Mark Richt wore an orange-and-green tie Friday instead of the customary red and black he donned the past 15 years in Athens, Georgia.
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He wore an orange-and-green “U” pin on his left lapel instead of the black Georgia “G.’’
And instead of saying he was leaving home, he said he was coming home.
Richt, 55, was introduced Friday as the 24th football coach at the University of Miami, and the former Hurricanes quarterback and Boca Raton High School graduate said this time he was staying for good.
“My wife and I can tell you this: This is our home,” Richt said. “We love it. This is where we’re going to finish our coaching career. … My goal is to retire at this university… or stay “until they throw me out the door.”
Richt, who compiled a 145-51 record at Georgia, was fired Sunday — Richt sarcastically called it a “mutual agreement” — likely because he hadn’t won a national title for the Bulldogs, and his second of two Southeastern Conference titles came 10 years ago.
He finished nine of his 15 seasons with 10 or more wins and had seven Associated Press top-10 finishes, with an 85-40 record in the toughest conference in college football.
UM athletic director Blake James said he and his search advisory committee wanted a new coach to be “bright, ethical” and “a proven leader.”
“When you think of Mark Richt, you can put checks by all those adjectives,” said James, who gauged Richt’s interest in the job after former coach Al Golden was fired Oct. 25.
“They spoke to me, and I said, ‘No, I’m not interested,’ ” said Richt, who explained he had made a commitment to Georgia. “And then after the ‘mutual agreement,’ we got asked again.”
James called it “a great day” for UM, which is 8-4 as it awaits a bowl game, “as we welcome home one of our own. Mark was raised in South Florida, played for Howard Schnellenberger at the U, honed his coaching skills under of the greatest coaches of all time [Bobby Bowden at Florida State], led Georgia to SEC titles and BCS bowl games and did it with integrity, class, dignity and true appreciation for the student-athletes.”
The news conference was held at the Donna E. Shalala Student Center, with a few hundred in attendance, including UM president Julio Frenk, current and former players such as search committee members Jonathan Vilma and Vinny Testaverde, administrators and donors.
Said Frenk: “Football is not part of what we do here. It is part of who we are.’’
Neither UM athletic director Blake James nor Richt would disclose the terms of Richt’s contract, but a person familiar with the negotiation said the contract was for “either five or six years’’ — the person said UM preferred six.
Multiple sources said UM would pay Richt at least $4 million annually, about $1.5 million more than Golden made. Richt made $4.12 million at Georgia.
Richt said he intends to be at UM’s bowl, which will be announced Sunday. He said he is going out to recruit soon, possibly by Friday night.
His recruiting class at Georgia is ranked in the top five and includes the No. 1 prep quarterback in the nation, Jacob Eason, who some reports now say is contemplating changing his commitment to Miami — already with heralded quarterback commit Jack Allison.
“I’m not going to keep a young man from calling me and saying, ‘I’m interested. I want to visit,’ ’’ Richt said. “The goal, truly, is for young men to find the best place for them. If the best place for them is [UM], I’m not going to talk them out of it.”
He acknowledged that after he was fired, at first he thought of taking time off.
What convinced him otherwise?
One thing, he said, but not the first, was “it’s one of the most fertile recruiting areas” in the nation.
“One was just the outpouring from former players that were wishing me well, that were thanking me for being an influence in their lives,’’ he said, adding that he had heard from “even guys that I had dismissed from the team, just thanking me for loving them enough to discipline them and help them change the bad course they were going on.
“And the other thing that happened was the University of Miami, the fact that it’s my home, my alma mater. And when you coach you want to go to a place where you’ve got a chance to do big things.”
Added Richt: “I knew this job wouldn’t be open next year, so I better do it.’’
Richt said assembling a staff is a priority but that he would take his time because “it’s probably the greatest and most important decision that I’ll make.”
Interim coach Larry Scott, who will coach UM in the bowl, said Richt’s hiring was “awesome’’ for “the team and the whole U family.’’ He said he’d love to stay at Miami.
UM offensive coordinator James Coley called it a “phenomenal hire,” but said he needed to “sit down and talk” with Richt before he could assess his future.
The players, several of whom attended Friday, were thrilled.
“A lot of guys were excited,’’ quarterback Brad Kaaya said. “He’s just a real calm dude. He didn’t walk in there boastful and extraordinarily confident. He was very respectful, very humble. To me it was just how genuine he was and how real he is. That aspect right there is what our team needs.”