Thursday, December 2

A Requiem For Randy Shannon: What This Says About The U

Did Randy Shannon deserve to be fired?

Yes. Let me repeat what I said on Monday: you will not find a better man in college football coaching anywhere. Randy Shannon overcame tremendous odds just to make it to Miami, let alone be a part of three national championship teams. Only a horrible person who passes themselves off as a Hurricane fan would hold any hostility toward him. That being said, the man was not cut out to be the head coach of this team. It hurts to type it but it is the truth.

Shannon did wonders in the classroom and off the field. His grad rates were bested only by Army and Navy and his APR score was even better than Stanfords. His single arrest during his tenure came when Robert Marve, who would later transfer to Purdue, broke a car mirror during a fight with his girlfriend. Those accomplishments are commendable, they are praiseworthy, and they are what got him his contract extension last year and would have kept him at UM another season. I believe in these goals the program as much as anyone, but it cannot be the single driving force behind football at your school if football is your main source of athletic revenue. Ideally, you want to run a clean program that is successfull academically and win football games. Shannon only gave you one of the two.

Can I pinpoint the problem? No. I have heard various stories from everywhere. Yes, I have a few (very few) contacts on the inside that I heard rumblings from. Shannon was too loyal to certain players, Whipple was forced on Shannon and the two never got along, the players didn't agree with Whipple's playcalling, etc. The bottom line was the performance on the field. 28-22, 16-16 in a mediocre ACC, 0-2 in bowl games. The final game against South Florida was an appropriate final straw. The Canes out-matched the Bulls on paper with first-year coach Skip Holtz setting out to rebuild the program. Miami went scoreless in the first half. Then with the game tied at 10, Storm Johnson seemingly saved the day with a 71 yard scamper. Yet in crunch time, the Canes let a true freshman walk-on who was replacing the injured starter B.J. Daniels march down the field for the tying TD. South Florida won in overtime. The Randy Shannon era was encapsulated in a nutshell.

Going 7-5 with the talent on this team is simply inexcusable. The great recruiting classes Shannon pulled in have matured in age, but not development. All year long, asinine penalties, lapses in concentration, and foolish turnovers costs them games. Shannon never even came close to playing for an ACC title and when he did, the team choked. For all the good that Shannon did, one of the basic tennants of coaching at Miami is winning games playing in big time bowl games. His failure to accomplish these goals and the regression of his results deservedly led to his firing.

While I mentioned above the off the field work Shannon did let me ask you something: did the perception of Miami's football program ever change? College football is an old boy system. Just look at the schools that stay on top on the bowl system in place opertaing under the guise of non-profits. People hold onto old ideals, whether it is the "magic" of Notre Dame or the "tradition" of southern football. The point is the detractors still subscribed to the theory that the U was a bunch of thugs. So the academic progress should strictly be an insitutional goal, and not used as a public item. No one was mentioning Miami's successes in this area while Shannon was coaching, but once he was fired people came out supporting him for that reason alone.

Now that the Gruden rumors seem to be dying away, Miami has a real chance to turn the corner like they did way back with Schnellenberger, with Jimmy, and with Butch Davis. If they get the right coach that can use the talent and fertile recruiting grounds famously termed the "State of Miami" by Schnellenberger then Miami should be competing for a BCS bowl every season. There is a notion being floated around that Miami is short on money and facilities. Once again, this is people working on notions that are old and out-dated. The issue of playing in Sun Life Stadium is what it is, there will never be an on-campus football stadium and there are much worse places to watch a game than Sun Life. Considering Edgerrin James helped get a new weight room built and NFL players still spend their summers there working out and that The Rock donated money to get new locker rooms built, I'd say facilities are on doing okay. They don't have a behemoth museum like some schools but you definitely are not left wanting. Add to this a new $5 million plan to renovate the athletic center does not give the appearance of struggling either.

The other factor when it comes to money is the firing itself. Shannon had just signed a four-year extension before the season, which came with a buyout. Someone had to step up and swallow that money for the school because the athletic department itself sure as hell was not footing the bill. Then added to that AD Kirby Hocutt is reportedly willing to offer $3-4 million per year for a new coach. There is clearly some money in the coffers at the U.

Miami has a niche in college football. It is not your traditional big conference school that churns out mobs of mouth-breathing fans every year. Our fraternity of fandom is pretty small, almost minuscule compared to the football powers. But it's one I am proud to be a part of. When I traveled down to the U this October and partied and tail-gated with what turned out to be a 60% full Sun Life Stadium, I couldn't care less about a full house. I was there to support my team with others I knew cared as much about them as I did. The value of your football program is not measured in attendance, how well your fans travel, or message board traffic. Miami has risen to the upper echelon of college football with a low rating in all those categories. The U is the exception to the rule, gate crashers that turned college football on its side and some people are never willing to let that go. We cannot duplicate our history but we can build on it. This year there will most likely be a Hurricane taken in the first round after a one year absence. Prior to that it had been 20 years straight. The strength of the U is the former players who come back and connect with the present players to show them it is a special thing to wear the U on their helemt. That may come off sounding cheesy but it is true. The strength of the U is players like Santanna Moss, who were not highly recruited but played with a chip on their shoulder and were willing to outwork anyone else.

Miami needs a coach who will foster this strength but not let it keep the program from moving forward. Acknowledge the past, but make your own destiny in the record books. Unlike when Shannon took over, the cupboard is full of talent that is waiting for someone to take them to the next level. There's nothing we can do but wait. If I had to throw a name out there since it seems clear that Gruden will not become the coach, it is Dan Mullen. He knows the state, he knows offensive football, and he has finished with a better record than Miami this year with far less talent.

I hope Randy does well wherever he goes and he is still appreciated for all the years he put in, but as Tom Petty once said, it's leaving time.

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