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College football: Miami’s Mark Richt retires; Houston fires Applewhite; CFP ratings down

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Miami coach Mark Richt talks with quarterback N’Kosi Perry during the second half of a game against Pittsburgh on Nov. 24.
(Lynne Sladky / Associated Press)

Mark Richt stepped down as Miami coach on Sunday, an announcement that caught the school off-guard and comes just days after the end of an underachieving season.

Richt, 58, said he was not forced out, and that the decision to retire was his.

“My love for the U is simply great,” Richt said. “My true desire is for our football program to return to greatness, and while terribly difficult, I feel that stepping down is in the best interests of the program.”

Richt said he informed Miami athletic director Blake James of his decision “a few hours” before the school sent out a news release shortly before 1 p.m. announcing the move. The Hurricanes scheduled a news conference for later Sunday to discuss the situation and where the program will go from here.

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Miami struggled to a 7-6 record this season, falling to Wisconsin in the Pinstripe Bowl on Thursday night. The Hurricanes have lost nine of their last 16 games going back to a 10-0 start last season, were horrendous on offense at times in 2018 — totaling just 100 passing yards in their last two games — and saw several recruits who were committed decide to either sign elsewhere or reopen their college decisions.

Richt was 26-13 at Miami, and 171-64 in 18 seasons between Georgia and the Hurricanes. He gave no indication that he was considering an early exit. He arrived at Miami in December 2015, spearheaded the building of an indoor practice facility that opened earlier this season and signed an extension in May that kept him under contract through 2023. He was making just over $4 million annually.

“The decision came after a great deal of thought, discussions with my family, and prayer,” Richt said. “This was my decision.”

Applewhite out in Houston

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Houston has fired football coach Major Applewhite after two seasons.

The school announced the move Sunday, a little more than a week after the Cougars were trounced in a 70-14 loss to Army in the Armed Forces Bowl.

Houston (8-5) lost four of its last five games after starting 7-1 and earning a ranking in the AP Top 25 for one week in late October. On Dec. 22, the injury-plagued Cougars suffered their most-lopsided loss in their 27 bowl games, and their biggest loss overall since a 66-10 loss at UCLA during the 1997 regular season.

Applewhite had been at Houston since January 2015 when he was hired as offensive coordinator under Tom Herman. After Herman left to coach at Texas in November 2016, Applewhite was promoted from offensive coordinator to head coach, where he served for two years.

CFP ratings dragged down by lopsided games

Television ratings for the College Football Playoff on ESPN dropped from last season, dragged down by lopsided games and not being playing on New Year’s Day.

ESPN says Alabama’s 45-34 victory against Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl on Saturday night drew a 10.4 overnight rating, peaking at 11.8 early in the first quarter when the Crimson Tide jumped out to a 14-point lead. Alabama eventually led 28-0.

The network says Clemson’s 30-3 victory against Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl earlier Saturday drew a 10.3 rating, peaking at 11.2 when the Tigers scored with 2 seconds left in the first half to make it 23-3.

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Last season, when the semifinals were played on New Year’s Day and Georgia and Oklahoma went to overtime in the Rose Bowl, the games averaged a 13.9 overnight rating.

The best television ratings for the College Football Playoff came in the first year, when Florida State and Oregon played in the Rose Bowl and Alabama and Ohio State played in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1, 2015, and both games were competitive into the second half. ESPN drew record audiences of more than 28 million viewers and an average rating of about 15.


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