When Miami introduced Mark Richt as its new head coach last Friday, it capped a whirlwind five days in which the Hurricanes did everything they could to lock in their top target.
So how did Miami get its coach?
Seeds were actually planted back in October. Shortly after Al Golden was fired, athletic director Blake James reached out to Richt’s agent, Mark Carmony, to gauge whether Richt would have any interest in the job. James had identified Richt as his No. 1 target and already had a working relationship with Carmony, who also represents Miami men’s basketball coach Jim Larranaga. Carmony told James that Richt was happy at Georgia and not interested in leaving.
In the month that followed, Miami hired a search firm to help identify potential candidates and hammered out the qualities it hoped to find in its next coach. At the top of that list: bright, ethical, proven leader. Miami simply could not hire a coach unproven on the big stage, given the yearly expectation level, the talent returning and the desire to become nationally relevant again.
It also would have to step up financially to pay its next coach and staff, given the way the market had changed since Golden was hired in 2010. President Julio Frenk, the board of trustees and the administration were all on the same page.
James decided it would be best to wait until the regular season ended before really putting its search into high gear. Things really started moving the day after the Pittsburgh game. Miami reportedly talked to several coaches, but the one it truly wanted became available on Sunday, Nov. 29. Richt was done at Georgia after 15 seasons. James called Carmony that day to again express Miami’s interest. Would Richt now have interest in talking to Miami?
On Monday, James got the answer he wanted. The Miami contingent met with Richt on Tuesday at a neutral-site location. Though James and Richt serve on the Football Oversight Committee together, they had never met in person. The two sides talked for between four and five hours. Richt asked his fair share of questions. “I covered all the bases and things I think are crucially important as far as staff, as far as support staff, support programs for players, academic support and how did that work, and all these kinds of things,” Richt said. They also discussed facilities, briefly hitting on the opportunity to get an indoor practice facility built. That still remains the No. 1 item on James' facilities agenda.
Miami asked a list of questions the search firm provided as well, and then more follow-ups. Throughout the course of the meeting, it became clear this would be a home-run hire if they could seal the deal. “It only further strengthened my belief that he was the best person for us,” James said.
At the end of the meeting, Miami made it known to Richt that he was the man they wanted. Richt needed a day to think it over.
“When we got finished, I felt there is no perfect school, there's no perfect coach, so there's always things that you’re striving toward, but I have a lot of faith and confidence everybody wants to do what it takes, so that's what gave me confidence to say yes,” Richt said.
Throughout the day Wednesday, negotiations took place between the two sides to try and work out a deal that would make Richt happy. Miami reportedly offered roughly the same $4 million annual salary Richt was making at Georgia. On Wednesday evening, Richt called James to accept the job.
“I was thrilled, speechless, very excited and just happy that we had gotten the guy who was at the top of our list,” James said. “I felt great for the young men coming into our program and the young men in our program right now to know their new coach was someone with the experience, the qualities and just everything about who Mark is.”
James picked Richt up on Thursday and the two flew to Miami together. At 10 a.m. Friday, Richt was introduced as Miami coach.
The very next day, Richt was in Orlando at the Class 4A state championship game wearing Canes gear, already on the recruiting trail.