ATHENS — Mark Richt’s firing by Georgia did not demoralize him, as it turns out. It re-energized him, and has sent him back to where his college football career started.
In a turn of events stunning to many around him, Richt has accepted the head coach job at Miami, a source close to the now-former Georgia coach confirmed on Wednesday night to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
That came after numerous reports out of south Florida and by ESPN that Richt was Miami’s next coach. Richt did not return messages, and thus far there has not been an announcement from Miami.
Richt spent 15 years as Georgia’s head coach and said often that he and his wife Katharyn planned to retire in Athens. People close to him remained shocked that not only Richt considered the job, but took it.
But Richt’s firing by Georgia certainly adjusted his mindset when it came to other jobs. He now takes over at his alma mater, which fired Al Golden midway through this past season.
“There may be more opportunities that come in the next few hours, the next 24, 48 hours, that type of thing,” Richt said Monday. “I’m going to listen to anyone that has interest in me coaching or not, in any area or any arena that’s a possibility. Since 1986 I’ve always really tried to walk daily with the Lord and try to figure out what He really wants me to do, and I try to be really obedient to that.”
So to recap: After Richt was fired on Sunday, he received interest from numerous schools – he said “about five” called on Monday alone – while Georgia fixated on just one coach, Kirby Smart, who it has hired but not yet officially announced as coach.
“Glad to see that Mark Richt has gone forward at Miami,” former Kentucky coach Rich Brooks tweeted on Wednesday night. “He will win there and Georgia will be lucky to do as well.”
It is unclear whether Richt still plans to coach Georgia in its bowl game. This news makes it less likely, and means that either Smart could take over early, or an interim coach will coach the Bulldogs for one game. The latter scenario is the most probable, especially if Alabama wins the SEC championship on Saturday and makes the national playoff.
Miami went 8-4 this year, and is also bowl eligible. So it’s conceivable Richt could still coach this month, just for another school. In fact, at least one projection has Miami playing in the Music City Bowl against … Georgia.
Either way, it appears last Saturday’s 13-7 win over Georgia Tech was the final game of Richt’s tenure at Georgia. But he will continue to play the Yellow Jackets: They’re in the same ACC division as the Hurricanes.
Richt was a backup quarterback at Miami from 1979-82. He lived in nearby Boca Raton, Fla., during high school years, but was born in Nebraska and also lived in Denver.
One other consideration for Richt, according to a source: Helping his staffers at Georgia who may not be retained by Smart. Now they will probably have an opportunity at Miami, and there could actually be a battle over several assistants between Georgia and Miami.
Tight ends coach John Lilly seems one likely candidate to move with him. And if defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt doesn’t land back at Georgia, or at his alma mater of Alabama, Richt could bring him with him to south Florida. Although there was known to be strife among Georgia’s staff, centering on Pruitt, the relationship between Richt and Pruitt was still though to be good.
Recruiting could also come into play. Richt flew across the country last month to see five-star quarterback Jacob Eason, and has a long relationship with him.
As he puts together his staff, it’s likely Richt won’t be looking for an offensive play-caller, judging by his comments Monday: “I really miss hands-on coaching. The coaching of the quarterbacks, the calling of the games, the plays. I miss that.”
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