By: Chad Wilson
Editor in Chief – GridironStuds Blog
Now that the banner requests have been met in Coral Gables, Florida the next phase is in effect. That phase is finding a new coach to go Back to the Future at the University of Miami. The suggestions have been numerous, comical, non-sensical and nostalgic. Many fans feel that the next hire will be easy, just or and off we go. Oh if only it were that simple. This kind of faulty thinking is what got us here in the first place. If you read my previous article “Will We Ever Dance Again” you will understand the challenges facing the program and the next UM coach.
The list of names have been long ranging from Sebastian the Ibis, to the Rock to Butch Davis. I’ve been asked who I think the next guy should be and my answer is, I don’t have a who but I definitely have the what. Why am I so confident? Because by nature I am an individual that analyzes things. Since we have been away from prominence for so long, I’ve had quite some time to reflect on just exactly how the University of Miami got on top of college football and why it is so far removed from those days now.
There is no doubt that the state of Florida is unique. There’s no doubt that the city of Miami is unique and that the University of Miami program is like no other in the country. With this in mind, hiring a guy to head coach the program will not be a simple job. It will require some careful thought. Not every coach will do well at Miami. Your success elsewhere does not guarantee you success here. We wear shorts on Christmas Day, where else are you going to do that?
So I want my readers to think of the University of Miami head coaching job as a sprint. I want you to think of it as a 4 x 100 meter relayl and in comparison, most every other job in the country is a 400 to 800 meter dash. To get Miami to the top and to keep it there, it will take several men like it does in a 4 x 100 meter relay. Everywhere else in the country one guy could build a dynasty just like it takes one guy to run a 400 meter or 800 meter dash. I will explain this further below. Here are the Five things the next University of Miami coach HAS to be:
1. Be a Non-Conformist
In “Will We Ever Dance Again” I explained how college football has taken steps over the years to melt down the University of Miami program. The administration at the University of Miami has also aided in this meltdown as they have been steadfast in wanting to change the image of the football team and the University. Someone came up with the bright idea that the image of a school nestled between palm trees, surrounded by beaches and filled with students who attend class in flip flops should be viewed as a Harvard. That makes as much sense as asking for Whopper at the counter at Tire Kingdom. However, I guess this is how the academic community validates themselves. The University of Miami’s academic reputation has never suffered even when Bernard Clark was doing the running man on the Superdome turf after a national championship. A brawl with Notre Dame in the tunnel in 1988 did not move anyone to say the professors at the University of Miami are dumb. However, the move to change the culture has persisted and for the last 10 years plus the powers that be have prevailed.
The next University of Miami coach has to push back on the powers that be. The next coach has to challenge the culture change thought. The next Miami coach has to stand by his players from impoverished backgrounds and support their need to show emotion and passion for the sport that means so much to them. The next coach has to be willing to have that tough Monday morning meeting with the president about some incident that went down. The next coach must be able to communicate to the wine tasters that an emotional kid is not a bad kid. A kid that celebrates a touchdown, a sack or a big hit is not headed for a future on First 48. Who celebrated on field achievements more than Randall Hill? Mr. Hill is running for Congress my dear lad. The next coach should be ready to go toe to toe with the academic bullies at Miami knowing that at some point you will get worn out and have to go. In the process though, you will get men that will run through a bed of alligators to make you never taste defeat. The next UM coach can’t be a yes man that puts our passionate South Florida athletes in a straight jacket because Lord Admiral so and so says it’s unbecoming of a gentleman while wiping Grey Poupon from his stache. Howard Schnellenberger was a rebel, Jimmy Johnson a super rebel and Dennis Erickson while not a big rebel, was not a true conformist either as he bolted when he had to say yes too many times. Butch Davis was a rebel who skirted around the NCAA loopholes and bolted when he had to fight the opposition too much. So I don’t know if the next coach needs to be Billy Idol but it better be a rebel who’s ready to yell.
2. Not Looking to Retire as Head Coach of the Canes
Miami is beautiful isn’t it? Great weather, G-string bikinis, lovely beaches, G-string bikinis. It’s the kind of stuff that will make you want to relax and never go anywhere else again if you didn’t have to. So you can’t hire a guy who’s in this place in his life. I truly believe that one of the things that may have stopped Jimmy Johnson from be as successful with the Dolphins as he was with the Cowboys was because he had reached the age where he could retire. If Jimmy had a lot left on his coaching plate, he would have turned a blind eye to the beauty of the Keys like he did when he was at the University of Miami with brown hair as opposed to patches of gray. The next coach can’t be wet behind the ears but he can’t be cracking behind the ears either. The next Miami coach has to come in wanting something more after this job and approach the job with a sense of urgency. They have to come in feeling like the clock is ticking and not that they have all the time in the World so they can take in all of the South Florida scenery. They have to feel like if this doesn’t work out, my career may be in shambles. The next coach can’t come in here feeling like I’ll give this a try, I’ll enjoy the time and if it doesn’t work out, fire me, give me my severance and I’ll buy a boat that says “Out to Sea” and retire. No way Jose!
3. Be Looking for A Pro Job Soon
Think of the coaches that had some of the biggest success at the University of Miami. What they all have in common is a move from the University of Miami to the pro ranks. Howard Schnellenberger moved on to the USFL. Jimmy Johnson moved on the Cowboys and the Dolphins, Dennis Erickson moved on to Seattle and San Francisco and Butch Davis onto the Cleveland Browns.
This coincides with #2 on my list. What Miami needs is a coach with a sense of urgency but also a coach that wants to shine in his role as the coach at UM so that he can be considered for a job at the next level. You want a coach that is auditioning for something greater which would be a pro head coaching position. The University of Miami is a stepping stone. Some fans may frown at that, I see it as a plus. This is a place to cut your teeth for success at the highest level of the game of football. Getting a coach that wants to be here for 20 years is not the answer. That coach is likely to get comfortable and that’s not what you do in this town unless you are retired. When the University of Miami was at it’s best, it hired coaches who came in, worked hard, worked fast and in five years had a least one title. Those coaches did not get fired but left after success which forced the next guy coming in to keep things relatively the same.
The reason Al Golden felt it right to try and change everything about UM football was because the two guys before him got fired. In his mind, he needed to scrap everything about UM and change the culture. He was wrong. It would be best if the next UM coach did not get fired but left after success. Miami is a transient town that will only support a team that’s winning. This is where my 4 x 100 meter relay team example comes in. A runner in a 400 meter or 800 meter race can start off in the middle of the pack and eventually work his way to the front. College programs where there is undying support in rural towns for the team can do that. You can’t do that in Miami, the fan base will chew you up and spit you out. Each runner in a 4 x 100m relay must sprint like hell, try to win their leg and then hand it off to someone else. This is what a Miami head coach needs to do. Maybe the next coach lays the framework for a dynasty the way Butch Davis laid the framework for the 2001 national title. However, once your leg is up, pass it on to someone else who has the same urgent state of mind and will keep the identity because the man before him was a success. Larry Coker wanted to coach Miami forever and retire as the coach. He got walked down on his leg of the relay. Get all sprinters in here thank you.
4. Have Previous Head Coaching Experience
The thing in recent years was for organizations to go out and find the hot shot coordinator that people “think” would make a great head coach. You know where that works? That works in the NFL and at low profile college football programs. I don’t think that will work at the University of Miami. Larry Coker was a coordinator. I was elated when Miami hired Randy Shannon because I was happy for a man that was a friend but I soon thereafter became worried. Any person put into a job like this will make mistakes. When you make the mistakes at a high profile school, the mistakes get magnified and blown out of proportion. Make mistakes at Miami and the rabid fan base loses their mind. Without previous head coaching experience, you will make more mistakes and be less prepared to handle the backlash. I am certain if Shannon had a head coaching job or two prior to Miami, I would not be writing this article, none of us would really know who Al Golden is and Clemson would not have flogged us behind the woodshed on Saturday in that fashion. The fan base in Miami right now is ornery and on edge. They expect success quickly and will attack. It takes an experienced head coach to handle the bumble bees that buy banners asking that their head coach be fired. A hot shot coordinator needs to cut his teeth elsewhere, not in the MIA.
5. Be A Great Developer of Talent
The rush in college football now is to grab the slick talking individual and pick some position for him to coach. This coach doesn’t really need to know much about the actual on the field action, he just needs to possess the ability to talk a hungry cat off of a fish truck. The emphasis now is on guys who can go land the recruiting service 5 star and then let him just do 5 star things for three years at our school and ship him off to the league. This blows my mind but you don’t need to do that at Miami. First of all the slick talking “recruit a guy” coach will often have a hard time evaluating the actual talent. He basically is skilled at reading online who the 5 star is and talking him into being “a guy for us”. There are many 4 and 5 star busts and if you don’t have coaches that can develop talent, chances are they can’t really evaluate it and then you get stuck. Some guys can spot an awesome 18 year old but once they are there’s they can do little to turn them into an awesome 20 year old in the program.
There is talent all over South Florida. Since ranking kids and rating them is a business, the big recruiting outfits can’t hang 4 and 5 star ratings on many of the kids in Florida that likely deserve them. You don’t have to be Willie Diamond to go out and grab 3 and 4 star kids from this state. If you are adept as a coach at developing talent and getting them to reach their full potential, by age 20 they could play circles around most everyone else’s 5 star recruits that still play like they are 18 years old. The next University of Miami coach needs to believe in developing talent and wants to put together a staff that can do that. Miami is not going to win in recruiting with their facilities. They won’t win in recruiting with the on campus stadium they don’t have. They won’t win in recruiting with the college town where everyone knows your name. The University of Miami will win in recruiting when Johnny comes to Miami in 2015 a good player and leaves in 2017, 18 or 19 as a guy the NFL just has to have and makes the Pro Bowl annually. While everyone else is eating homemade cupcakes, riding bikes underwater and playing the grand pianos in their tricked out facilities, Miami players can be on the field using techniques combined with athleticism to dominate other programs on Saturdays. The next coach can flip the script on the out of towners recruiting this area. Grab the talented kids that the other marquee schools are turning down and then go beat their heads in with them. Can I get a Amen!
Now, I do not yet have a name that fits all of this. I can do some research. Perhaps some of you out there think you know and you can feel free to comment below with who you think that is. However, simply grabbing some former Hurricane great and tricking yourself into believing he will succeed just because is setting yourself up for more heartache. Whether or not the administration and decision makers for the University will recognize what I have written in this article as the keys to success or be willing to hire someone like what I am describing is the $64 million question. Only time will tell but rest assured, I’ve done enough reading, analyzing and sorting out to believe strongly in what has been written right here. The next head coach hire at the University of Miami is crucial. If the wrong guy is hired, the consequences can be fatal. Miami football can be catapulted back to it’s pre 1980 form. It’s that serious.