The worst seemingly is over for University of Miami football, with a 58-0 loss on national television followed by the midseason dismissal of the head coach who couldn’t prevent it from happening.
There are very few quick fixes, however, when it comes to turning a fouled-up college football program into a fired-up success. On top of that, with a new president at Miami and an athletic director who never has had to make so important a hire, there is not a wealth of experience driving the search to replace Al Golden on a permanent basis.
Long ago it was Sam Jankovich who made these calls. The former Miami AD and long-time sports executive bumped into Jimmy Johnson in an elevator at a coaches’ convention and before long they had talked each other into a Hurricanes partnership. In South Florida, Jimmy was just some guy coming off one good season at Oklahoma State at the time.
The same kind of instincts led Jankovich to hire Dennis Erickson from their shared stomping grounds in the Pacific Northwest. Two of Miami’s five national titles resulted from that choice.
Today it’s different. Miami AD Blake James, who was not yet on the job when Golden was hired, is hearing all kinds of things from all kinds of people but the gist of it all is that you’d better get this right.
The biggest name and the best remembered from the early pool of speculation is Butch Davis. He won at a .718 clip as Miami’s coach from 1995-2000 and knows all the particular challenges that come with this school.
In a more recent four-year run at North Carolina, however, Butch went 28-23 overall with a 15-17 record in the ACC. Isn’t that a little too familiar in light of Golden’s 17-18 record against the same league?
Then there’s the vocal crowd in support of a former Hurricanes player or coach to lead the program. You know, somebody like Mario Cristobal or Rob Chudzinski who really gets the U and is devoted to regaining its glory?
That sounds good, too, but Randy Shannon once fit the same description.
Next comes the list of rising stars at lesser programs, men who likely will be up for openings at USC, South Carolina, Maryland and Illinois. Miami can get the early jump on talking to men like Memphis coach Justin Fuente or Houston coach Tom Herman, who are 14-0 between them this season and ranked in the AP Top 20.
Funny thing is, we could be talking about updated versions of Al Golden, who turned Temple around in the Mid-American Conference and got the Miami job because of it. That’s a scary notion, considering nobody from the outside could ever grasp what it means to be the Hurricanes coach until he’s thrown into the stew.
The expectations are stratospheric. The pressure to wrap up every great South Florida high school prospect is immense. The chatter from former Hurricanes stars is never ending.
That’s where James is now, working back channels to find a new coach while personally living in the brightest spotlight of his life.
My advice would be to go for someone who rings as many bells as possible, Greg Schiano.
He worked at Miami as Butch’s defensive coordinator so that works. He established himself somewhere else as a head coach, winning five bowl games in a long run at Rutgers, of all places, so that works. Even better, he’s still drawing on a $15 million contract from his last job with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, so that works in favor of a Miami administration that won’t match the war chests of other schools.
The other cool thing is that Schiano, like Butch, is available right now and actually wants to coach the Hurricanes.
I’d like to think that James could move quickly on an obvious choice like that, but then again I’d like to think he would have fired Miami defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio, Golden’s old sidekick, by now.
Awkward times all around. Even if the Hurricanes come out of this all right, and probably they will, the real heavy lifting has just begun.