The Miami Hurricanes are off to the hottest recruiting start since 2008 when they pulled in the number one recruiting class. That year the hurricanes finished on top of the recruiting world with the Likes of Jacory Harris, Aldarius Johnson, Marcus Forston and Oliver Vernon. Since then Miami has had several recruiting classes that started off hot but fizzled down the stretch, but this year it feels different.
Unlike in years past the Miami Hurricanes finished the year winning a bowl game in dominating fashion for the first time since 2006. Mark Richt and his staff have laid down a brand-new foundation cemented in an old-school philosophy. That philosophy started a brand, it invented swagger and won the Hurricanes five national championships.
Coach Howard Schnellenberger developed this philosophy and the head coaches that followed didn’t just live by it, they succeeded because of it. That philosophy is known as taking care of home first. He built a fence and inside that fence, he created an environment where players from the rough neighborhoods of South Florida were the first to be invited. Inside that fence tucked away on a beautiful campus that provided a first-class education was a Members-Only club that required sacrifice, toughness, and brotherhood. For those South Florida players who was lucky enough to be invited, it was like living in paradise and in return they rewarded their coaches with rings. Imagine being an 18 year old linebacker and you wake up early to go to the gym and you see Ray Lewis who just one MVP of the super bowl lifting weights. This is the environment that players inside the fence were regularly treated to.
Soon word got out and players from outside of South Florida wanted to prove they belonged. Players from across Florida, and across the country such as California, Texas, and Louisiana came and lined up at the fence hoping to be invited in. Today if you have the privilege to step onto the practice fields of Greentree you will see a wall depicting images of Hurricane royalty.
Lately, Miami has had a hard time trying to find the right type of talent worthy of having their picture added to the Greentree wall. Recruits from South Florida no longer stood knocking at the fence, they walked right past it. Players like Teddy Bridgewater and Amari Cooper were no longer enticed by what was behind the fence, they wanted out. As a fan who watched those great teams, I wondered what happened to that philosophy that made Miami who they are, the team everyone hated to play but wanted to emulate. I came to one un-denying truth, teams decided that they could not beat Miami on the field, but unlike Miami, they can beat them off the field. They created bigger and better Members-Only Clubs. They put money into bigger facilities, stadiums, and coaching contracts to keep coaches from running off to the NFL. Places like Alabama, Clemson, Texas, Ohio State, Florida and Florida State were being run and equipped like NFL teams, while Miami stayed the same.
Miami, a small private school could not compete with the money these large public institutions were bringing in. Coaches left for greener pastures, the orange bowl was torn down, facilities remained untouched and the inability to pay for top coaches is ultimately what has doomed Miami this past decade. The great players that South Florida regularly produced no longer wanted to stay home, they wanted to leave.
In 2016, in a game that saw Miami routed by Clemson and provided the ammunition to fire Al Golden, the Board of Trustees at Miami realized that if Miami was to be great again it could not just compete on the field, but they had to compete off the field. In comes Coach Mark Richt. The once former quarterback from Miami has returned home; the Trustees decided it was time to pay for a top tier coach. Miami now has a coach who played for the legend that built the fence. He coached against legends that produce those championships. And he spent 15 years at a school who decided they could no longer compete, but they could outspend hoping to lure recruits away from that fence.
Coach knew what needed to be done, the talent was always there, it just needed a reason to stay. He went back to the philosophy of taking care of home first. In the one year since being hired, Coach Richt has made huge investments off the field that will soon pay dividends on it. He hired a coaching staff that can compete with the likes of Florida State and Clemson in the ACC. He invested his own money into a project he insisted was needed to compete in today’s world of college football. The new Indoor Practice Facility breaks ground soon. And he has repaired the once mighty fence that was crumbling from years of neglect.
Recruits are now taking notice. They are not walking past the fence anymore. They are stopping and knocking, hoping to get an invite to come inside. It started with 2016 that produce the likes of Shaq Quarterman and Ahmmon Richards, two of the top freshmen in the county last year. This years Squad 2017 will bring in abundance of talent that will add much needed depth. Storm 2018 has swept through college football with the nation’s number one recruiting class and shows no evidence of slowing down. A player such as Mark Pope, Josh Jobe, and Lorenzo Lingard decided to throw up the U and turned down offers from Alabama, Florida State, and others. The talent that’s lining up at the fence is greater than any Miami recruiting class in the last decade.
March Richt has now rebuilt the fence that use to warn others schools to stay out. I believe he is a fan of the Show Married with Children. He is outside that fence right now putting up a warning sign to all of the college football world, “Keep out authorized personnel only.” He heard the voice that Al Bundy heard, “If you build it, they will come”