University of Miami

Who could be next in line as the Hurricanes’ head football coach? Some possibilities

Mark Richt is out as the University of Miami Hurricanes’ head football coach. He announced his retirement Sunday after 18 years as a college football head coach, with the last three at his alma mater UM.

So who could be next in line to take over the Hurricanes’ football program? In no particular order, here are some possibilities:

Mario Cristobal, Oregon head coach

Cristobal, who is finishing his first year as Oregon’s head coach, has direct ties to the UM program, having played on two national championship teams (1989, 1991) and served as a grad assistant from 1998-2000 and then as an assistant coach for three years (tight ends from 2004-2005 and offensive line in 2006) before a six-year stint as FIU’s head coach. He then spent three years as Alabama’s assistant head coach and offensive line coach before moving over to Oregon as offensive coordinator in 2017 and then as head coach this year.

Cristobal, a Miami native who graduated from Columbus High, also has strong ties on the recruiting front. His current class at Oregon ranks sixth nationally and includes the top player this cycle in California’s Kayvon Thibodeaux and also includes seven of the top 150 players, according to the 247Sports composite ranking. He has two players from South Florida committed to play on the West Coast in Deerfield Beach’s Ge’Mon Eaford and Brandon Dorlus.

But the question remains: with the positive trajectory Cristobal has Oregon on this year, would he drop it for a chance to come back to his alma mater?

Another possible roadblock: Cristobal’s contract at Oregon includes a $10 million buyout, a steep price that might cause the Hurricanes to have some hesitations.

Butch Davis, FIU head coach

Another top candidate is another former Miami coach who continues his career less than 10 miles away at FIU. In just two years, Davis has turned the Panthers into a contender in the Conference-USA, going 17-9 since taking over before the 2017 season.

Davis had incredible success in his stint at Miami, going 51-20 over six years before leaving after the 2000 season to try his hand as an NFL head coach.

Manny Diaz, Temple head coach

If Richt had made this decision three weeks ago, Diaz would have been the logical choice to be the Hurricanes’ next head coach. Diaz, a Miami native and UM’s defensive coordinator for the last three years, helped re-establish the Hurricanes as one of the best defenses in the country before accepting the head coaching job at Temple on Dec. 12. Would the Hurricanes be able to make a push to get him back?

Greg Schiano, Ohio State defensive coordinator

The former Rutgers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach was interviewed the last time Miami had a head coaching vacancy, so it’s possible he gets a call again.

Schiano, 52, spent two years as Miami’s defensive coordinator in 1999-2000 before his 11-year run at Rutgers. UM’s defense ranked 12th in 1999 in points per game allowed (17.2) and fifth in 2000 (15.5) while working with studs such as soon-to-be NFL Pro Bowlers Dan Morgan, Jonathan Vilma and Ed Reed.

Dino Babers, Syracuse head coach

After a pair of 4-8 seasons to open his tenure at Syracuse, Babers led the Orange to a 10-3 record in 2018 — the school’s first double-digit win season since 2001. Syracuse finished the season 11th nationally in scoring offense (40.2 points per game) and 20th in total offense (464.9 yards per game).

Mike Norvell, Memphis head coach

One of the top up-and-coming coaches at the Group of Five level, Norvell had turned Memphis into one of the top offensive teams during his three seasons at the helm. The Tigers have ranked in the top 10 in total offense in each of the last two seasons after finishing 28th in Norvell’s inaugural season in 2016. Running back Darrell Henderson was a unanimous first-team All-American this year after finishing second nationally in yards from scrimmage (2,204).

Josh Heupel, UCF football coach

Heupel kept UCF’s offense humming in his first year with the program, as the Knights are third in total offense (545.4 yards per game) and fifth in scoring (44.2 yards per game) and looking to close out a second consecutive perfect season.

Rex Ryan

A source told the Herald that a couple prominent former UM players are pushing behind scenes for the former Jets head coach to replace Richt. Ryan is believed to have interest if he is contacted.

Kliff Kingsbury, Southern California offensive coordinator

USC just hired Kingsbury on Dec. 4 to be its offensive coordinator shortly after he was fired following six years at Texas Tech. His main asset: He’s a quarterback guru, tutoring players such as Kansas City Chiefs starter and NFL MVP candidate Patrick Mahomes and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, among others.

Mike Leach, Washington State head coach

Another offensive-minded coach with 17 years of head coaching experience between his time at Texas Tech (2000-2009) and Washington State (2012-2018), Leach more than once expressed strong interest in being the Hurricanes’ coach. He led the Cougars to a program-best 11-2 record this year and has won at least eight games each of the last four seasons. His buyout is only $2.2 million.

Neal Brown, Troy head coach

Brown, 38, is another up-and-comer in the coaching ranks. After a slow start to open his head coaching career at Troy, Brown has gone 31-8 over the last three years and won the Sun Belt in 2017, during which the Trojans upset LSU. He also has five years of experience as an offensive coordinator at Power 5 schools (Texas Tech from 2010-2012 and Kentucky from 2013-2014).

Lane Kiffin, FAU head coach

It wouldn’t be a Power 5 head coaching search list without Kiffin on it, right? Kiffin, the former head coach at Tennessee and USC and offensive coordinator at Alabama, had a phenomenal first year with the Owls (11-3) before regressing to the mean this year (5-7).

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Jordan McPherson covers the Miami Marlins and high school sports for the Miami Herald. He attended the University of Florida and covered the Gators athletic program for five years before joining the Herald staff in December 2017.
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