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Mark Richt’s move to Miami is paying off quickly

By Matt Baker | Times Staff
Published: November 4, 2017 Updated: November 5, 2017 at 12:28 AM
MONICA HERNDON | Times Miami Hurricanes head coach Mark Richt calls a time out in the first quarter of the game between the Virginia Tech Hokies and Miami Hurricanes in Miami, Fla. on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017.

MIAMI ó Two of college footballís top programs gambled after the 2015 season.

Georgia fired a universally respected coach who had more SEC championships (two) than losing seasons (one).

Then Miami turned around and hired him.

The moves paid off for both programs, starting with the Hurricanes, who landed coach Mark Richt less than a week after Georgia fired him.

No. 9 Miami defeated No. 13 Virginia Tech 28-10 Saturday, its 13th straight win ó the longest active run in the nation. UM has now just about wrapped up its elusive first ACC Coastal Division title.

Richt, 57, entered Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday night with a 16-4 UM record. Only Dennis Erickson and Larry Coker started their UM careers better, and both won national championships. Itís the second quick turnaround for Richt, who was 8-4 in his first year at Georgia before finishing 13-1 with a Sugar Bowl victory in his second.

Richt, a Hurricanes quarterback from 1979-82, said he didnít know exactly what he was taking over at Miami, but he knew this is where he wanted to be.

"I just knew I wanted to be back at my alma mater at a place that had the rich tradition of winning and winning in a big way, and being in a fertile recruiting area, which South Florida is Ö" Richt said. "Once I got to meet the guys and start working with them, I knew the cupboard was not bare by any means."

Clearly, which is why his íCanes started 7-0 for the first time since 2013 and were in the top 10 in both polls and the College Football Playoff rankings.

While Miami (8-0 after Saturdayís victory, with Notre Dame visiting next weekend for an 8 p.m. game) took a chance by hiring a coach whose teams were always good but rarely great, Georgiaís move was much riskier: It canned Richt to hire a first-time head coach.

The decision didnít look great last year, when Kirby Smartís Bulldogs stumbled to an 8-5 season and the Liberty Bowl. The former Alabama defensive coordinator looked like another mediocre branch of Nick Sabanís coaching tree. The Gators know the risk well; theyíre 0-for-2, after Will Muschamp and Jim McElwain flopped in Gainesville.

But hiring Smart now looks, well, smart. Georgia sat atop the first set of CFP rankings, and the Bulldogs improved to 9-0 and clinched the SEC East with Saturdayís 24-10 win over South Carolina. Georgia has won eight times by at least two scores and seems like the closest thing this sport has to another íBama ó whom the Bulldogs seem destined to play for the SEC title.

The íCanes havenít been that dominant, but Richt is rebuilding his alma mater. UMís 2018 recruiting class is ranked No. 4 nationally. Saturdayís victory marked Miamiís biggest home game in years. Next week against Notre Dame is even bigger.

Itís still early, but things seem to have worked out well for Richtís former program and new one.

Contact Matt Baker at [email protected] Follow @MBakerTBTimes.