November 28, 2010 by staff
Athletic director Kirby Hocutt made the call.
“We have made a decision to seek new leadership for our football program,” Hocutt said in a release. “Our expectations are to compete for championships and return to the top of the college football world.”
Shannon received a four-year extension just before the start of the 2010 season. He was 28-22 in four seasons at Miami.
The fate of all members of Shannon’s staff has not been determined. Some will remain for Miami’s bowl game, but one assistant coach told The Associated Press that “everybody, all the coaches, weight room, the training room guys, secretaries, we all think we’re gone.” The coach spoke on condition of anonymity because he had not been told about his own job.
Shannon had considered firing both offensive coordinator Mark Whipple and defensive coordinator John Lovett in recent days, along with some — but not all — of his other assistants.
Hocutt was scheduled to meet with reporters at 1 p.m. Sunday, and players were told a team meeting would be held beforehand.
Hocutt made the decision shortly after Miami lost to South Florida 23-20 in overtime on Saturday afternoon, in a game where only about 27,000 people filled the 73,000 seats at Sun Life Stadium. A plane circled the stadium before kickoff calling for a coaching change, and players left fearing that it would be the last time they played for Shannon.
“Put it on us as players,” wide receiver Leonard Hankerson said.
The sentiment may have been noted, but in the end, Shannon was ultimately responsible.
Shannon is expected to receive a buyout of around $1.5 million. Miami — a private school that doesn’t have the deepest of pockets when it comes to paying coaches — has had a fundraising drive to support athletics for several years and believes it will be able to put together enough money to lure a top-notch staff.
It’s expected that one of the offensive coaches, likely line coach Jeff Stoutland, will coach the bowl game, though as of 11 p.m. Saturday, there was still some uncertainty about the Hurricanes’ short-term plans. The Hurricanes expect to be selected for the Sun Bowl, although that still’s far from a done deal.
Hocutt said he would begin a nationwide search, and there’ll be no shortage of names on his list. Among the possible candidates: former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach (who has a residence in the Florida Keys), Georgia’s Mark Richt, and Oklahoma associate head coach Brent Venables, who has ties with Hocutt going back more than 20 years.
Shannon drove away from the stadium around 5:30 p.m. Saturday unsure of his fate, though he had suspected that he would be fired after the Hurricanes were embarrassed at home by Florida State on Oct. 9 and then were beaten by lowly Virginia three weeks later. He considered making many changes to his staff and was deciding whether to dismiss some coaches later Saturday evening.
Instead, Miami beat him to the punch.
“I’m not worried about me,” Shannon told The AP earlier in the week when asked about his job security. “If they do it, they do it. I think someone will give me another job.”
Shannon took over for Larry Coker at the end of the 2006 season and went on a mission to change the culture at the school — which, in many respects, he did.
Miami has been among the nation’s leaders in academic success by its football program, and the off-the-field reputation has been cleaned up considerably.
But it never translated into wins. More specifically, not enough of them.
Shannon went 5-7 in his first season, then 7-6, then 9-4 last year. He never won a bowl game, and never got the Hurricanes past second place in the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Coastal Division. Miami still has not won an ACC championship since leaving the Big East, and hasn’t been part of the Bowl Championship Series since the 2003 season.
“Randy Shannon is Miami,” university president Donna Shalala famously said when he was hired, with good reason. Shannon is a native of Miami, played for the Hurricanes and was a longtime assistant coach there before getting the chance to lead the program.
Even after Miami lost last week to Virginia Tech and was eliminated from the ACC race, Shalala sent Shannon a note of support. But when asked by The AP after Saturday’s loss if he was concerned about his future, Shannon simply shrugged and said it would remain a source of speculation, as it had been for about the past six weeks.
Less than six hours later, he was out of a job.
When Hocutt made the decision to fire Miami women’s soccer coach Tricia Taliaferro earlier this fall, he said the Hurricanes’ teams were being judged on how relevant they were nationally.
And football is not a major player on the national scene — nor has it been for the past several seasons.
Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press.
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