By Nick Shepkowski
A Sunday stunner from South Florida: Mark Richt announced he was stepping down as Miami’s head football coach, effective immediately. Richt lasted just three seasons at his alma matter, going 26-13 with a 16-8 mark in ACC play.
How quickly things changed for The U. The Hurricanes entered Thanksgiving weekend 2017 as one of the sweethearts of college football, ranked No. 2 in the country with a 10-0 record. Then, last Nov. 28, Miami struggled to a 24-14 loss against unranked Pitt at Heinz Field. The shine was off the Turnover Chain. Thirteen months later, the program still hasn’t recovered.
Miami was obliterated by Clemson, 38-3, in the ACC title game, and lost to Wisconsin, 34-24, in the Orange Bowl to conclude last season. Miami, the preseason No. 8 this season, was run out of Jerry World in Dallas by LSU on opening weekend. After five straight wins, the Hurricanes dropped ACC road games at Virginia and Boston College -- followed by an atrocious home loss to Duke (for the first time since 1976). A road setback to Georgia Tech made it four straight losses en route to finishing the regular season at 7-5.
A season in which Miami was supposed to return to the brink of title contention instead finished with a 35-3 loss to Wisconsin in the Pinstripe Bowl. The Badgers decided to pour it on late in what would end up being Richt’s final coaching moment.
So where does Miami go from here? Who can the 'Canes hire to try to rebuild the program and challenge Clemson for ACC supremacy? Here are a few names that should be considered:
Dino Babers, Syracuse: He’s already winning in the ACC, taking Syracuse from a cellar-dweller to a 10-win season. His fast-paced offense would give Miami a much-needed jolt.
Lane Kiffin, Florida Atlantic: He bombed out of his last high-profile gig at USC, but rebuilt his rep by coaching Florida Atlantic to a school-record 11 wins in his first season in 2017. If you want your name back in the headlines, Kiffin will do that -- just not necessarily because of winning.
Butch Davis, Florida International: What’s old can be new again. Davis already resurrected Miami once, following the scandals of the 1990s. Davis also turned around the Panthers program, winning 17 games over the past two seasons, which matched their win total of the previous four years. Davis is 67, and you wonder how much longer he will want to do this.
Greg Schiano, Ohio State defensive coordinator: He has Florida ties as the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach, and was believed to be in the running the last time there was an opening at Miami. He won at Rutgers, which never won before or since. Schiano might be a non-starter, however, after Tennessee’s fan base revolted and nuked his hiring a year ago due to his ties to the Joe Paterno/Jerry Sandusky era at Penn State.
Mike Leach, Washington State: Leach’s first dream football job was head football coach at Key West High School. Now, Miami isn’t the Conch Republic, but it’s about as close as it gets in college football. Can you imagine Leach swinging his sword on Biscayne Bay?
UPDATE: It's Manny Diaz, the former Miami defensive coordinator who briefly took the head coach job at Temple.