But coach faces same sit­u­a­tions ahead that haunted him dur­ing his time at Georgia.

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Dave Ge­orge

Isn’t it great to have the coach­ing ques­tion set­tled at the Univer­sity of Mi­ami?

Florida is a mess at 3-6 and fish­ing around for a sav­ior. Cen­tral Florida is 9-0 but shaken by the near cer­tainty that Scott Frost will soon launch into a higher or­bit.

Mi­ami, mean­while, is in the happy place that only ex­ists when you’ve got a proven win­ner atop the pro­gram and rea­son to be­lieve that he’ll be there for a good, long time.

Georgia once had that with Mark Richt, who over 15 years as the Bull­dogs’ head coach went 145-51 with nine bowl vic­to­ries. Mat­ter of fact, he was 9-3

the year they let him go, which would be crazy any­where but the SEC.

So would Georgia like to have Richt back now that he has the 9-0 Hur­ri­canes on a stam­pede to­ward the top of the Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off rank­ings, and now that the Bull­dogs and Kirby Smart have been knocked off their No. 1 spot?

The an­swer is no. Richt was well-liked at Georgia for all the ad­mirable rea­sons he is loved now at Mi­ami. The only thing he ever did wrong there was fail­ing to win the one game that would lift the pro­gram into a true na­tional ti­tle shot, and ul­ti­mately the school and its boost­ers came to the con­clu­sion that he never would.

That’s how Richt be­came avail­able to Mi­ami in the first place.

And now, if the Hur­ri­canes are go­ing to add to the pro­gram’s pile of na­tional cham­pi­onship rings this sea­son, the coach is go­ing to have to slay some of those same old dragons.

Clem­son, the de­fend­ing na­tional cham­pion, awaits Mi­ami in the ACC Cham­pi­onship game on Dec. 2. While at Georgia, Richt was 3-1 against the Tigers over­all but 1-1 against

Dabo Swin­ney, the coach who over the last decade has turned Clem­son into a na­tional power.

The cam­puses of Georgia and Clem­son are just 75 miles apart. It’s a re­gional spec­ta­cle when they meet, which isn’t of­ten enough, and it bruised Richt badly when the Tigers beat him 38-35 in 2013 in one of those prime-time La­bor Day week­end spe­cials.

It only gets tougher if Mi­ami gets past Clem­son next month. Bar­ring a real col­lapse in the fi­nal reg­u­lar-sea­son games against Vir­ginia and Pitts­burgh, that would put the Hur­ri­canes in the na­tional semi­fi­nals. It would be won­der­ful for Mi­ami if Alabama isn’t in the same play­off field, but what if they are?

Again, it’s a mat­ter of bump­ing heads with a coach who re­ally pushed Richt’s but­tons at Georgia.

Richt is 2-3 against

Sa­ban over­all. In­cluded in that are two losses in the SEC Cham­pi­onship game — in 2003 when Sa­ban was coach­ing LSU and in 2012 when Sa­ban was at Bama.

The SEC, of course, was the na­tion’s tough­est con­fer­ence for most of Richt’s time there and he did win the league ti­tle a cou­ple of times. Go­ing over or around the long bar­rier rep­re­sented by Steve Spurrier, Ur­ban Meyer and Sa­ban was the chal­lenge, and it’s one that would frus­trate just about any coach.

The Florida ri­valry, though, did dam­age no mat­ter who was coach­ing. Richt was 5-10 against the Ga­tors, with a 1-2 record against Ron Zook and 0-1 against Jim McEl­wain, the guy the Ga­tors just sent pack­ing.

Noth­ing par­tic­u­larly fair about any of this, but imag­ine if a Mi­ami coach won 74 per­cent of his games over a long stretch but couldn’t do much of any­thing with Florida State. There would al­ways be peo­ple look­ing to switch him out. If any­thing, it would be worse at Mi­ami, where na­tional ti­tles al­ways are the ex­pec­ta­tion, in sea­sons when that is ra­tio­nal and in times when that is not. Georgia last won a na­tional ti­tle in 1980.

Back, though, to 2017, where rous­ing wins over Vir­ginia Tech and Notre Dame have re­ally switched Mi­ami into pass­ing gear. If Richt could clear those hur­dles, and if FSU is fi­nally out of the way, why can’t the Hur­ri­canes beat Clem­son or Alabama or Oklahoma or any­body else that the postseason sched­ule might stir up?

The Mi­ami de­fense cer­tainly seems to be cham­pi­onship cal­iber, and Richt’s of­fen­sive play­call­ing, with passes aimed at the quar­ter­back in one big game and a wild­cat pack­age in the other, shows the flex­i­bil­ity to ad­just to dif­fer­ent styles.

Ab­so­lutely ev­ery­thing has changed the last two years, right down to the neck wear of choice in the stu­dent sec­tion at

Hard Rock Sta­dium. Out with the or­ange tie of Al Golden. In with the Turnover Chain.

This is the happy place when the coach­ing ques­tion is set­tled. Pre­vi­ous Mi­ami bosses have rev­eled in it for a time and walked away. Richt, 57, trea­sures it more, and the ac­com­pa­ny­ing ap­pre­ci­a­tion.

At Mi­ami, fans ex­pect him to win the big one. What a con­cept. What a change.

247 SPORTS

Manny Diaz (right), the Univer­sity of Mi­ami de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor, and his fa­ther, Manny Diaz Sr., cel­e­brate and ac­knowl­edge the fans af­ter the Hur­ri­canes’ 41-8 vic­tory over Notre Dame on Satur­day.

ALLEN EYESTONE / THE PALM BEACH POST

Hur­ri­canes coach Mark Richt cel­e­brates Mi­ami kicker Michael Bad­g­ley’s win­ning field goal in the 25-24 vic­tory over Georgia Tech on Oct. 14.

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