Since taking over head-coaching duties from Al Golden at the University of Miami in 2016, Mark Richt has been exactly as advertised: an elite-level football coach who is both a capable recruiter and a tremendous in-game manager. The results have been similarly stellar: 19 wins and seven losses over his first two seasons in Coral Gables, with a bowl win under his belt to boot.
Thanks to a captivating season that saw the Canes win their first ten games and, oddly enough, become nationally likable thanks in large part to the "turnover chain," Richt has the Hurricanes opening this season as USA Today's eighth-ranked team in the nation. Sure, the Hurricanes are unquestionably back in the conversation in terms of national championships, but more important, they're back in the conversation, period. People are talking about the Miami Hurricanes again, and this time, it's for all the right reasons.
That begs the million-dollar question Canes fans have been asking for what feels like forever: Is the "U" officially back? Like, back back?
It might be too early to call it, but it's a valid conversation to kick around prior to the Canes' opening the season in the national spotlight versus the LSU Tigers September 2 in Dallas. The standards for Miami's football program are sky high, but it appears the Canes are on their way to achieving them very soon.
To answer the question, one must define what "the U being back" truly means. To most Hurricanes fans, being back means winning championships. Being back means winning the ACC. Being back means that when the team loses a single football game during the season, fans go into shock and a two-week mourning period.
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Basically, being back means doing what Alabama has been doing for the past ten years, but with more swagger and much more in-your-face bravado. It means banners, parades, and, most likely, hatred from anyone outside of South Florida.
If all of that is what it takes for the Hurricanes to be "back," they are not even close.
But if fans are willing to accept that, for now, being back might simply mean no longer being an afterthought in college football, being a Top 10 team, and, eventually, battling it out in the college football playoffs, the Canes are certainly back. Richt has proven his teams are capable of that much, and he truly hasn't even been stocked with "his players" yet.
This season's results will likely go a long way in determining if Miami has reclaimed even a percentage of the swagger and identity the Canes must try to live up to every year. For now, we can debate whether they've already done enough to be labeled "back" on the right track.