Mark Richt pleads for Miami Hurricanes fans to show up

Mark Richt takes the field for his first game as Hurricanes coach, Sept. 3 against Florida A&M. (Getty Images)

Mark Richt takes the field for his first game as Hurricanes coach, Sept. 3 against Florida A&M. (Getty Images)

When he was at Georgia, Mark Richt didn’t have to beg for fan support.

At one point in his 15 seasons, the Bulldogs sold out 64 consecutive games, beginning with his first (Sept. 1, 2001). They have been among the top 10 attendance-wise since the mid-1980s, and for much of Richt’s time in Athens were between fifth and seventh.

Now that he’s coaching Miami, he’s dealing with a different group of fans.

When the Hurricanes are playing well, or facing a big-name opponent, the seats are usually packed. They were against Florida A&M and Florida Atlantic, when fans celebrated the start of the Richt era with a pair of lopsided wins. Rival Florida State brought a sellout crowd on Oct. 8.

Including those games and Oct. 15 against North Carolina, newly remodeled Hard Rock Stadium has been 92 percent full, which ranks 46th nationally and sixth of 14 ACC teams, according to NCAA records.

Now that Miami (4-4, 1-3 ACC) has lost four in a row and is all but out of the ACC Coastal race, Richt seems to realize some fans might be out on the Hurricanes. During his weekly coaches’ show Thursday, sitting next to UM broadcasters Joe Zagacki and Don Bailey Jr., the soft-spoken Richt made a hard sell.

“It’s homecoming. We need everybody to come home,” he said to the camera with a smile. “We need all our season-ticket holders to show up and get excited. We need all our students to show up and get excited and help our guys bring the juice.”

He used this argument: if the fans he saw last week in South Bend could get excited about their team, why can’t Miami fans support theirs?

“Notre Dame was 2-5,” Richt said. “[The] place was packed out. Place was going nuts. We need to pack it out. We need to go nuts. We need to be able to do that. We appreciate the fans so much. We appreciate our students so much. We appreciate our alumni so much. We have created some great scenes this season at Hard Rock. We need another one.”

Those scenes were rare under Randy Shannon and Al Golden. The former Sun Life Stadium, which became Miami’s home in 2008, held more than 76,000 until capacity was reduced last year. The Hurricanes drew more than 70,000 for four rivalry games: FSU in 2010, 2012 and 2014, and Florida in 2013.

Miami ranked 82nd of 128 FBS teams last year, playing to crowds that were 72.8 percent full. In 2014 and 2013, UM ranked 86th, with a reported attendance of about 71 percent. However, UM reports its attendance figure as tickets sold, not the number of people at the game. Many games were much less than that.

Sales shot skyward when UM named Richt coach on Dec. 4. UM sold more than 11,000 new season tickets between that day and the season-opener, and reached a total of 40,000 for the first time since moving north from the Orange Bowl.

“It takes emotion to play the game the way it needs to be played,” Richt said. “Fans bring emotion.

“To me, if you’re a Canes fan, you show up. You support. You get after it. Every game. I understand the disappointment of not getting a victory here or there, but it’s an event. It’s a great time when everybody shows up and brings the juice, fights together against the University of Pittsburgh. That’s what it’s all about.”

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