Randy's Gone, But Will Donna Shalala and Kirby Hocutt Step Up?
Saturday was one of the saddest days for Miami-Dade's African American community with the firing of Randy Shannon as the University of Miami's head football coach. At the end of the day, I can't argue with athletic director Kirby Hocutt's decision to let Shannon go, but his dismissal still hurts.
I haven't hidden the fact that Shannon is a dear friend of mine, but his ascendance to the top job of the Hurricanes program meant a lot to blacks. He was one of the few people of color to have a very high profile job in this town. We already know it is virtually impossible that a black person will ever be elected county mayor or be selected to be county manager, so seeing Shannon, a hometown guy, reach the mountain top was something the African American community could be proud of and aspire to.
But I know, more than anybody, that college football is a cold hard business. Following the Hurricanes win over Clemson, I spoke with Shannon, telling him that if he didn't win the ACC this year, he would probably get fired. His response was that he had no control over that. All he could do was coach the team as best he could.
Unfortunately, his players let him down and the university's administration turned their backs on Shannon once the losses hit the school in the pocket book. When you lose to a team like Virginia, the worst squad in the ACC, and South Florida, a mediocre team from a mediocre conference like the Big East in front of only 20,000 fans, there is not much Shannon could have done to save his job.
I still believe Shannon would have eventually won a national championship at the University of Miami had he been given complete autonomy over the football program. At the end of the day, he did what his bosses -- Hocutt and university President Donna Shalala -- wanted him to do. He came in and cleaned up the program, played the role of tough disciplinarian and graduated more players than any other coach before him. Make no mistake, Shalala is fine having a football program like Duke where the players' performance in the classroom outweighs their performance on the field.
I'm not saying that it is a bad thing, but at the same time, she and Hocutt handcuffed Shannon from being the guy who won championships with the Hurricanes as a player, graduate assistant and defensive coordinator. People forget that Hocutt forced offensive coordinator Mark Whipple on Shannon. Whipple was a disaster that Shannon had no control over. I know he contemplated firing Whipple during the season, but Shannon was too much of a nice guy to pull the trigger. And we all know nice guys finish last.
There was a day when the University of Miami had the most sought after coaches in Howard Schnellenberger, Jimmy Johnson, and Dennis Erickson. Now the school has fired its last two coaches for doing what the administration wanted. Hocutt and Shalala were happy with a 7-5 team as long as the players didn't act like the old rough and rugged teams from the 80s. For the past nine years they've wanted a program that was run like a military boot camp.
Hocutt and Shalala need to know they can't have it both ways. If they are serious about winning championships, then going after a guy like Jon Gruden makes sense. But they need to give him complete control. They can't tell him who to hire to run the offense and the defense. If they don't, then this program will continue to go down the tubes.
Now that they don't have Shannon to deflect the criticism, the pressure is on Shalala and Hocutt to let whoever comes in to let the U live up to its old traditions.
Follow Luke on Twitter at: @unclelukereal1.