As they performed a regular salute to area institutions, City of Miami officials handed Hurricanes coach Mark Richt a key to the city in a small ceremony on Thursday.
And in brief remarks, Richt threw a light jab at the defending national champions.
In 73 seconds with the microphone at Miami City Hall, Richt thanked the assembly before professing his love for an area he calls “Paradise.”
“It’s like no other place in America,” he said. “Even in recruiting, we can sell things that no one else can sell. They can build all they want. They can have all they want. I mean, there’s schools building slides and playgrounds in their building, just so they can have fun. I said, we’ve got the beach. We don’t have to build some slide to have fun.”
That was a dig at Clemson, whose officials have trumpeted their new $55 million facility as “the new standard in college football.” It includes a basketball court, miniature golf course, horseshoe pit, gas grills and yes, a slide.
Miami, one of the only major college football programs still lacking an indoor practice facility, broke ground on a $34 million facility May 4. It is set to open in August 2018 and no, it does not include a slide.
South Beach, Richt would likely tell recruits, is 12 miles from UM’s campus.
Thursday’s photo opportunity was organized by District 4 commissioner Francis Suarez, an ardent Hurricanes fan who told the assembly at the City Commission meeting what the program means to the city.
After Suarez introduced Richt, chairman Keon Hardemon drew applause when told the coach to say a few words because, “I know we’ve got some Canes in the building,” and threw up the ‘U’ with his hands.
Before presenting the key, Suarez joked that “this key does not open up the doors to every recruit in the City of Miami.” More hooting and hollering came when Suarez noted that Richt has attracted the top-rated recruiting class in the country for 2018. Suarez also praised UM defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, the son of the former Miami mayor of the same name, for building a rock-solid defense.
After receiving the key, Richt posed for photos with a group including mayor Tomas Regalado. All threw up the ‘U.’
Suarez, a Miami native who attended FIU, told the crowd he associates his birthday, Oct. 6, with “the wide rights and wide lefts” of the Miami-Florida State matchup, and memorable games in the Orange Bowl (“the O.B.”).
“Even though the Hurricanes are physically located in Coral Gables, they really represent the fabric and the soul of our city,” said Suarez, whose district includes the area north and east of Coral Gables (North of 8th St., East of 37th Ave.).
“Even if we didn’t go to UM, we cheer so much for the team, because we see that this little school can attract the very best, and if you have the right ingredients, you can win the national championship.”
If he brings home Miami’s sixth national championship, Thursday won’t be the only honor the City of Miami celebrates Richt.
Richt, 57, grew up an hour north of UM in Boca Raton and played quarterback for the Hurricanes from 1978-82. He met his wife, Katharyn, while coaching at Florida State (1985-88, ’90-2000) was Georgia’s head coach from 2001-15. He has said on numerous occasions he wants to finish his career at his alma mater.
“It’s a beautiful place with beautiful people,” he said, “and we’re so happy to be a part of the fabric of the community.”