tampabay.com

New Miami coach: History right at home

But Randy Shannon focuses on restoring tradition, not milestone.

By MICHAEL SNYDER
Published December 9, 2006


CORAL GABLES - When looking for the next coach to lead the Hurricanes, Miami officials decided they had the right candidate the entire time.

Randy Shannon, defensive coordinator since 2001, was named Friday morning to succeed Larry Coker, who was fired Nov. 24 with three years remaining on his contract after finishing 6-6.

Shannon signed a four-year deal that begins at $800,000 and includes bonuses that could boost the payout to just under $1-million, according to the Palm Beach Post. Coker, who went 59-15 but lost 12 games the past three seasons, made $1.8-million this season.

A former linebacker for the 'Canes, Shannon helped them win three national titles as a player and an assistant. In six seasons leading the defense, Miami ranked in the top 10 nationally five years.

Shannon called the opportunity a dream job and said he was "groomed for it" by Coker.

"I'm thankful for the opportunity to lead one of the greatest institutions in America," he said. "We will get it done. This program is not at a standstill. This program is not on a downslide."

Shannon, 40, a Miami native, is the first African-American head football coach in UM history and only the second in the Atlantic Coast Conference since it was formed in 1953. He is one of six active black coaches among 119 Division I-A teams, joining Mississippi State's Sylvester Croom, UCLA's Karl Dorrell, Buffalo's Turner Gill, Kansas State's Ron Prince and Washington's Tyrone Willingham. He's the first to be a head football coach at a majorFlorida school.

Yet he shrugged off such milestones: "I'm a ball coach. I don't think it has anything to do with minority issues. When I go to the ACC meetings, they're going to look at me and go, 'Hey, Randy, how you doing?' They're not going to go, 'Hey, minority Randy.' I'm just going to be Randy Shannon."

The 'Canes decided to promote from within after talking to Rutgers coach Greg Schiano, a former Miami assistant, and Texas Tech's Mike Leach. Schiano, apparently their first choice, said he told them not to consider him for the job.

Shannon had plenty of supporters, including ex-teammates such as All-America Russell Maryland.

"A lot of former players called me," university president Donna Shalala said. "I'll tell you what impressed me. Russell Maryland said, 'I was scared to death of him.' A lot of players said, 'He frightened me.' That meant they saw him as a disciplinarian who had high standards."

Miami's rogue image dates to the teams Shannon played on in 1980s, and the program's reputation was tarnished anew this season by a brawl with Florida International that resulted in the suspensions of 31 players, 13 from Miami. The trash-talking, bad-boy behavior of the '87 team isn't acceptable in '06, Shannon said.

"That was back then," he said. "Everybody did it. It wasn't just Miami. With the media coverage, everything has to change. Sportsmanship is a big part in everything you do. ... Everybody talks about the image of Miami. It's not the image. It's the perception. We'll be fine."

Shannon joined UM as a graduate assistant in 1991 and climbed the ladder before leaving in 1998 to become a Dolphins defensive assistant, then linebackers coach in 2000. He returned in 2001 as defensive coordinator, earning the Frank Broyles Award as national assistant of the year when UM won its fifth national title in his first season.

His hiring appeared to pay early dividends.

Linebacker Jon Beason, who was considering skipping his senior season to enter the NFL draft, says he likely will return. Hialeah High's Adewale Ojomo, a 6-3, 217-pound senior ranked No. 28 among defensive ends in the country by rivals.com, orally committed Friday.

But running back Graig Cooper, the No. 1-ranked prep school player in the nation, told Canesport.com he decided to decommit a few days after Coker was fired. He now is considering Florida and Oklahoma State along with Miami.

As for current 'Canes, sophomore defense end Calais Campbell said: "I'm really excited that it was him. ... That's who I personally wanted to get the job and a lot of guys on the team did (too), so it's big."

Information from the Miami Herald and Associated Press was used in this report.