Saturday, February 5, 2011


The subject today is the University of Miami football program, but please stick around even if you’re not a Hurricane fan.

I’m going to stay away from “inside baseball” stuff like how Randy Shannon, fired as coach after last season, apparently played favorites among area high school coaches much the same way he did with his players.

I just want to comment on a couple of myths that have been promulgated mostly by the national media that have contributed to the program’s image outside of South Florida (and within the area in some instances, as far as that goes).

The myths:

Shannon came in and cleaned up the Miami program, ridding it of thugs, outlaws, and near academic dropouts.

Not really. That hard work was done a decade ago by Butch Davis. I have been doing reports on Hurricanes football since 1998, attending home games and press conferences (but not many practices) all along and I can vouch for that.

Miami’s academic record was up, arrests down (especially when compared to some other programs in the state), long before Shannon took over for Larry Coker.

The notion that the team under Coker was the same as the bad ole Hurricanes of the late 1980’s and early ’90s goes back mostly to one game -- the one against Florida International in 2006. The brawl in that game, which was largely instigated by FIU (a program that really has undergone a transformation in the last five years), drew national media attention and was an embarrassment for sure.

Miami got most of the blame because, after all, headlines like “FIU brawls” wouldn’t have drawn the attention of the Miami name. But it didn’t mean Miami was up to its old ways, and Coker and his staff and the university addressed the incident with suspensions and other disciplinary actions.

There also was an incident after the Peach Bowl loss to LSU, but who did what to whom was never really determined. One reported blamed an LSU player from Miami for starting it by taunting Miami players as they went through the tunnel back to the locker room after their beating.

So, no, the record wasn’t perfect. But neither did the program require a major cleaning up by Shannon as some might have you believe.

The cupboard was pretty much bare of talent when Shannon took over because of his predecessor.

No question, the players Shannon inherited were not of the caliber Davis handed over to his successor, Coker, a group that won the national championship in 2001 and were within an official’s flag of winning another in 2002.

You can tell that simply by looking at the NFL draft. Starting with the 1995 draft (1994 players) through 2008 (2007 players), Miami had a player go in the first round every year and usually had more than one. In April 2002, five players went in the first round.

No Hurricane player has been picked in the first round in the last two years, though that drought could end this April

So the talent obviously was down when Shannon took over.

Here’s the thing. Shannon had a role, no doubt a big one, in recruiting those last few years under Coker. It wasn’t like he came in from a thousand miles away, like his successor, Al Golden. Shannon was on Coker’s staff and not just a scrub. He was the defensive coordinator, which put him no less than No. 2 in the chain-of-command with the offensive coordinator.

So he had to have some responsibility for what players Miami put on the field in 2007 (when the Hurricanes had a losing record), 2008, and 2009.

Now to be fair about this, I acknowledge that I didn’t hear Shannon going around making these claims. That blame goes to the media  mostly national but some local outlets as well, and fans on message boards. Miami’s program is never going to have the sparkling reputation of a Notre Dame, ill-deserved as that may be.

But neither did I ever hear Shannon attempt to clear up either of these misperceptions.

I guess it wasn’t in his character, and now what goes around, has come around.

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