Mark Richt was born in Omaha, and raised in Boca Raton, Florida. He played quarterback at Miami from 1979-’82, so it was a little strange that he would become a graduate assistant at bitter rival Florida State. However, he and legendary Seminole head coach Bobby Bowden hit it off well enough that Richt was eventually named the school’s quarterback coach and offensive coordinator.
It was a position he held for only two years before becoming the head coach at Georgia, where he compiled a 145-51 overall record, including an 85-40 mark in the SEC. With the Bulldogs, Richt won two SEC championships, six SEC East titles and nine bowl games, finishing in the AP Top 10 rankings seven times.
Fast forward 16 years and Richt has come full circle. Now the head coach at Miami, he is once again on the opposite sidelines, staring down his program’s heated rival, a school that gave him his coaching start.
Weather permitting, Miami hosts Florida State at 8 p.m. Saturday in Hard Rock Stadium.
“Mutual, mutual respect,” Richt said at his weekly teleconference in reference to the Seminoles program.
“We knew, and I say we, when I was at Florida State as a coach, we knew Miami was the real deal, and I think Miami knew Florida State was as well.
“There was just some monumental wars that were determining not just a conference championship, it was determining whether you were going to play in the BCS National Championship Game, and it was something to behold.”
In his 16th season as a head coach, Richt will face Florida State for just the second time. The lone matchup against FSU as a head coach was back in the 2002 season, when Richt’s Georgia team defeated the Seminoles 26-13 in the 2003 Sugar Bowl.
Counting that game, Richt is 20-3 versus ACC teams as a head coach. He is trying to become the fourth Hurricanes head coach win to win his first five games, joining Howard Buck, Dennis Erickson and Larry Coker.
The No. 10 ‘Canes are aiming to improve to 5-0 for the 13th time since 1950. They’ve started 5-0 five times since 2000.
More than that, the ‘Canes are hoping to break a losing streak to Florida State that dates back to 2009. Miami hasn’t beaten the Seminoles at home since 2004.
With most of those he worked with having moved on, Richt said he probably wouldn’t have much in the way of emotions for Saturday’s game. Things were different back in 2002, Richt’s only other meeting with the Seminoles.
“When I left Florida State to go to Georgia, I had recruited a lot of those guys, coached with those coaches,” Richt said. “Coach Bowden led me to the Lord in 1986, gave me my first job, all of a sudden I’m an offensive coordinator at a school like that because of him. So yeah, there was a lot of that emotional stuff that was going on.”
Saturday, Richt will make new memories with his former bitter rival, then employer, and once again bitter rival.
The Miami alumnus who is grateful to Florida State for opening the door to his coaching career must stand in the way of the Seminoles. It’s not something Richt could have expected, but the moment is at hand. If Richt can master this moment, Miami could experience the new dawn it has been waiting for.