Hurricanes coach Mark Richt retires from coaching

After the press conference announcing his hire, Mark Richt, University of Miami’s newest head football coach, throws up the “U” Friday morning in the Shalala Student Center. Erum Kidwai // Staff Photographer

Mark Richt announced Sunday afternoon that he is retiring as Miami Hurricanes coach.

Richt’s unexpected announcement came three days after the Hurricanes lost to Wisconsin 35-3 in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl.

In a statement, Richt, 58, said he informed Miami Director of Athletics Blake James of his decision on Sunday morning.

“The decision came after a great deal of thought, discussions with my family, and prayer,” Richt said in the statement. “This was my decision. The University of Miami has been a part of my life for more than three decades. It shaped me as a young man and provided me with the coaching opportunity of a lifetime. My love for The U is simply great. My true desire is for our football program to return to greatness, and while terribly difficult, I feel that stepping down is in the best interests of the program.”

“I want to express my sincere appreciation to the entire Hurricane Family for welcoming me back home and for supporting the outstanding young men in our program.  I only wish that we could have achieved greater things in return.  I also want to thank President Frenk and Blake for their incredible support, as well as the outstanding men and women in UM Athletics.  Most importantly, I want to thank the incredible coaches, staff, and their families who gave their all to The U each and every day, and our student-athletes, who wore The U jersey with pride and who worked hard towards their degree. Katharyn and I will be cheering on the Canes in the years to come and The U will never leave our hearts.”

Richt finished 26-13 in his three seasons at Miami. He guided the Hurricanes to a 9-4 record in 2016 and then started 10-0 in 2017, climbing to No. 2 in the CFP rankings. But Miami dropped its final three games in 2017 and went just 7-9 in Richt’s final 16 games.

James didn’t share specifics from his conversation with Richt, but did share insight into the topic at hand.

“It’s not secret,” James told reporters Sunday afternoon. “We had to figure out how to get better on offense and I think there’s some obvious things that we needed to do on that front. Mark and I spoke in great detail about what we could do to better our position offensively in the future.”

Richt’s decision to step down was not only shocking to his players, but to James, who said Sunday he met with Richt this weekend to discuss the future of the Hurricanes program after Miami’s disappointing 7-6 campaign.

“I’ll say I was surprised based on our conversation, but… I know Mark was really struggling with things when we spoke this morning,” James. “This is what he feels is best for him and his family. He wants nothing but the very best for our program, so, while I am surprised at his decision, there was a lot going on.”

The Hurricanes players, scattered across the country for their holiday break, learned through text messages and emails of Richt’s retirement. Stunned by the announcement, multiple UM players posted on social media sharing messages of shock and gratitude for Richt.

Soon after Miami released the news of Richt’s retirement, Hurricanes starting running back Travis Homer announced on social media that he has hired an agent and will enter the 2019 NFL Draft, forgoing his final year of eligibility. Juniors Joe Jackson, Shaq Quarterman and Michael Pinckney could also turn pro early, but have not made their decision public yet.

Former Hurricanes coach Butch Davis, who guided Florida International to a 9-4 record this past season, is expected to be among the candidates Miami could consider. Oregon’s Mario Cristobal, a former Miami player and assistant, also might be in the mix.

Outgoing defensive coordinator Manny Diaz would be one possible replacement for Richt, but Diaz accepted the head coaching job at Temple Dec. 12.

Diaz was seen outside Miami’s Hecht Athletic Center around 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

When asked about Diaz’s presence on UM campus, James replied, “Manny Diaz” I don’t have any comment on Manny. I guess Manny is on his own schedule.”

Hurricanes offensive coordinator and running backs coach Thomas Brown was also seen walking into the Hecht Center, but declined comment.

Richt made more than $4 million annually and gave $1 million of his money toward the construction of the Carol Soffer Indoor Practice Facility that opened this season.