Miami fans are loving Mark Richt after this 10-3 breakout season, but soon they’ll want more.
Georgia fans did, even though Richt ripped off double-digit wins one season after another there while building an overall .740 winning percentage.
Now that the Bulldogs are in the national championship game with Kirby Smart, many fans are probably wishing they had made the switch sooner.
That’s not fair to Richt, who won more games as Georgia’s coach than anyone except Vince Dooley, the 1980 national championship coach who ran the show there for a quarter century. This is how the business works, however, and this may be why a guy like Richt gets so wound up during the Orange Bowl the other night that he grabs the arm of an official and draws a flag.
Nine times at Georgia Richt won 10 games or better, and it he would have had another if he wasn’t fired at 9-3 in 2015 just before a Gator Bowl win over Penn State. By the numbers, he should still be there, but the administration got tired of boosters grumbling about SEC titles that didn’t materialize and quarterbacks that didn’t develop and playcalling that didn’t crack the code against Alabama and Florida and other SEC irritants.
The job that is ahead of Richt now is to push past the wave of excitement that marks his second season at Miami and into a series of moves so dependable and signings so right that Clemson won’t be able to stand in the way, or FSU, or anybody else.
It was his second season that rang the bell at Georgia in 2002, too. The Bulldogs were 13-1 with a Sugar Bowl win over FSU that year, convincing the faithful, as Miami fans are convinced now, that the right coach finally was at the right place at the right time.
It was great, all right, but it didn’t get greater, and the national title opportunity that Smart has now did not come to be. It happens like this, the feeling that 10-3 over and over is some kind of a drag. If that doesn’t seem possible at Miami right now, think of how Larry Coker started out 35-3 as the Hurricanes coach but began to lose momentum with a couple of 9-3 seasons and soon, after just six years, was gone.
Oh, I know that Coker and Richt are not the same guy, that Coker inherited a championship-caliber roster and didn’t have the same legwork to do at first, but the point is this. Miami had a coach with an .800 career winning percentage and a national title but he wasn’t enough to satisfy anybody for long.
So you look at the Hurricanes’ 2018 season opener, a Labor Day weekend showcase against LSU at Jerry’s World in Texas, and it’s like Richt has something to prove again. A loss by Miami would be the fourth in a row. A win and the Hurricanes are only getting started, with anything less than another trip to Charlotte and the ACC title game to be viewed as a step back.
It’s the pressure that every elite coach at every major program accepts, and Richt means to be in the middle of it, too.
My hope is that his alma mater will be a little more forgiving than most if everything doesn’t go perfectly. That’s because nothing goes perfectly in college football, not when a team like Auburn can upset a couple of No. 1 teams and come off looking like a dog at season’s end with a 10-4 record and a bowl loss to UCF. Not when UCF can have its best season ever and forfeit a head coach in the process.
Good luck keeping it going, Mark, and keeping it together, too. All things considered, that one sideline meltdown in the Wisconsin game was probably a long time coming.
What he had this season wasn’t much different than Jim McElwain’s introduction at Florida, an exciting 10-1 start and a rapid return to the Top 10 after years of wandering, followed by three lopsided losses in a row to FSU, Alabama and Michigan.
Nobody wants to hear that, but it’s so.