Barry Jackson

Prominent UM trustee speaks out against Richt’s approach

So what do UM Board of Trustee members think of what’s going on with the football program?

Conversations with two highly-respected ones – both prominent members of the community – revealed that among the trustees, the level of frustration with Mark Richt hasn’t nearly reached the level of past dissatisfaction with Al Golden.

So trustees are not going to push for a coaching change, which would not happen at this point even if they collectively wanted one.

But while many trustees still hold Richt in high regard, there is frustration with his offense and his play-calling and athletic director Blake James is expected to be asked by at least one of them to intervene, one of the long-time trustees said.

Both trustees spoke to The Miami Herald before Thursday’s news that Jeff Thomas was dismissed from the football team. (A friend of Thomas said Thursday that Thomas planned to leave anyway.)

James told me last week that he will not pressure or order Richt to make staff changes but will meet with him soon after this Saturday’s finale to discuss the team’s shortcomings and how they will be addressed.

“Mark shouldn’t be calling the plays; Blake at least has to tell him, ‘This isn’t working,’” said one of the trustees (Trustee A, we’ll call him), who requested anonymity because he’s not authorized to speak publicly about such matters. “The win [Saturday at Virginia Tech] doesn’t change that.”

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Trustee A said he hopes if UM finishes with strong performances offensively that it does not convince Richt that no changes need to be made.

Still, the two trustees said there’s no scenario in which they could envision Richt being fired –or asked to resign – before the end of the 2019 season at the earliest. During this past offseason, Richt’s contract was extended through 2023.

Both trustees also cautioned that it’s unusual for trustees to influence major athletic department decisions, such as assistant coaching matters.

Trustee A said that did happen when UM fired Golden during the 2015 season, but added there is not enough groundswell of frustration yet about Richt to believe the trustees would have a realistic chance of pressuring Richt to make changes.

“The trustees have the power to force change but they normally don’t step in with athletic department issues except for the Al Golden situation,” said Trustee A, who’s exasperated with UM’s offense.

But that trustee said one of his friends on the board, another influential UM trustee, intends to ask James to pressure Richt to make staff changes and give up play-calling if Richt doesn’t reach that conclusion himself.

“Blake’s job,” that trustee said, “is to ask Richt to explain what are we doing to make changes and tell him, ‘what you’re doing isn’t working.’ If Mark’s stubborn, you get stubborn with him. Blake is an excellent AD and this is part of his job.”

That Trustee A said: “Mark should look in the mirror and know that something needs to change. He’s trying to run the power offense he used at Georgia and doesn’t have the talent to do it. He had a great offensive line and great running backs at Georgia, and we don’t have that here. He’s trying to run between the tackles and we don’t have the offensive line to do it consistently.

“You have to change your offense according to what you have. You saw the success they had when they lost their tight ends and they spread the field against Virginia Tech. You should put all these receivers on the field, throw five to seven yard passes where you don’t need to block as long and use our speed and athleticism.”

Against Virginia Tech, UM averaged 7.2 yards per play on 33 plays after UM lost its two remaining scholarship tight ends, compared with 3.7 yards per play before that time. For the season, Miami is averaging 5.6 yards per play.

The other issue, that trustee said, is “The play-calling stinks. Mark should be paying attention to the whole game instead of calling plays. Al Golden didn’t want to listen to us about [firing defensive coordinator] Mark D’Onofrio and the same thing is happening here. He has to look at his son [quarterbacks coach Jon Richt] and the offensive line coach [Stacy Searels]. This is the problem with hiring your son. Our special teams aren’t good enough. There are a lot of problems.”

That Trustee A said UM is positioned to pay a high-level offensive coordinator $1 million or more annually.

The trustee also expressed concern that “I don’t see enthusiasm. I don’t see kids getting pissed off. This game requires emotion.”

That Trustee A said Richt should relent and make changes partly because he’s being paid handsomely (more than $4 million per year) and partly because he has been given most everything he has requested here.

“How about the facilities we gave him, with the indoor facility?” the trustee said. “Remember, we’re not the richest school in the world. Imagine if Howard Schnellenberger or [UM’s other most successful coaches] had these facilities.”

That trustee said changes might be more likely if Donna Shalala were still the UM president. Why?

UM president Julio Frenk “is not involved in sports,” the trustee said. “Donna was. I can guarantee you that Julio has not gone to Blake to complain about the offense. He goes to games and that’s it.”

For now, “Trustee A” and others await what happens next.

“Richt would be foolish if he doesn’t make any changes,” the trustee said. “Only a fool does the same thing that wasn’t successful. We shouldn’t be losing to these teams. Fans deserve more than what we’re giving them.”

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