This makes the third time since Mark Richt arrived at Georgia that his alma mater has needed a coach, and in 2006 and 2010 there was never a real thought he’d consider the Miami job. (And there’s no evidence he did.) This time, though …
Please understand: I’m not saying he should go or will go. I continue to believe that if Richt left tomorrow, for whatever reason, the odds would be against Georgia finding someone better. (Not saying it couldn’t happen, but an upgrade over a man who’s at worst the third-best coach in school history is nowhere near a lock.)
But hear me out. Richt is 55. This is his 15th season in Athens. I would never describe the man as downbeat – as we know, Richt is among the more chipper folks in the world – but I’ve seen a weariness in him the past two seasons that wasn’t there in 2002 or 2012. (Granted, getting older can do that.) He has won everything at Georgia except the biggest thing, and it would take several miracles for the Bulldogs to slip into the College Football Playoff this season.
For better or worse, that’s how it is: Richt has been really good but, in the eyes of some observers and some UGA fans, not quite good enough. He’s at that weird place where the victories don’t register and the losses reverberate. (Case in point: On the week of Georgia-Florida 2015, we’re still reliving Georgia-Florida 2014.)
Miami would offer a new challenge in an easier conference and the softer of the ACC’s two divisions. (This year’s Coastal champ figures to be Pittsburgh or Duke.) It would be a return to home ground. It’s not as good a job as Georgia – Miami is a private school with a way-off-campus stadium and a soft fan base — but the “U” has won five national championships since the Bulldogs last won one, and Miami took its titles under four different coaches.
At 55, Richt isn’t apt to have many more chances to move to a job with such potential. In conversation a couple of years ago, he brushed off any thought of leaving to coach elsewhere, saying, “This is home.” But if he is weary of the Georgia grind and isn’t ready to stop coaching, Miami could be his exit ramp.
That said: Georgia’s administration has made a show of giving Richt everything he wants – a raise and a contract extension; money for high-salaried assistants (Brian Schottenheimer among them); the all-important indoor practice facility – and next year offers the possibility of a backfield including the ballyhooed recruit Jacob Eason and a surgically repaired Nick Chubb. The 2016 Bulldogs could be the best on paper since 2012 if not 2008. Having waited 15 years for a shot at a national championship, would Richt depart and leave that chance to someone else?
At 55, Richt mightn’t be exactly what Miami wants. And if the Hurricanes do call, I still think he’d say no. But this time he might listen.