Mark Richt’s sudden retirement announcement, four days after Miami’s loss to Wisconsin dropped the Canes to 7-6 on the year, means the most prominent true vacancy of the 2018 carousel opened weeks later than most of the rest. Ohio State promoted from within, and none of the other newly changed Power 5 jobs carry the national cachet of the Canes gig.

So here are a few questions about the names most prominently connected with Miami’s instant search.

1. What has Manny Diaz signed at Temple, and did he know Richt’s retirement was coming?

Diaz was Miami’s defensive coordinator until Dec. 13, when he was announced as Temple’s next head coach.

If you’ll remember the Tennessee-Greg Schiano saga last coaching cycle, a big part of the story surrounded what exactly Schiano had signed before the deal was un-done.

The two sides reportedly signed a “memorandum of understanding” or MOU. As explained below, an MOU for a college coach is a formal record of the understanding between the coach and the school as to the key terms and conditions under which the university would employ the coach. Could Schiano sue the university for breach of contract, fraud or other claims? If all of the necessary parties signed an MOU, the answer would be yes.

Coaches typically sign MOUs whenever they get jobs. Sometimes final contracts don’t get done for many months. Sometimes — as is the case with USF coach Charlie Strong — there is no subsequent contract, and an initial offer letter ends up being the final agreement between the parties.

If there is a way out for him, the Miami native could be somebody to go after. If he leaves, Temple will be on to its fifth coach since 2010 — when Miami pried Al Golden away from Philly.

2. Butch Davis might not finish his career at FIU after all.

The former Miami head coach is a stone’s throw away. The feather in his cap is obvious: he resurrected the program Sports Illustrated said should cancel football and got it back to a second glory era in the early 2000s.

It’s hard to understate how much the support of former Miami players matters. An example:

Davis has similar support, primarily because if you played football at Miami in the 1980s or ‘90s you probably played for him as a head coach or assistant. He immediately upgraded FIU from four wins the season before he arrived to eight in 2017. This season they won nine. At one time overshadowed by Lane Kiffin among South Florida’s smaller schools, the 67-year-old Davis has the Panthers purring.

The summer before his first season at FIU, Davis said this about retirement:

“When we win a national championship, maybe,” Davis joked. “I don’t know. I’m having so much fun and it’s so much fun to be back involved in it. I don’t put any kind of time limit on it. Whether it’s seven, eight, nine or 10 years, who knows? I know that I’m excited as I’ve ever been. I’m having as much fun as I’ve ever had.”

Age could be a prohibitive factor in Miami’s pursuit, but The U would be hopping on the trend of hiring an older guy.

3. Would Miami pay a $10 million buyout to bring Mario Cristobal home?

Of all the names being thrown around, both with and without Miami and Florida ties, the Oregon head coach makes the most sense. A former FIU head coach, Cristobal has Oregon poised to win big in 2019 with a stellar recruiting class and the return of QB Justin Herbert.

The U is undoubtedly home to Cristobal, a Miami native and former Canes offensive lineman, but his buyout at Oregon stands at $10 million. Cristobal’s buyout drops to $6 million after the 2020 season and $4 million after 2021.

Speculation in the coaching community is that Cristobal might have an easier path to Miami by staying put in Eugene and potentially winning the Pac-12 in the next two or three years, by which time Miami might open again. Miami has had three head coaches since 2007.

4. SB Nation can confirm Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops, a former assistant at Florida State and Miami, is expected to be evaluated by Miami.

Cats Illustrated reported that Stoops is expected to be on the Hurricanes’ short list.

5. Would Uncle Luke’s favorite coach, Lane Kiffin, have a shot?

Kiffin signed a 10-year contract with nearby FAU following his 11-win campaign last season. While Kiffin lost some luster finishing 5-7 this season, he has become increasingly popular with high school and youth football coaches in South Florida, most notably Miami superfan and Liberty City youth coach Luther Campbell.

It’s worth noting that Kiffin coached and recruited current Alabama backup QB Jalen Hurts, who could potentially transfer after Bama’s national title game.

6. Charlie Strong will have interest, but will Miami have any in return?

USF head coach Strong’s contract with the Bulls leverages his buyout from Texas, but that number begins to wane in 2019. Strong is a former defensive coordinator and interim head coach at Florida who pursued openings at UF and Florida State last season, as well as other SEC openings.

Upon Strong’s hiring at USF, few expected him to have not landed a bigger job by Year 3. But he’s close to the hot seat after a very disappointing season for the Bulls. Strong leaving now would work for both him and USF.


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