December 30, 2018 - 8:31 pm
CORAL GABLES, Fla. — Manny Diaz is back at Miami, before he ever left. And a whirlwind day for the Hurricanes has Diaz taking over as the school’s head football coach.
Diaz agreed Sunday night to become Miami’s coach — hours after Mark Richt stunned the school by announcing his retirement. The Hurricanes announced the move about 10 hours after Richt’s retirement was made public.
Diaz was Miami’s defensive coordinator under Richt for three years, and agreed earlier this month to take over as the coach at Temple.
He never made it to the Owls. The Turnover Chain is staying in Miami. So is its originator.
— Miami Hurricanes (@MiamiHurricanes) December 31, 2018
“Miami is home,” Diaz said. “The University of Miami is home. The U has truly been ‘the job’ for me since I first got into coaching. Having worked here over the past three years, I came to understand what it means to be part of ‘The U’ and came to appreciate the passion and commitment to excellence of all who proudly call themselves Canes.
“We will restore the football program to its place among the nation’s elite and we will do it with hard work, dedicated coaches, and outstanding student-athletes.”
The 58-year-old Richt told his staff Sunday morning that he was retiring and informed athletic director Blake James of his decision around the same time. With players away for the holiday break, Richt and James alerted them by text and email shortly before the school issued a news release.
Miami struggled to a 7-6 record this season, falling to Wisconsin in the Pinstripe Bowl on Thursday night. The Hurricanes have lost nine of their last 16 games going back to a 10-0 start last season and were horrendous on offense at times in 2018 — totaling just 100 passing yards in their last two games of the season.
James said around 3:30 p.m. that a nationwide search was underway. Turns out, he didn’t need to look anywhere else.
“Manny is one of the nation’s elite coaches and the Canes’ Family has already embraced him and his incredible work ethic over the past three years,” James said. “He is absolutely the passionate and innovative leader that our program needs, and we will work together to build an incredible staff to move our program back into championship contention.”
Diaz also apologized to Temple for the bizarre circumstances.
A statement from our Director of Athletics, Dr. Patrick Kraft. pic.twitter.com/HcBUQJLNk0
— Temple Owls (@TempleOwls) December 31, 2018
“I hate the way this unfolded with respect to Temple,” Diaz said. “I was given a tremendous opportunity to lead the Temple program and I was actively engaged in doing just that when I woke up this morning. I never saw this coming, no one did. I do hope that the Temple players, administration and fans appreciate the uniqueness of this situation and the overwhelming pull to stay home.”
Richt didn’t immediately speak out about Diaz’s hiring.
It’s a safe guess that he likes the move.
When announcing his retirement, Richt said he wants Miami to experience greatness again and that he decided someone else would have to lead the Hurricanes there.
So he stepped down, days after the end of an underachieving season and with five years left on his contract.
“My love for The U is simply great,” Richt said. “My true desire is for our football program to return to greatness, and while terribly difficult, I feel that stepping down is in the best interests of the program.”
James and Richt spoke Saturday about the direction of the program. James said there was no indication that Richt would retire during that conversation, though he declined to offer specifics about what was said.
“I wanted Mark to be our coach,” James said Sunday at a news conference. “Last night, I thought he was our coach.”
Richt’s son, quarterbacks coach Jon Richt, was a frequent target of fan criticism. James wouldn’t say if he asked Richt to make a change involving his son.
“I don’t think it’s a secret to anyone here that as a program offensively we hadn’t operated at the level that any one of us would want including Mark, and we talked about what we need to look at and do differently,” James said. “Mark is a very smart guy and he recognized that things needed to change on that side of the ball.”
Through Saturday, Miami was ranked fifth nationally in total defense this season and 18th in scoring defense out of the 130 teams at the FBS level. The Hurricanes were 67th in scoring offense, 104th in total offense and 112th in passing offense — all areas in which Miami expected to excel when it hired Richt in 2015.
The year clearly took a toll. Miami lost four straight games midway through the season, with Richt calling that time “probably the most difficult time that I have been through as a coach.”
Richt said he was not forced out, and that the decision to retire was his. He was 26-13 at Miami, and 171-64 in 18 seasons between Georgia and the Hurricanes.
James said he was hoping to hire a coach who would keep Miami’s defensive staff intact, at least on some level.
Diaz will almost certainly do that. His hiring won’t immediately solve the offensive problems. But the defense — Miami’s calling card — should remain strong.
“We are disappointed that he is leaving, but wish him the best as he returns home,” Temple athletic director Patrick Kraft said.