Georgia’s loss has been Miami’s gain. Richt has come home, and South Florida has embraced his return.
“His arms are open to former players and the community, and it’s just beautiful,’’ said former UM cornerback Tolbert Bain, 52, with whom Richt conferred about his plan to regularly visit youth football programs throughout South Florida. “I want to send the Georgia athletic director a fruit basket for doing us this great favor.’’
Among the many ways UM has benefited even before Richt’s opener against FAMU at 6 p.m. Saturday:
▪ Season-ticket sales are expected to reach 40,000.
▪ Hurricane Club membership has exceeded 10,000 for the first time and reached an all-time high $12 million through its annual fund.
▪ Fund-raising for a $28 million to $30 million indoor practice facility, for which Richt pledged $1 million, has been strong.
▪ Former players are reinvigorated by Richt’s insistence on their inclusion in UM’s events and culture.
▪ Overall fan exuberance, with Richt’s avid support of the community, is palpable.
“It’s the direction we want to go — back toward the top,” UM athletic director Blake James said. “Since last Dec. 4, when we announced Mark’s hiring, there has been a real wave of energy around the program.”
Said Richt of the “outpouring” of support: “It has been a little overwhelming.”
Maybe you can go home again. After all, everybody has hope.