Nobody knows the college football landscape better than Miami head coach Mark Richt. He’s seen it firsthand. He knows what it’s like to win big at a major university, only to be handed a pink slip at the end of the day.
It wasn’t too surprising for him to hear the news of another SEC coach getting the axe despite overwhelming success on the football field. Richt’s been through it. It’s why he’s at Miami right now instead of remaining at Georgia.
“Well, it’s a business,” Richt said during his weekly teleconference. “We all know that.”
Despite toiling in a world of amateur athletes, the term “amateur” has long since left the building when it comes to big-time, big-business college football in the 21st century.
“People have to function from a financial point of view, and somebody is in charge of making those decisions,” Richt said. “Those decisions aren’t made easily. They’re tough ones that have to be made.”
Tough is one way to describe it. Others may have more colorful ways of depicting an administration that would fire a head football coach after more than a decade of winning football.
Richt won 145 games over 15 seasons at Georgia. He won 83 of 120 SEC games. He had one losing season (6-7) over that span and won or tied for the SEC East Division title six times. His teams finished second another five times and third in four other seasons. His Bulldog teams never finished lower than third in the SEC East, meaning his teams contended every single season. He had eight teams finish in the top 10 and in 2007 rose as high as No. 2.
Today that’s just not good enough anymore. Les Miles at LSU had an even more impressive resume with one national championship and two national championship game appearances. He won 114 games in 11-plus seasons with the Tigers. That’s an average of 10 wins a season for more than a decade. He never had a losing season, and his worst season was 8-5.
After a 2-2 start to the 2016 season, he was out.
“I think as a coach, I know that whoever my boss is, he has the right to decide whether to keep me or not, and for whatever reason, my contract will say it, for any reason if they want to let me go, they can let me go, and they can let any coach go,” Richt said.
“It’s a tough part of the business, but we all know it can happen, and we all signed up for it, and we still do it because we love it.”
The Miami Hurricanes are certainly loving the fact that they have a quality coach on their campus. Off to a 3-0 start and a No. 14 ranking, Richt’s first season as head coach at his alma mater has gone well.
Meanwhile, Georgia is trying to get over a 45-14 shellacking it absorbed at the hands of Ole Miss on Saturday, hoping the same doesn’t happen again this Saturday when the Dawgs host Tennessee.
The old saying is as true in college football as it is in life: “Be careful what you wish for.”
All coaches live in the shadow of impatience; Mark Richt and Les Miles — both fired in the last 10 months — know that reality all too well.
One has found a happy and safe landing in Miami. Mark Richt still loves coaching.
Les Miles — and no one else — has to determine if he loves this business enough to find another job next year.