CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) – Mark Richt needed help to figure out which way he should be driving, accidentally said Georgia once when meaning to say Miami and barely recognized his former campus.
Otherwise, he felt right at home.
Dressed in an orange-and-green tie and sporting a lapel pin in the shape of the school’s distinctive “U” logo, Richt returned to his roots Friday when he was announced as Miami’s new coach. Contract terms for the former Hurricane quarterback were not disclosed, but the 55-year-old Richt said he expects this job to be his last.
“I do understand what’s expected,” Richt said. “And really, I don’t want to make a lot of promises, other than I want to promise that we’re going to get to work and we’re going to earn the right for victory.”
His contract is not finalized, though Miami athletic director Blake James said he and Richt have agreed to terms. As a private institution, Miami does not have to release contract information and James would not reveal details. Richt was making $4 million annually at Georgia, where he won 145 games as head coach over the last 15 seasons before the sides parted ways earlier this week.
When Richt left Georgia – officially by “mutual agreement,” a term Richt took a playful and telling swipe at Friday – he thought about taking a year off to catch his football breath. Miami had reached out not long after it fired Al Golden in October to gauge Richt’s interest in possibly returning to his alma mater.
When the Hurricanes called again, Richt – who had been approached by Miami multiple times in the past when the school had coaching openings – knew he couldn’t say no.
“When you coach, you want to go to a place where you’ve got a chance to do big things,” Richt said. “By virtue of the fact that it’s been done here before, that’s a good indicator. By virtue of the fact that it has one of the most fertile recruiting areas in the United States of America, that’s another factor.
“And then I knew this job wouldn’t be open next year,” Richt added.
From there, the deal came together easily and Richt was back at the school where he was a teammate of Jim Kelly, Bernie Kosar and Vinny Testaverde in the early 1980s. Richt’s last collegiate season was 1982, one year before Howard Schnellenberger led Miami to the first of what became five national titles in a 19-season span.
Testaverde, whose son Vincent is a backup quarterback at Miami now, was part of the search committee that ultimately brought Richt home.
“I know he’s going to be a great role model for my boy, for our kids, he’s going to be a great person and a great teacher,” Vinny Testaverde said. “And that’s what these kids need.”
Richt went 19-3 against Atlantic Coast Conference opponents when he was at Georgia, and Miami can only hope that trend continues. The Hurricanes moved into the ACC 12 seasons ago, and still are looking for their first league title.
“Football is not part of what we do here,” Miami President Julio Frenk said. “It is part of who we are.”
Miami has gone since 2001 without a national title, since 2003 without a 10-win season and since 2006 without a bowl win.
Richt’s mandate is simple: Change all that.
“I can’t wait to get started,” Richt said.
Richt inherits a team that went 8-4 in this regular season, has an elite quarterback in Brad Kaaya, had 91 percent of its points this season come from players who could be back with the Hurricanes in 2016 if they so choose, and finished with four wins in five games under interim coach Larry Scott – who met with Richt early Friday and wants to be part of the new staff.
“I think it’s the best possible candidate we could have gotten,” Kaaya said of Richt. “He’s a good dude.”