Word began to spread yesterday afternoon that Mark Richt could potentially step down as the Hurricanes coach, but I didn't believe that was a realistic possibility. Richt displayed plenty of stubbornness and I would have bet that he was going to coach for the foreseeable future despite his record.
Changes needed to be made. The Board of Trustees and Miami AD Blake James knew that. What happened between last night and Richt’s decision to retire this morning is beyond anybody at the moment, but the fact of the matter is that the Hurricanes are in a position to drastically change the direction of the program, hopefully for the better.
This hire may be the single most important decision of Blake James’ tenure at Miami. Richt fell on his lap and he made an easy and convenient choice. It’s hardly his fault — Richt was a consensus fan favorite with Miami ties.
This time around there must be a real vetting process and Miami’s brass has to work swiftly and efficiently to find the right man for the job. There is no excuses this time. Miami’s program couldn't be in a tougher spot. They aren't recruiting as well as they should be, the teams performance is simply unacceptable, and there is not a single quarterback on the roster that has proven they could play.
There are teams that dream of having the defense that the Hurricanes fielded weekly, yet they wasted an entire generation of elite defensive play due to a lack of creativity and, clearly, a lack of interest and confidence in the job by the man calling the plays. It's simply disgraceful.
Blake James has expressed his admiration for the the defensive staff and I’m certain that everybody would like them to stay, but it needs to be understood that hiring a new coach would likely result in changes on that side.
The only way I could see that happening is if James and the board go after an offensive-minded head coach, which would be best case scenario in my opinion. A guy like Mike Leach, who took over a 4-8 Washington State team and turned them around completely.
In his first year with the Cougars, their offense ranked 108th nationally and 101st defensively. In 2018, they ranked 21st in total offense with the nations leading passer and had the 30th ranked defense. He did that at a school who's recruiting classes ranked 50th, 53rd, 42nd, 56th, 44th, and 45th since his first full class in 2013. This guy can flat out coach below average talent and turn them into contenders. Just imagine what he could do with the talent that would reside right in his backyard.
There are other viable options such as Mario Cristobal, who I don't believe is a realistic candidate, Mark Stoops, and Dino Babers.
Stoops isn't the sexiest name, but Kentucky was basically an automatic win on every other SEC teams schedule before he took over. He took over a 2-10 Kentucky team and turned them into a 9-win team that is set to take on Penn State in the Citrus Bowl. They're not a threat to win the SEC, but you can't just expect to show up and stomp on them anymore. Just ask Florida fans.
This year, the Wildcats beat Florida, Mississippi State, Missouri, and Louisville. They did, however, have the 100th ranked offense, but the number 21 defense.
Babers finished 4-8 in back-to-back years to begin his career at Syracuse. In 2018, Syracuse won ten games, including a bowl game over West Virginia and were ranked as high as twelve at one point, which was their highest ranking in 20 years and had the 16th ranked offense in the country.
If Babers can win at Syracuse, it seems reasonable to assume he can win at Miami because they pretty much play the same schedule, but Miami attracts much better talent.
There is also not a single coach in the country outside of Nick Saban that has played Clemson as tough as Babers has these last two years. In 2017, the Orange beat #2 Clemson in the Carrier Dome and then lost to Clemson 27-23 this year. If the goal is to win the ACC, Babers may just have their number.
There are more options and I am certain that more will come up as the days pass, but these are my personal favorites for the Miami job as of right now.