As you’ve probably heard by now, Miami is in the market for a head football coach once again. And, as always, the list of potential candidates breaks down into predictable categories: the new, hot names (Houston’s Tom Herman, Memphis’s Justin Fuente, Marshall’s Doc Holliday), the big names looking to get back into the big chair (Greg Schiano, Lane Kiffin), the disaffected journeymen (Rich Rodriguez, Charlie Strong, Larry Fedora), former Hurricane assistants who might come home (Tommy Tuberville), and everyone’s favorite, the former players Mama might call home. This last category includes former Hurricanes like Alabama offensive line coach Mario Cristobal.
But of course that last category also includes former Hurricane quarterback Mark Richt. Now, if you’re looking for reasons why Georgia should or shouldn’t separate itself from Mark Richt there’s already an article for that. But another question worth asking is whether Mark Richt should consider anchoring himself to Miami football. Spoiler: the answer is no. But the reasons give a little bit of insight into the things that coaches should think about when polishing the old resume, and by extension the things that schools and fanbases should think about when deciding to make a coaching change.
First, there’s the money. The money is always an issue. In every coaching search there’s always a segment of the fanbase that believes there are intangibles at their school worth more than money. I hate to break this to you, Jim in Jonesboro and Tim in Tampa. But money matters. It matters more than anything else. Because money is a proxy for things that matter. Money is commitment in tangible form. Commitment to the coach. Commitment to winning. There is no job security quite like the security you have when the bastards absolutely cannot afford to fire you.
In Miami’s case, Al Golden was under contract through the 2019 season. While Miami as a private institution does not have to release salary info, reports have had Golden pulling in $2,250,000 or so per season under his deal. It’s safe to bet that Miami is going to owe him something in the high seven figures going forward, and the fact that he's not in his office today means they didn’t want to get rid of him. They needed to get rid of him. Badly.
But that comes at a high cost, and Miami is not going to be in a position to spend extravagantly unless they can get just the right guy lined up and get boosters to believe that this guy is a must-have. And open their wallets like they would if Charlotte McKinney took up televangelism. It’s hard to imagine Mark Richt being that guy, the guy boosters will pay out the nose to get to town. Mark Richt’s contract also expires after the 2019 season. And it pays him $4 million a year. I haven’t seen that number thrown around in the past three weeks, which is a little surprising.* But I guarantee it’s a number that Miami’s decision makers would be keenly aware of. Because they can’t match it.
Assuming for the sake of argument that Miami could come close enough money-wise to get Richt to listen to their pitch. What would they be selling? The answer: all the worst attributes of the average SEC and ACC jobs wrapped up in a tidy package. Boston College resources with Florida expectations. A fanbase which simultaneously exhibits wildly outsized sense of entitlement and obscenely underwhelming attendance. A stadium that’s not just off campus but uniquely ill-positioned to create a great college game day experience. An instate recruiting pie which, while extremely rich, is cut into too many slices for anyone to ever really dominate it. A culture and location which make compliance with NCAA mandates somewhere between highly unlikely and fundamentally impossible. And a cadre of former players who have no qualms about going public with their criticisms of you, and the last coach, and the coach before that.
I’m not saying Miami is a toxic job. It has advantages. Beautiful campus. Proximity to great recruiting territory. And those former players who, while vociferous and demanding, are also household names. But on the whole Miami is a tough place to succeed. And for a coach like Mark Richt (or Tommy Tuberville, to cite another name in the pool), is that the kind of job you want to take in the twilight of your coaching career? Nope. And if like Richt you take your reputation for running a clean program seriously you have to be comfortable with the fact that every weekend is going to be another chance for someone to run afoul of the gang in Indianapolis. Heck, A.J. Green got suspended after going to South Beach and he didn’t even play for the Hurricanes.
But let’s assume for the sake of argument that the money is right (it wouldn’t be), the culture concerns could be addressed (they couldn’t) and that the task isn’t bigger than anyone in his right mind would take on (it’s bigger). Is Miami the type of job that you risk it all on? Randy Shannon after all went from the head coach of the Hurricanes to the linebackers coach at Arkansas. That ain’t moving forward.
Al Golden had unique reasons for leaving Penn State which have been well documented. And he talked about Miami as a marquee job when he arrived in the Sunshine State. But for a coach like Mark Richt who comes into every season with a top 10 ranking and a ton of talent on the roster this is a challenge he doesn’t need. Richt left Coral Gables 33 years ago, has moved most of his family to Athens, and has been busy in the past couple of years marshalling resources to make what looks a lot like one last run at a national title. I doubt he would leave Athens to get to the same point in Miami, especially given that doing so would be a lot tougher.
For Miami administrators this points to one of the perennial problems with any coaching search. As Groucho Marx would have recognized, Miami is going to have a hard time getting the caliber of coach to join their club who they would likewise want as a member. They’re going to have trouble paying that guy, and they’re going to have trouble ushering him past the graveyard in which their last three coaching administrations are buried. In short, Miami needs a young, energetic coach who craves (or at least enjoys) the spotlight, isn’t afraid of a challenge, has an “us against the world” mindset, and is confident he can deliver championship results without getting championship level resources. Everything we know about Mark Richt says he’s not that guy. Until later....
*An overlooked reason why Mark Richt isn't going anywhere is the amount of pain that would be required to make firing him worth the financial costs. Hint: 9-4 in 2015 won't do it. Not even close. My guess is that Richt isn't going anywhere unless a massive scandal of some sort crops up. And even his most strident detractors have to concede that is about as likely as a blizzard canceling the Moultrie July 4th parade.