Is Mark Richt the Most Promising Head Coach Hire in Miami Hurricanes History?
Miami is expected to reach a deal to hire former Georgia head coach Mark Richt to be their fifth head coaching hire since Larry Coker left in 2006.
The question is, as you look back over the history of Miami’s coaching hires, is this their greatest hire ever, based on his past record and his tie with the school?
Is Mark Richt the Best Hurricanes Hire Ever?
First, let’s look back over the school’s past eight head coaching hires, dating back to 1979, when they hired Howard Schnellenberger in 1979 to replace Lou Saban.
Howard Schnellenberger , Hired in 1979
The Hurricanes hired him after a short stint as an assistant coach with the Miami Dolphins. While Schnellenberger can certainly be credited with elevating the ‘Canes program to elite levels in the ‘80s, his arrival wasn’t necessarily that promising, considering he was coming off a 4-13 tenure over two seasons in Baltimore.
Jimmy Johnson , Hired in 1984
Once Schnellenberger left Miami for the USFL, after leading the ‘Canes to a national championship in 1983, Johnson came to Miami after an 8-4 record in 1983 with Oklahoma State. In five seasons there, the Cowboys had three winning seasons, two bowl appearances, and finished in the top 20 just once (1983). The hiring was met with shoulder shrugs and question marks, and his 8-5 record in 1984 didn’t change opinions. But Johnson’s Hurricanes would go 52-9 in Johnson’s five years, with five New Year’s bowl trips, winning one national championship and losing another.
Dennis Erickson , Hired in 1989
At the time, Erickson was a hot name, after leading the Washington State Cougars to a 9-3 season in 1988 and a win in the Aloha Bowl. But in retrospect, Erickson shot through three head coaching jobs in four years, in a quick ascent to become a coaching candidate for Miami. Those three teams he coached for before Miami? The Idaho Vandals (1982-1984), Wyoming Cowboys (1985) and Washington State (1986-87). Those aren’t exactly football factories.
Butch Davis, Hired in 1995
After serving as Johnson’s defensive coordinator in 1993, Davis helped the Cowboys win two Super Bowls – one under Johnson and one under his replacement, Barry Switzer. This was a huge hire for the Hurricanes, as it reconnected the team to Johnson’s glory days with “The U,” and it was a big name from a Super Bowl winning team. But again, in hindsight, he had no head coaching experience, and he ended up being hamstrung by Erickson’s shenanigans before him. The NCAA banned Miami from the postseason in Davis’ first year as head coach, and they lost 31 scholarships over a number of years.
Despite a ton of success after a ton of problems, Davis never won a national championship, and he moved on to become the head coach for the Cleveland Browns.
Larry Coker, Hired in 2001
Hurricanes players lobbied for Coker to be promoted from offensive coordinator to Davis’ replacement. Considering the NFL talent on that team, it made sense that the powers that be listened to them. Much like Erickson before him, Coker would win a national championship in his first year as head coach with a team that was not really his to begin with.
After a few seasons marred by brawls, Coker was fired after a 6-6 season in 2006.
Randy Shannon , Hired in 2007
For the first time, Miami hired one of their former players from their ‘80s dynasty, playing linebacker for Johnson’s teams in 1985-88, which included the 1987 national championship team. Erickson would hire Shannon to join his Miami coaching staff after he played two years with Johnson’s Cowboys in Dallas in the NFL.
While the hiring was newsworthy from a hype standpoint, Shannon had no head coaching experience, and his Hurricanes would win more than seven games just once in his four years in Coral Gables. Jeff Stoutland would serve as the interim head coach for the final game of the 2010 season, a Sun Bowl loss to Notre Dame.
Al Golden, Hired in 2011
Coming off two impressive seasons at Temple University, a noted basketball institution, Golden had become a hot commodity in NCAA circles. Rumors circulated that Cincinnati and Tennessee were ready to hire him after they lost Brian Kelly and Lane Kiffin to bigger schools.
Golden stepped into a sticky situation, however, as the Hurricanes were once again the focus of another NCAA probe, because of ties to Ponzi douchebag Nevin Shapiro. The team had to withdrawal from bowl consideration in Golden’s first two years because of the NCAA issues. He never really recovered, and the team finally let him go this past October.
Mark Richt , Hired in 2015
The team will reportedly announce the deal later this week, but as you can see from the hires above, Richt is the highest profile coach to come to Coral Gables in the school’s history.
It’s appropriate we started this list with Schnellenberger’s hire, since Richt was a quarterback on the Hurricanes teams from 1979 to 1982, working behind future NFL Hall of Famer Jim Kelly.
Interestingly, Richt’s coaching career began on Bobby Bowden’s staff at FSU back in 1985, and he was eventually promoted to be their offensive coordinator. Under his tutelage, the Seminoles had two Heisman-winning quarterbacks in Charlie Ward and Chris Weinke, and Richt would parlay that success into the head coaching gig at Georgia in 2001.
Richt won two SEC titles in his 15 seasons in Athens, and the Bulldogs won six SEC East Division titles, with three trips to BCS bowls, and seven top-10 AP finishes. Georgia went 9-3 this past season, and he’ll be replaced by Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart.
Without question, when you look over Richt’s résumé and the coaching hires at Miami before him, Richt is most certainly the most promising hire they’ve had in the past 30 years, and possibly ever. To come from the beastly SEC to the weaker ACC, Richt should find his competition a little less imposing.
Mark Richt Photo Credit: Daniel Shirey, Getty Images
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