Miami sees big payoff following hire of Mark Richt

Miami Hurricanes coach Mark Richt instructs in the second half at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday, October 1, 2016. Miami Hurricanes won 35-21 over the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
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Miami Hurricanes coach Mark Richt instructs in the second half at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday, October 1, 2016. Miami Hurricanes won 35-21 over the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Miami coach Mark Richt has exceeded many of the expectations placed on him by a dedicated fan base.

Richt's accomplishments during his first year in Coral Gables have impressed his current boss, athletic director Blake James.

"A lot of positive energy," James said of the impact Richt has had on the program. "I think people were excited when Mark first came in and I think after Year 1, they are even more excited."

The excitement has translated to a record number of season tickets sold — more than 40,000 — and continued the school raising more than $30 million to build a new indoor football facility on campus.

"When you look at the response we got from our fan base with the indoor facility, I think it just says a lot about this amount of support and excitement they have that we're able to raise a little over $32 million in a year," James said.

Richt, a former Hurricanes quarterback in the early 1980s, donated a $1 million out of his own pocket to make the facility a reality.

"It's phenomenal," Richt said. "It's great. It takes everybody to be great. And to raise that kind of money ... it's unprecedented around here."

James was quick to credit Richt for helping make it possible.

"We had one of our best years from an attendance perspective this past year in season ticket sales and we're ahead of the pace from this time last year and we should get up to 46,000-47,000 season tickets," he said.

James also noted the program will benefit from the $420 million renovation of Hard Rock Stadium, which houses the Miami Dolphins along with the 'Canes.

"We're in a great situation and a big part of that goes to the person leading our football program," James said. "He's exceeded our expectations."

Miami is coming off its best season since 2013, wrapping the 2016 campaign with nine wins and the program's first bowl victory since 2006.

Richt said he has been impressed by the way others have rallied to help him improve the football program.

"We've had tremendous support from our football alumni," he said. "We've had tremendous support from our fans. I feel like we've had tremendous support from the administration. Even our own players _ the buy-in — they're busting their tails. They're trying to be great."