Multiple reports have Mark Richt accepting the head coaching job at his alma mater. Terms of the deal have not been disclosed.
I for one am a little surprised. Unlike some who thought that Richt would no longer coach, I expected that he's a little young to hang it up permanently. I did expect that he might take a year off. But Richt's been making the rounds on the interview circuit in the past couple of days, and it quickly became clear that he was going to have his choice of jobs. In the end, the chance to return to his alma mater was just too much to pass up.
He steps into a job that has a lot of potential, but also a lot of challenges. Miami was a traditional power for two decades under a series of coaches, but since 2006 has compiled a rather pedestrian 71-55 record. The stadium is not on campus, the fan base is notoriously fickle, and the compliance environment has a reputation for being uniquely challenging. But Richt, a Boca Raton native, has always been a great recruiter in south Florida. He'll have enough talent within 50 miles of his office to stock the cupboard.
One player many Georgia fans are worried about Richt reeling in is Bulldog QB commit Jacob Eason. Eason is actually on a hastily scheduled official visit to Florida right now, so it's not like it would be tough for him to get down to Coral Gables to look around. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if he took that opportunity. Add in the fact that Richt talked at length in that awful press conference earlier this week about his desire to work directly with quarterbacks if he ever coached again, and there's plenty of reason to think that Eason might at least consider the 'Canes.
In the end I think Eason's decision will be far more significantly influenced by the Bulldogs' offensive hires than by Richt's decision for a variety of reasons. For one, Miami really is a rebuilding job. While I'd love to see Richt start poaching top south Florida talent from the Gators*, it's going to be a while before that roster is ready to compete for ACC titles against Clemson and Florida State. If Eason wants to win a national title, Georgia is relatively closer to that goal.
Also, Miami already has a pretty darn good QB commit for 2016, Jack Allison. The 6'5, 200 pound Allison is ranked the #8 pro style passer for 2016, the #18 prospect in Florida, and he's been all 'Cane for quite a while.
I could also imagine Richt discouraging Eason from breaking his commitment to Georgia. That seems like a very Mark Richt kind of thing to do. That being said, remember that D.J. Shockley wound up at Georgia after Richt had been recruiting him to FSU. And Georgia wasn't in very different straits in 2001 than Miami is now, the old "sleeping giant" trope applied to both. But there's a difference between deciding to stay close to home to follow your favorite coach rather than going hundreds of miles from home (Shockley's situation), and going even further from home than you were planning to (Washington native Eason's dilemma).
In the end, I am happy for Mark Richt. In addition to being a Georgia fan, I also have had the pleasure of covering him, interviewing him, and just talking to him about football and life. I can testify that he's one of the few genuinely nice guys in a business that doesn't produce a lot of nice guys, and even seems to discourage them. I hope he has success in south Florida. I hope that he beats division rival Georgia Tech nearly every year the same way he did in Athens.
I also hope that Bulldog fans can now move on. Heal. The fact is that Mark Richt now has other things to focus on and other people to whom he is beholden. Kirby Smart, no matter what your opinion of him or his predecessor, is now poised to become the head coach of the University of Georgia. In that respect the future is now. We'll always have the memories of the hobnail boot, and 70 X takeoff, and dancing in Jacksonville. But I hope Mark Richt and Kirby Smart can now make some memories for their new respective fan bases. Congrats, Coach Richt. Give 'em heck. And . . .
* Of course Georgia benefited handsomely over the years from Richt's south Florida ties, with over a dozen major contributors hailing from the area. In the future Kirby Smart may have to rely more on the Peach State's homegrown talent. Them's the breaks.