University of Miami

Mark Richt feels the love, and here's why UM football fans should be celebrating today

Miami Hurricanes coach Mark Richt is shown raising the Russell Athletic Bowl championship trophy after the Canes defeated West Virginia in Orlando in 2016. The Hurricanes are set to square in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium against the Wisconsin Badgers at 5:15 p.m. on Dec. 27 in a rematch of the Orange Bowl last year.
Miami Hurricanes coach Mark Richt is shown raising the Russell Athletic Bowl championship trophy after the Canes defeated West Virginia in Orlando in 2016. The Hurricanes are set to square in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium against the Wisconsin Badgers at 5:15 p.m. on Dec. 27 in a rematch of the Orange Bowl last year. adiaz@miamiherald.com

University of Miami football fans should be celebrating today that coach Mark Richt earned a contract extension that, if all works out as hoped, will take him through the 2023 season.

Richt, 58, who earned his degree from Miami and was a backup quarterback there from 1978 through 82, has shouted far and wide in his calming, confident manner that this Hurricanes gig he accepted nearly three seasons ago has been more fulfilling and gratifying than even he had imagined.

Richt's orginal contract, signed in December of 2015, is believed to have been for six years, paying him more than $4 million annually. UM is a private school and does not release the terms of its contracts.

Richt, the Walter Camp (and ACC) Coach of the Year who repeatedly has said he wants to end his coaching career at his alma mater, will be 63 in 2023. Who knows what will happen before or after that?

But it's prudent to note that Alabama coach Nick Saban is 66 now and will turn 67 in October. Saban won his first of five national titles with the Crimson Tide (he has six total) when he was 58.

Mark Richt has plenty good years ahead of him.

Here's why UM fans should be celebrating their coach's contract extension:

Stability: When successful coaches stay at a program for the long haul, the assistant coaches and players and recruits are more secure, the staff builds continuity and trust, and the program gets stronger. Since Howard Schnellenberger won UM's first national title in 1983, the longest coaching stint has been six years, achieved by Dennis Erickson (1989-94), Butch Davis (1995-2000) and Larry Coker (2001-2006). If Richt sticks it out, he would have coached eight seasons.

Recruiting: Richt and his staff have done an excellent job since he arrived, hauling in an exceptional #Storm18 class this past February and last December, and surging strong toward that #Surge19 class just around the corner. His newest class, in the building stages for December of 2018 and National Signing Day in 2019, is rated 11th nationally by rivals.com, 10th by 247Sports and ninth by ESPN.com.

Season-ticket sales: UM season-ticket sales hit an all-time high of 42,000 heading into the 2017 campaign, and are expected to sell more for 2018. Only 5,000 remain, according to Hurricanes senior associate athletic director Jesse Marks.

Facilities/Fundraising: The Hurricanes are closing in on completion of their 83,000-square-foot Carol Soffer Football Indoor Practice Facility, which Marks said Thursday is "within striking distance'' of raising the initial $34 million goal for the facility, which will have two practice fields — the smaller one underneath the mezzanine where Richt's office will be. The other part of the project will be a nearly 30,000-square-foot football operations complex with new offices, team meeting rooms, coaches' offices and new recruiting areas and will be attached to the Hecht Athletic Center. More money is being raised to "continue making the facility as first class as possible,'' Marks said. It should be noted that Richt and his wife Katharyn donated $1 million toward the IPF.

Community outreach: No coach in recent memory has touched the South Florida community the way Richt has these past few years. He continually visits youth football programs throughout South Florida, sharing his coaching wisdom and general life's lessons with youngers and their mentors alike. Dozens of his Hurricanes, in turn, spend the off-season volunteering at local school programs and community centers.

Bringing back alumni: No doubt about it. Richt has brought back the football alumni, many of whom turned angrily on former coach Al Golden. They're back en masse, coming to specially organized weekends, attending games and practices and being happily urged to take part in the program. Richt's "U Network,'' designed to help former players find work and network with each other, has been extremely successful.

What's next? The Canes hope a national title, since the last of five came in 2001. They're inching closer, having finished 10-3 in 2017 (despite a three-game lapse to end the year), to produce the best season since 2003 (11-2).

The Canes finished 13th in the final Associated Press poll, their highest ranking since 2004, and along the way demolished Notre Dame and snapped Florida State's seven-game winning streak against them.

Next up: LSU vs. the Hurricanes at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 2 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

It certainly won't be an easy campaign in 2018 — no college football campaign is— but with a strong coaching staff secured, starting with Richt, the Canes are heading in the right direction.

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