Donna Shalala Is Running Hurricanes Football Into the Ground
It is University of Miami Coach Al Golden's second year on the job, and he's on his way to another disappointing season. Yet he's done well recruiting players and nurturing a team decimated by the early departures of talented upperclassmen. The problem? UM President Donna Shalala has handcuffed Golden, just as she did his predecessors Randy Shannon, Larry Coker, and Butch Davis.
As a result, the team has been embarrassed by Kansas State, Notre Dame, and Florida State this season.
Shalala wants the big bucks a football program generates without a return to the renegade image from the 1980s, when the Hurricanes dominated college football. Those Canes were the best because they were led by three headstrong coaches -- Howard Schnellenberger, Jimmy Johnson, and Dennis Erickson -- who didn't let then-university President Tad Foote meddle with their control of the players.
That hasn't been the case during Shalala's tenure. The first sign of trouble came when she forced Davis to tell former players that they were not welcome on the sidelines. Then she didn't fight the city of Miami from tearing down the Orange Bowl, which had become hallowed ground for die-hard Canes fans. Instead, she hightailed it to Sunlife Stadium for a 25-year-deal and the promise of more luxury sky-boxes to sell to corporate sponsors.
When Shannon was trying to keep his student-athletes from the clutches of Ponzi schemer Nevin Shapiro, Shalala was happily accepting checks from the rogue ex-booster. Ever since then Hurricanes football has been in a free fall.
The NCAA began investigating Shapiro's allegations that he provided impermissible gifts to football and basketball players and recruits right under Shalala's nose. Before Golden's first game in 2011, eight players were declared ineligible by the NCAA for allegedly accepting free stuff from Shapiro. But it wasn't fair to them. How could they know they were doing something wrong when they saw Shalala parading around with the convicted ponzi schemer at booster events?
When Shannon didn't want anything to so with Shapiro, he went up the flag pole, demanding the university fire him. Shalala eventually dropped the axe on Shannon using the excuse that he wasn't winning games. But she didn't want Shannon around because he was starting to assert himself. Shalala even made Shannon fight for the money that was owed to him. He had to sue the University to get it.
Then four juniors from last year's team whose leadership and talent would have helped this season's squad left early for the NFL draft. Another defensive star, Ray Ray Armstrong, was booted before the season started. And two more young men quit the team in October.
It keeps getting worse. In early October, after less than two years on the job, Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst quit to take over the University of Nebraska sports program. The guy before him, Kirby Hocutt, left for the same job at Texas Tech University. When two athletic directors leave the beautiful city of Coral Gables for cow pastures and cornfields, that shows the problems start at the top of the University of Miami. Hocutt and Eichorst saw a no-win situation and bailed out.
The University of Miami is also recruiting less kids from Miami's inner city neighborhoods. There are only eight players on the roster from schools like Booker T. Washington, Norland, Miami Northwestern, Miami Central, and Carol City. The 80s teams won with an abundance of players from Overtown, Liberty City and other parts of northwest Miami-Dade. They still can without all the show-boating antics if Golden was allowed to get more inner-city kids.
I'd rather see the football program shut down than let Shalala keep ruining it.
Follow Luke on Twitter: @unclelukereal1.
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