CORAL GABLES —Mark Richt said he would explore all options that came his way.
Then he went to see his alma mater.
He interviewed with UM Athletics Director Blake James on Tuesday, sources told The Palm Beach Post, and was the school’s top choice to be its next football coach. However, it’s unclear if Richt truly wants the job or is just listening.
Richt, who played quarterback for the Hurricanes from 1978-82 and Boca Raton High before that, was fired Sunday after 15 seasons at Georgia. He said Monday evening he had been contacted “by about five schools,” but did not say whether he would continue coaching. Maryland and Virginia are both reportedly also pursuing him.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Richt’s family advised him to take the year off. Richt, 55, and his wife, Katharyn, have four children between the ages of 18 and 25.
Since Saturday, UM has interviewed Richt, Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen, former Rutgers coach Greg Schiano and Butch Davis, sources said. Mullen, 43, is believed to be Miami’s second choice.
At a Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame banquet Tuesday evening, Mullen brushed off reports of his interest in Miami. “I’m not talking about any of that,” he said, according to the Jackson Clarion-Ledger. “I’m not going to waste my time commenting on rumors on the Internet.”
Richt is one of the most successful unemployed candidates on the market. He went 145-51 with the Bulldogs, won two SEC titles (2002 and 2005), made 15 straight bowl appearances and finished in the top 10 seven times, most recently last year (ninth).
One current Hurricanes player, standout freshman running back Mark Walton, offered his support by tweeting, “I will love to see Mark Richt in an orange and green coaching uniform in 2016 as a Hurricane.” Walton was recruited by Richt and UGA.
Mullen, 54-35 at Mississippi State, was Urban Meyer’s offensive coordinator at Florida for two national championships. Mullen has been linked to the Georgia and South Carolina openings.
Schiano, 49, was reportedly considered by UCF before it hired Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost on Tuesday. Schiano, the former Hurricanes defensive coordinator and Rutgers coach, has not coached since 2013.
Davis, 64, appears to be behind the aforementioned trio. A source described his meeting with UM last Saturday as “outstanding” but said some decision-makers remain unconvinced about his time at North Carolina, which ended amid academic scandal. Davis, who was never implicated by the NCAA, hasn’t coached since UNC dismissed him in 2010.
Another potential candidate, Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, seems to be out of the mix. The UM Sports Hall of Famer told the school he will not speak about the job until the season is over, according to a source close to him.
A source close to Chudzinski’s former Hurricanes teammate, Mario Cristobal, said the Alabama offensive line coach has not been contacted by UM for an interview. Cristobal was considered by many to be an option for the Hurricanes early in the search, which began when James fired Al Golden on Oct. 25.
UM will have upward of $4 million annually to spend on a coach, a source said. According to a USA Today report, Richt made $4.1 million at Georgia this year, making him the 12th-highest-paid coach nationally. Mullen made $4 million. UM is a private school and not required to discuss its financial dealings.
James has repeatedly declined to discuss the search.
The man currently leading the Hurricanes (8-4, 5-3 ACC), interim coach Larry Scott, was on the road Tuesday recruiting in Jacksonville. UM is off this week while awaiting a bowl assignment.
–Written by Matt Porter, Palm Beach Post