SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
12/08/2006 12:18:00 AM
Bold Move by Miami
Seventeen seasons as an athlete and assistant at Miami has prepared Randy Shannon to lead the Hurricanes as head coach.
Doug Benc/Getty Images
You figured Miami would want to make a splash with the hiring of its next football coach. That it did -- just not the kind most expected.
A school that’s seen the likes of Howard Schnellenberger, Jimmy Johnson, Dennis Erickson and Butch Davis lead its program was hungry for another big name to come in and right the Hurricanes’ ship. As Miami quickly found out, however, big names aren’t exactly leaping at the chance to take over a chronically underfunded program whose expectations are larger than a lot of their home crowds. Rutgers’ Greg Schiano said no nearly before he was asked. West Virginia’s Rich Rodriguez set his sights on Alabama. Texas Tech’s Mike Leach was interested, but it’s unclear whether Miami was truly interested him.
So with Miami AD Paul Dee’s top national targets seemingly out of reach, he turned to his own backyard. Randy Shannon, defensive coordinator for the 'Canes the past six seasons, has been ready to become a head coach for years, but when the annual coaching carousel heated up each winter, his name rarely surfaced. Perhaps he didn’t campaign hard enough. Perhaps he was a bad interview. Or perhaps, as is still sadly the case, it was the color of his skin.
Whatever the case may be, it’s only fitting Shannon would finally get his break at the school for whom he played linebacker and for whom he has served as an assistant for 13 years. The circumstances under which he takes over, however, are strange to say the least. Normally when a team goes in the tank and the coach is fired, his staff goes too. Maybe one of the coordinators gets a token interview. Maybe the new coach keeps one on when he arrives. But a coordinator taking over full-time for his fired boss? Unheard of.
But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the defense was not Larry Coker’s undoing. Even as Miami slipped to the realms of mediocrity these past few seasons, Shannon kept pumping out some of the nation’s best defenses. This year’s unit ranked fifth nationally in yards allowed, last year’s fourth. While the ‘Canes offense went to shambles (87th out of 119 Division I-A teams this season), the defense continued to play at the same, high level it did when Miami played for consecutive national titles in 2001 and ’02. Its defensive coordinator back then? Also Shannon.
His hiring is already being met with grumbling from ‘Canes faithful who feel the school should have cut all remaining ties to the Coker regime. Some of the subject lines on a Miami message board Thursday night included: “Shannon as HC is a Monumental blunder that could end UM FB,” “The Silver lining in all of this is that Randy will be exposed as the fraud that he is,” “Shannon gets NO grace period” and, of course, “Fire Randy Shannon.”
Miami fans -- love their passion, but could use a little perspective.
There’s obviously no way to know whether Shannon will ultimately work out, but one thing’s for certain: He’s as qualified as anyone in the country for this particular job. Miami is a unique program with a unique history, and Shannon has been a part of it, both as player and coach, through 17 seasons and three of the school’s five national titles. He may have worked under Coker, but believe me, he will bring an entirely different attitude to that program -- intense and aggressive on both sides of the ball.
Where his impact will be felt most of all is in recruiting. It’s no secret young, black athletes gravitate toward black coaches -- look at almost any major staff in the country, and its so-called “ace” recruiter is usually black. Shannon is obviously well-known throughout South Florida, where Miami usually mines the large majority of its players. The key to his success will be assembling a staff that brings similar credibility and keen eye for evaluating talent, an area that went downhill during Coker’s latter years.
Shannon becomes just the sixth black head coach in Division I-A. Between that, his relative youth (40) and lack of experience as a head coach, he already figured to be heavily scrutinized. Add in the fact this is Miami, where the standards for success are higher than anywhere in the country, and the scrutiny is going to be absolutely mind-boggling.
Good article, Stewart. You understand what many of us down here know: UM is not exactly a conventional program, and its coaching moves follow the same pattern.
After Schiano said no, it seemed that we should give Shannon the shot rather than rooting around among second-tier candidates. I think he'll do a fine job, assuming he finds himself an innovative offensive coordinator (something we've been lacking for several years now).
But as far as the "negative" comments you mentioned, I think that's a really misleading sample you've got. Comments depend on the forum and some are more negative than others. From what I've read, the reacion is positive. Check out the comments on Omar Kelly's blog (he's our local paper's UM beat writer): http://blogs.sun-sentinel.com/sports_college_hurricanes/2006/12/the_safe_pick.html#comments
Miami stuck to the formula - hire a coach that will use the role as a springboard to the NFL. It works... look at the facts:
Joe Paterno (38 years) - 2 titles...3 title games Bobby Bowden (30 years) - 2 titles ...4 title games Bo Schembechler (20+ yrs) - no titles..1 title game Tom Osborne (25 + yrs) - 3 titles ... 6 title games
UM string of coaches (1983-present): 5 titles ... 9 title games!
Oh, crap -- Here goes Stewart with his utterly unsubstantiated race charges again. Here's a thought: Perhaps Shannon is just like many other talented, successful coordinators who, until now, have not gotten head coaching jobs (e.g., Mickey Andrews, John Chavis, et. al.). There is absolutely no evidence that Shannon's race had anything to do with his lack of career advancement, but by all means, don't let a lack of facts get in the way of a good smear. Congrats to Randy Shannon -- I just hope you have more class that Stewart Mandel.
For race to be implied at all in the case of Randy Shannon is a disservice to college football. Look at the long list of top assistants who wait careers to be hired as head coaches - Gene Chizik, David Cutcliffe, Greg Robinson, to name a few. And a few who haven't - Norm Chow and Bo Pelini. The problem is that coaches always want to make the jump to "big time" without paying their dues. Take Urban Meyer as an example - Bowling Green, Utah, Florida. The chances of a coach leaving a program and taking the reins of a traditional power are slim and the results unproven - Bob Davie being a proven example.
I'm a lifelong Miami fan and I'm pleased with the selection. A good assistant delivers his boss' agenda, and that's what Shannon has done, and he defenses have been stellar. What remains to be seen is whether he can bring the attitude that Miami needs, not swagger, an overused term evoking false macho bravado, but the will to win no matter what. The attitude is confidence and team unit, and they need leaders. Kyle Wright is not that guy. I don't know who is. I hope Shannon can find him. Go Canes!
I think this decision is very good, but I'm a little concerned because in hiring a defensive coach, that does not solve the problem of an inept offense. Mind you, this offense has been inept since Dorsey left. So this move ensures that my Canes will continue to produce awesome defenses, but Shannon better hire an amazing offensive coordinator.
Randy Shannon was a great hire! Greg Schiano has had 1 good year and he is a great coach, come on now! Let's see Rutgers program 2 to 3 years from now and see if Schiano is the coach? It is truly amazing that a private school has won 5 national titles in the last 23 years going against its public school brethren is why 'the U' is the most difficult job in America. I know Notre Dame is a private school but their tradition is unmatched in college sports. A large amount of 'The U' fans most likely are not alumni of the school, its the only program that fan base is people who could not afford college and lived a very difficult upbringing or had society look down on them. The U is a perfectly place for a non-white head coach, What took so long?
I applaud Miami for making this choice. We don't have nearly enough black coaches in D-1, not that I think black coaches should be hired just because they are black, but obviously it should not count against them. I always think schools should look internally then from the outside when they look for their next head coach and Miami has done that. The U will be back, and I will root for them like I do every year...and this is coming from a Gator fan first, but a state of Florida fan secondly. Go Florida Football!!!
Miami knew exactly what they were doing when they hired Shannon. They wanted someone the media would gloat over and you have fallen head-over-heels for it Mandel. Shannon was part of the problem at Miami, not the solution. Every time a player got a persoal foul, it was on defense. Every time a player got arrested, it was a defensive player. Nothing will chance at Miami. The only thing that will change is now the media will think twice about reporting or commenting on problems because they dont want to be percieved as ``attacking'' a black coach.
BYU fired their head coach two years ago (Gary Crowton) and replaced him with Crowton's defensive coordinator Bronco Mendenhall. BYU went from no bowl games in three years to bowl games in the past two years. Just because a coach was part of a prior regime does not mean the poor results of the prior regime will continue.
Nice article, but I wish you would have also commented on the large number of Miami fans that support Randy Shannon as a head coach. You framed the article around how the fans do not support Randy Shannon, and how you (and perhaps the press in general) DO support Randy. I think he will do great provided he is allowed to spend some money on coordinators.
Since it appears that you support Randy Shannon as the right choice for Miami, how do you think he will fair in “cleaning up” Miami’s Thug U image? Hmmmm….as a writer, thus must be a VERY interesting dilemma, huh? If Miami has the same players, then the behavior problem must have been due to Larry Coker, right? Good luck selling that at face value…..anyone who tries that spin will be exposed as valuing hate over fair reporting. Oh the irony! Don’t trip over the other media on the way to praising Miami and its efforts in cleaning up ‘Thug U”.
Randy personifies class. He's a quiet and strong leader. He embodies everything this program needs... discipline, leadership, energy and passion for the U. To the UM fans who are upset... you will eat your words when he lifts this program back on top!
I'm not sold either way on Randy Shannon but I don't have much negative to say. We know he is a top flight recruiter but recruiting the players doesn't mean anything if you can't coach them. Can he put together a good offensive coaching staff? Time will tell. I won't worry about the defense.
But there is one thig that consistently bothers me about the national media. They keep talking about Miami's failure to land a big name. Well who in the heck were Schnellenberger, Johnson, Erickson and Davis before UM hired them as head coaches. They became and remain big names after the fact. So please start getting it right.
Stewart, I totally agree with you, he is up to the challenge but unfortunately as a Black head coach, his time to prove himself will be very short. Personally , I was wondering what took them so long to consider him. That being said,I think he is the guy for the job. He knows exactly what he is getting himself into and also how the program works. Also, the players are familiar with him and you mention the "R" word, recruiting and that is the lifeblood of any program. Last but not least, he is a fantastic coach. Look at his numbers and they speak for themselves.
Personally, I applaud Miami for making this move. I just hope that they will give him the same amount of time and patience that they would give somebody else. I doubt it but one can always hope.
Randy Shannon's excellence over the years has proven that he is worthy of this opportunity. In a recruiting environment today where an increasing number of schools are tapping into South Florida talent that Miami used to own, the school need to find a new edge that can differentiate itself from the competition. The fact that Coach Shannon is one of the few African American head coaches out there today could prove to be a key to building a rapport with recruits and reestablishing Miami's dominance in gathering top talent out of Florida. Go Canes!