Miami football coach Mark Richt announced his retirement Sunday after compiling a 26-13 record the past three seasons at his alma mater.
Richt's announcement came three days after the Hurricanes lost to Wisconsin 35-3 in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, which dropped their record to 7-6.
In a statement, Richt, 58, said he informed Miami athletic director Blake James of his decision on Sunday morning.
"The decision came after a great deal of thought, discussions with my family, and prayer," Richt said in the statement. "This was my decision.
"The University of Miami has been a part of my life for more than three decades. It shaped me as a young man and provided me with the coaching opportunity of a lifetime. My love for The U is simply great. My true desire is for our football program to return to greatness, and while terribly difficult, I feel that stepping down is in the best interests of the program."
Richt, a former Hurricanes quarterback, was hired to revive the program shortly after he was fired after 15 seasons as Georgia's coach in November 2015. Richt had a 145-51 record with the Bulldogs, leading them to SEC championships in 2002 and 2005.
Richt's first two seasons at Miami were promising, as the Hurricanes went 9-4 in 2016 and then started 10-0 in 2017. But after climbing to No. 2 in the CFP rankings and introducing the college football world to the "Turnover Chain," Miami lost its last three games in 2017, including a 38-3 defeat to Clemson in the ACC championship game.
This past season, the Hurricanes started 5-1, lost four in a row and then won their final two regular-season games before their ugly performance in the bowl game.
Miami fans and former players criticized Richt for not changing his pro-style offense and juggling quarterbacks throughout this past season. The Hurricanes ranked 13th in the ACC in total offense (358.8 yards per game), 12th in passing (167.3 yards) and ninth in scoring (28.8 points).
"It's no secret. We had to figure out how to get better on offense and I think there's some obvious things that we needed to do on that front," James told reporters Sunday. "Mark and I spoke in great detail about what we could to better our position offensively in the future."
Conversely, Miami's defense was among the best in the FBS, allowing only 19.5 points per game. Hurricanes defensive coordinator Manny Diaz was named Temple's new coach earlier this month. A source told ESPN's Adam Rittenberg that Diaz spoke with Miami on Sunday following Richt's announcement.
This past season marked only the second time in Richt's 18-year career that his team failed to win at least eight games. His teams played in a bowl game every season.
"He brought Georgia back to prominence," said Colorado State coach Mike Bobo, who worked as Richt's offensive coordinator. "It hadn't been there since 1983 with a 21-year SEC title drought. He was a play or two away from playing for a national title, but we didn't make them. He might have won one if the four-team playoff had been around."
"To me, he's the ultimate stand-up guy," Bobo added. "He walks the walk and talks the talk. There's nothing fake about him at all. He treats people the way they want to be treated. He's a great person, and I don't think people ever understood how competitive he is."
Miami is also losing its leading rusher, Travis Homer, who announced Sunday that he is hiring an agent and turning pro. Homer rushed for 985 yards this season (6.0 yards per carry) and 966 as a sophomore last year.
Former Miami coach Butch Davis, who guided Florida International to a 9-4 record this past season, is expected to be among the candidates Miami could consider. Oregon's Mario Cristobal, a former Miami player and assistant, also might be in the mix.
Former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden hired Richt as a graduate assistant in 1995 and as his quarterbacks coach in 1990. Richt helped the Seminoles win national championships in 1993 and 1999 before leaving for Georgia.
"He put in a lifetime of coaching and did it the right way," Bowden told ESPN. "He was a great example and program man in emphasizing the right things. He always did the right things for his players. I think any player who was with him for four years came out a better person."
"Change is bound to happen and you have to stick with it," Payton said.
Payton added that it did come as a surprise.
"Because of what I was hearing," Payton said. "My dad asked Coach Richt about his future on our official visit in December and he had talked to us about how he was here and just got an extension."
Couch also said he did not see it coming but that he hoped "they hire a good coach and keep the staff that is there."
"I'm not upset," Couch said. "Miami is Miami and I didn't sign because of a coach. I signed because of the school."
Information from ESPN's Tom VanHaaren was used in this report.