gave him virtually no time to truly dig in and evaluate the biggest career-related decision he’s had to make since Y2K.
Should the latter be the case for Richt and that championship-void follow him down I-75 south, this hire will be remembered as a turning point and ultimate “what if” moment regarding what could’ve been with Davis.
The Canes had a rare shot to get a do-over and to bring back the architect for the greatest run the program had seen—talent-wise, opposes to titles racked up. Miami passed and the only remedy is Richt winning—and winning big—or else that road-less-traveled feeling won’t soon go away.
A supporters and University of Miami football enthusiasts, it’s in everyone’s best interest that Richt succeeds in Coral Gables. A decade-plus of mediocrity and three bad hires in a row; this program can ill afford another setback. This is the time the tide must turn. Without that, the Canes’ backsliding could prove impossible to come back from.
As for the disappointed Davis contingent still reeling for the missed opportunity; it simply needs some time to come around.
Years worth of waxing nostalgic about the return of a larger-than-life type coach doesn’t go away overnight—and in this case, it’s only been a matter of days since the Davis dream died and Richt was seemingly plucked from thin air.
As Richt puts his fingerprints on Miami—hiring a staff, saving and building upon a recruiting class, implementing the desired 4-3 defense that the Canes were built upon—his fan base will grow. Especially if and when the big-time wins start rolling in and UM again becomes truly relevant.
Early adopters—also known as, the anti-Butch crowd—simply needs to give the pro-Davis camp time to process everything. It’s easy to be positive and optimistic when the achieved result went in your favor—as proven by the newfound athletic director love now on display.
When the opposite happens, a whole different type of acceptance and reasoning needs to kick in—and that isn’t going to happen in under a week’s time. Eventually, but not immediately.
Welcome (back) to “The U”, Coach Richt. May you accomplish everything—and more—that those all-in folks are already predicting.