Reality Check: 'Canes Unwilling To Compete At Highest Level

This summer I caught a lot of heat from Miami fans for shooting straight about Miami's program and its recruiting.  I pointed out that the Hurricanes are getting crushed in recruiting and the quality of players Miami has brought in has steadily trended down over the last two classes.  I said Miami cannot afford a quality coaching staff.  And I noted that the actions of Miami's administration clearly demonstrate that the program is not committed to winning at the highest level.  

Thanks to the internet and cable TV, Miami's location is now a smaller recruiting advantage than it was even ten years ago.  Add to that an administration that is acting like Notre Dame South in not loosening admission standards for enough kids and insisting on an Ivy-League like graduation rate and zero appearances on the police blotter, and the 'Canes' ability to leverage their location is further diminished.  And in an era when big programs have realized they can leverage dollars into wins through facilities and staff, Miami isn't even in the race.  It is a small private school and it now has the football program to match.  Yes, the 'Canes can still be a consistently good team, but unless something drastic changes-- and I don't think Miami has the will or the way to force those changes, UM won't be able to compete at the highest level.  

Back then I was laughed at, but now Miami writers are starting to realize that the swagger is not coming back.  

Here's the Miami Herald:

You would like to think the clock is ticking, that expectations would be higher than this for a program that has won five national titles. But it seems like nobody at Miami is really keeping score of wins and losses anymore except the fans and boosters. Good GPAs and clean police records appear to count a lot more than touchdowns and field goals. That's probably the way it should be. But it just sounds strange for a program that spent 20 jubilant years collecting championships and loading up on swagger. And it makes you wonder if they'll ever be great again. 

Even if Miami wanted to compete at the highest level, it might not have the financial means to accomplish that.   The fact is the UM program cannot afford a first-class coaching staff.  The Canes must catch lightning in a bottle with a young coach willing to take a chance on a program with poor facilities but great local talent.  And even then, that coach will eventually want to get paid. 

Here's one 'Cane writer weighing in:

Those of you working tirelessly on your next coach 'wish list', remember a few things during the process - namely, the fact that the University of Miami head coaching gig isn't the premier job it was decades ago.

What used to be a stepping stone to greener pastures hasn't been that since Dennis Erickson left for Seattle. Nobody was diving at the opportunity back in late 2006 when Larry Coker was fired.

Greg Schiano turned down $2M and chose to stay in Rutgers, as opposed to rebuilding UM. Having spent some time down south in the late 90s, he wanted no part of taking on the challenge Randy dove at. Same to be said for Davis, who accepted the North Carolina job weeks before the UM job reopened (even when the writing of Coker's impending firing was on the wall).

Even Davis, who had proven success in Coral Gables, chose to start fresh at a basketball school instead of rebuilding where he had past success, at a program firmly planted in the most fertile recruiting soil this nation has to offer.

Big schools in big time college towns with stronger fan support, better facilities, on campus stadiums, huge student / alumni bases and state-funded athletic budgets -- all of that outweighs, five titles and some dominance over the last few decades. The landscape has changed and there are only a small percentage of guys out there who are going to sign up to take on the challenge that is 'The U'.

Who really wants to compete with the Dolphins and the HEAT, while playing games at an off-campus stadium, dealing with a fickle fan base and a large media market that brings heavy scrutiny when you lose and little praise when you win? Miami is a special place that requires a special coach. Few guys out there fit the bill in this day and age.

This administration is not going to bring in a $3 million-a-year head coach, so forget a Saban or Meyer-type coach coming in to save the day. Miami makes coaches and does not pay them, why do you think we can never keep a great coach for long? Then they decide to pay Coker of all people? If you want to see what life will be like after Randy, look at what happened to Michigan when they switched systems. Unless you get a coach who has a system to match the talent level on the team, then expect to struggle for two or three seasons as the team starts from scratch.

Maybe Shannon is not the answer, but outside of the top five percent, what coach is going to come in guaranteeing success? It's all a roll of the dice, and if you are willing to risk three years of exchanging recruits, attrition, new systems and new coaches while the team struggles in hope of winning something in year four, be my guest.

Good luck finding good coordinators for the paltry salary Miami pays its assistants. Mark Stoops (FSU def. coordinator) makes almost as much money as Randy Shannon. If Miami is a big-time program they need to pay to get the coaches that will make them one.  Until then, good luck attracting anyone big-time to come to Coral Gables.

Here's Barry Jackson, who has covered Miami for 20+ years on Miami's desire to place graduation and behavior over winning thanks to its president, Donna Shalala:

`He can't get away with winning five or six games,'' said a second Board of Trustee member. ``But if they win eight games every year, as long as the kids keep graduating and stay out of trouble, that's most important to Donna. He's got her full support.''
Shalala is content not winning national titles as long as UM players graduate and aren't arrested? ``I want a championship and a high graduation rate, and that's my standard,'' she said last month. ``Who would play the game if you don't want to win?''
But Shannon's margin for error is larger because the UM administration loves how players are scared of him and stay out of trouble. Don't underestimate how proud it makes UM leadership to see last week's front page USA Today story showing UM's football graduation rate trails only Stanford's.
Yes, there are a few unhappy trustees -- one told a friend he wants Shannon's and offensive coordinator Mark Whipple's heads at the end of the season. But Shalala will do what she wants, with athletic director Kirby Hocutt's input heavily weighed.

She may want to win, but what Miami is doing and what Alabama is doing is night and day.  Miami has the second-highest graduation rate among the BCS conferences.  That's not going to deliver a national championship in football.  National champions have rosters littered with players who had questionable academics coming out of high school but made it at the college level.  And they have many more no longer on the roster who didn't make it.  Like the lottery says, "you can't win if you don't play."  Miami is showing no interest in taking a chance on kids with questionable academics.  

And here's Jackson on Miami's inability to afford a decent coaching staff:

Even if UM wanted to hire a new coach, it doesn't have the money for a bidding war. For example, at $2.5 million, Texas Christian's Gary Patterson is earning about $1.2 million more annually than Shannon.

The main beneficiaries of Miami finally deciding to run its football program like the small private school it is are Florida State and Florida.  Look at the recruiting within 75 miles of Palm Beach.  It is being dominated by the 'Noles and Gators.  Florida State already has 8 commitments from Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm-Beach, Martin, and St. Lucie County.  The state of Florida has always had to split its talent between three teams and the various out-of-state programs.  It could never support three great teams at once.  But two great teams is possible if the third program, in this case Miami, isn't a serious player for the top talent.  

Florida State can do everything in its power to try to match UF, but it likely wouldn't happen without Miami's complicity.

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