UM Football Coaching Search Notebook

For rabid Canes fans looking for any scrap of news pertaining to the search for the next head coach, it has been a frustrating few weeks. The university has done a surprisingly good job keeping leaks to a minimum on the search, and has yet to shown their hand in the search. Nonetheless we have some updates and analysis worth your while…


First, let’s update the candidate rankings…

Here is a fully updated top whatever for the coaching candidates. You’ll notice there’s been quite a few coaches who have been ruled out. We’ve recreated the list to account for what our sources have said. Here is a ranked (based upon our opinion) list of coaches who are legitimately being considered for the job.


  1.  Chip Kelly

If you had asked me two days ago, I would’ve said that there was zero chance of Miami landing Kelly. But after yet another loss for the Eagles and a few more calls for his head… I’m beginning to increasingly believe that Kelly will be coaching somewhere other than Philly come next fall. I wouldn’t be shocked if he landed with another NFL team (Marcus Mariota reunion in Tennessee perhaps?), but I could just as easily see him foregoing that for a college job (he truly is a better fit at this level). Odds are that if any program could land him it’d be USC, but Miami could make a run here. If we sweep in with a five million dollar per year offer, a chance to build an entire program in his image, and a sales pitch predicated on the most fertile recruiting ground in the country and Miami’s swaggerful reputation… Miami could land him. Kelly’s speed spread offence would be a flawless fit with South Florida talent. He’s shown he can take a program to another level before (see: Ducks, Oregon), and he’s an experienced coach with elite pedigree. Plus he’s fairly young at only 51 years old. Kelly would be the perfect pick for Miami. He’d bring swagger, speed, and top notch coaching to the program, and revamp them into contention in a hurry.


Tied 2- Butch Davis

As I’ve said before, Butch carries a frightening amount of baggage that’ll likely scare the Board of Trustees away from him, but at the end of the day, he is the hands down best choice unless some outlandish home run hire materializes. He is extremely experienced with loads of success to boast of, and he’s rebuilt Miami before. He built the single greatest college football team in the history of the great sport. He also knows Miami football’s unique circumstances better than any other human on the planet, and the fanbase and college football environment would unite behind him. There are however a few questions that surround Davis. Yes, he’s a tad old at 64, but he has spent five years resting for another shot and this is the only job he wants. He is passionate about this. The age aspect can be negated by a well thought out coach in waiting plan behind him. Don’t expect it to happen, but a pairing with Cristobal as associate head coach/coach in waiting would be unstoppable. Butch could train him in his ways while rebuilding the program during which Cristobal would be used a liaison to the South Florida recruiting atmosphere due to his wealth of connections in that realm. A new concern that has popped up recently for Butch is his lack of success when it comes to hiring offensive coordinators. Larry Coker was (despite how well the talent masked it) a pretty lousy offensive play caller, and his offensive staff at North Carolina produced putrid results. But Butch’s rumored preferences for offensive coordinator this time around are Ken Dorsey and Eddie Gran, so perhaps he’s learnt from this. Also there is of course the scandal in Chapel Hill that will likely scare Miami away from them to speak of, but this is more of a PR and potential hiring concern less than an actual concern about his character (Butch was entirely exonerated). Butch has issues, but at the end of the day he’s the safest choice and the easiest fix to the program.


Tied-2. Tom Herman

Herman is the riskiest hire. He is extremely inexperienced and has zero Miami connections. But… He is one of the hottest young coaching names out there, and he’s won big before as the offensive coordinator of the national champion Buckeyes last year. He has invigorated a stale Houston program into a potential undefeated season while making multiple program improvements, generating national buzz, and landing some big time recruits. Herman pilots a dominant smash mouth spread offense that can plug seemingly any player into and still get insane production. Houston’s defense has also been stellar under the tutorship of defensive coordinator Todd Orlando (another rising name in the business). Herman has injected a vivacious excitement into the program, and there’s plenty of reason behind him being a popular coaching candidate at bigger schools. I for one would be ecstatic to see Herman here despite the risk factor of his inexperience. He’d bring one of the best offensive systems in the game, a great defensive coordinator, recruiting prowess, experience winning titles, program building penchant, and the chance to be here for a long time at only 41 years old. Hiring Herman would be a fantastic coup.


Tied 2- Mark Richt

Richt has been fired from Georgia despite one of the greatest runs in Georgia football history. He’s achieved fairly consistent ten win seasons in the SEC for fifteen years, and he’s widely renowned as a great offensive mind and phenomenal recruiter. Richt may just be in need of a change in scenery to return to his winning ways. He’s an extremely successful, experienced coach with Miami connections (he was a quarterback under Schnellenberger), and he’s relatively young at only 55 years old. I’d be perfectly happy with a Richt hiring, but I worry if he still has that fire in his gut. He’s always been seen as the type who’d retire to a mission life after Georgia (he’s a very religious, relaxed person), and I worry he doesn’t have the same passion and energy he once did. If he is fully committed to coaching, I’d be thrilled to have him. He’s young, he’s a winner, he’s a great recruiter, and he knows Miami. What else could one ask for?


3.  Charlie Strong

The lustre has quickly faded from Strong’s meteoric rise to head coach of Texas as the Longhorns have been about as abysmal as a team can be. Most of this is due to the simple fact that Mack Brown left a dumpster fire of a program behind for Strong to clean up. Texas requires a full five year rebuild before they have a shot to contend for anything. The problem is… This is Texas. The fans and media are among the least patient, most diehard/blowhard fans in the business, and they’ve hammered Strong repeatedly for the team’s perceived futility. Strong will likely go into 2016 on one of the hottest seats in the country and in need of at least eight wins to save his job. And with that roster, becoming bowl eligible will be a more realistic and important goal. Texas will likely naively not award Strong with enough time to complete the mission. He’s also not a very good fit there. Strong is a Florida guy inside and out. He loves recruiting the Miami Dade area with his wealth of connections there. He is a tremendous defensive guru who can put a hell of a staff together. Strong is a very good coach, but Texas simply isn’t right for him. Strong won’t be given the time he needs in Austin, and he’d be a much better fit in Miami. He could sweep in and revamp the defense in a hurry while locking down the State of Miami. However, he could only succeed here if he hires a good offensive coordinator due to his naiveness on that side of the ball. Strong would bring a disciplinarian strong minded approach to game day and practice while boasting an excellent defense and all Miami team. He’d be a great choice.


4. Les Miles

Like Kelly, if you’d asked me two days ago I would’ve said there was no chance we could land him. But the coaching landscape nowadays is a fluid one, and Miles is suddenly available. Rumor has it Miles is already a lock to be fired at the end of the season, and there’s a chance he’ll be out of a job by the end of today. Miles has been a model of stability at LSU. Taking over from the great Nick Saban, Miles has guided the program to consistent ten win seasons, a handful of SEC titles and BCS bowl wins, and created a pipeline to the pros. LSU however appears ready to make a change due to Miles never being able to take a good program to a great one. Outside of one national title (with Saban’s players), LSU has simply been solid program but never a truly elite, college football blue blood quality team. With LSU’s resources and support, that’s unacceptable. Miami would be getting one of the best recruiters in the nation, a veteran coach with great reputation, and a great defensive mind. There are only three problems with Miles… But they are gargantuan ones. Firstly, he is utterly incompetent at coaching an offense. He has an obsession with mobile quarterbacks, yet seems to never be able to use them. He also has never proved able to hire a capable offensive staff to negate this issue. If Miami were to hire him, he would need to hire a great offensive coordinator. Secondly (and more concerning), the mad hatter has a reputation as a horrific game day coach. Now in all fairness, many candidates on this list are deficient in that realm, but Miles has a history of making downright strange coaching decisions. This is the point I’m least concerned with, but something that needs to be researched heavily by whoever vets him. Lastly is the most concerning issue, Miles has a moral problem. The Tigers have a reputation of letting players with serious off the field issues onto their team if they can win with them, and LSU’s standards academically and off the field are far lower than at Miami. He’d have to be able to adjust to higher standards both intellectually and ethically. The administration would have to be involved in disciplinary decisions. Lastly, there is the question of if he’s underachieved at LSU. If the best he can do is churn out ten win seasons at a school with top five resources, could he replicate the same at a less football oriented program in Miami? To conclude, Miles would be a great hire as an experienced, winning football coach, but Miami would need to be heavily involved in some of his decision making in terms of his staff and player acceptance.


5. Chuck Pagano

Due to Pagano’s antagonistic relationship with the Colts front office, he’ll likely be in need of a new job at the end of the year. He’s a candidate who’d boast loads of NFL and college experience and great Miami connections as a former DB/ST coach here back in the glory days of the early 2000’s. He had some success in Indianapolis, is a bright, fun players coach, and reps the “U”. Honestly, the only problem I worry about in regards to him is his health. Pagano is a leukemia survivor who deserves great respect for his admirable fight. But… Could his health become an issue later on? Does he have enough energy for this taxing of a job? He was hardly known as the most energetic coach prior to his diagnosis, and Miami historically has done best with enigmatic, vivacious coaches. Does he have the energy and creativity to succeed here? There are some huge concerns.


6. Rich Rodriguez

Rich Rod is one of the most beloved coaches in football. He pioneered the spread before it was cool, and he’s rebuilt West Virginia and Arizona in impressive manner. He also has hinted that he’d be happier somewhere on the East Coast at a school with better pedigree than Arizona. Could Miami be on his radar? Rodriguez could be a great fit. His offense would be electric with the “speed kills” talent that South Dade produces, and with his rebuilding chops he could have this program ticking quickly. There are only two glaring issues with him. Firstly, he’s never been able to produce a fairly competent defense. His teams win by putting up inordinate amounts of points, but not ever limiting the other team to a reasonable allotment. If Miami wants to truly contend for titles, they must make sure Rodriguez hires a stellar defensive coordinator. Secondly (and even more concerning), he’s a fairly lousy recruiter. Arizona and West Virginia’s classes have been consistently ranked in the bottom half of the rest of college football throughout Rod’s tenure. While some will point to that as evidence the man can coach and develop players better than anyone, it also shows that he wouldn’t be able to lock down the State of Miami or truly build a championship roster. He’d not only need a great defensive coordinator but also some great recruiters on the staff. He’s been rumored to land at Virginia Tech which might be a better fit. Nonetheless, you can’t go wrong hiring Rodriguez, while he probably wouldn’t spark another dynasty he could easily invigorate the program into a period of sustained success.


7. Dan Mullen

I’ve been shocked at how little Mullen’s name has been thrown around. He too runs an exciting offense, has rebuilt an embarrassment of a program at Mississippi State, has created an NFL pipeline, and has huge Florida connections. Mullen has never won big, but he built Miss State from scratch practically. His offense would be a great fit with Miami talent, and he has proven to be more than capable in running a defense as well (look at their Mississippi State’s defensive stats from last year!). Plus, he coaches in the gauntlet of the SEC, so his 7-8 win seasons there are equivalent to 10 win seasons in the ACC. He’s not a sexy hire, but he checks off all the boxes in an impressive way.


8. Greg Schiano

Schiano is an acquired taste. Some people love him, some people hate him, but no one can deny the results he got at Rutgers. Schiano does three things only and does them extremely well. 1) He builds a stellar defense. His defenses in New Jersey and Tampa were both dominant, and the defense is always the calling card of his teams. 2) His teams play disciplined, well conditioned football. Schiano is an old fashioned ball buster of a coach who will get in his player’s faces with fire and passion. His teams play fast and intensely but smartly also. 3) He builds a program from the bottom up. Rutgers was a joke before Schiano arrived (and returned to being one promptly after he left). He grew that program slowly from the ground up, and got them all the way to a #1 ranking for a week. The issue with Schiano is that he might not be a great fit for Miami. He’s very much a North East Big Ten type coach. His offensive strategies are archaic ground and pound attacks, he’s a disciplinarian type coach who does not allow any form of swagger. Plus he’s known as a bit of a jerk with an ego complex. The plus with Schiano is many say he could lure Cristobal to be on his staff if he was hired which would certainly improve his recruiting. Schiano could have success here but he (like so many candidates) would require a great offensive coordinator, and he’d also need to loosen up his style a little to become more of a player’s coach.


9. Rob Chudzinski

The first adjective that comes to mind when I think of Rob Chudzinski is “meh”. He’s just such a safe hire with a low floor and low ceiling. He’s a great offensive mind with connections to the U and NFL pedigree, but he’s really more of an NFL coach. His laid back, reserved nature doesn’t lend well to the college game which often requires either an extremely enigmatic or disciplinarian approach. Chud would build a great staff however. But at the end of the day, he has no experience as a head coach in the NCAA, he’ll always be looking for an NFL offer, and he’s simply a bland candidate. This wouldn’t be a bad hire, but there are simply much better options.


10. Mario Cristobal

The mere mention of Cristobal’s name will draw an extremely emotional response from Canes fans. Some regard him as a traitor who defected to Nick Saban (or Satan as many call him), and others see him as a recruiter, not a coach. The bottom line is that Cristobal would be the greatest recruiter of any candidate, but doesn’t have the experience or chops to be head man here yet. He did an amicable job at FIU, but needs to prove he can have success at a solid mid major job (UCF anyone?) before taking a big job like this. If he were to have any success here he’d need to follow the Dabo Swinney formula and build an amazing staff. Cristobal needs to form more of an identity as a coach and gain more experience before taking a job like Miami. It’d be a mistake to hire him at this stage, but in five years or so, perhaps he’d be the right hire.


11. Mike Shula

Sources and reports have repeatedly said that Shula’s name (unfortunately not his father’s) is being thrown around in closed door meetings. He seems to be a favorite of Blake James and for reasons few can understand. He’s a fairly mediocre NFL offensive coordinator for the defensive minded Panthers. He was the head coach at Alabama for several years pre-Saban, and didn’t impress in that position. His crowning achievement was one ten win season amid a sea of 6-7 win campaigns. In all fairness, he had to fight through the adversity of NCAA sanctions in a rebuilding program, but if he couldn’t take advantage of all the advantages Alabama offers how can he be expected to succeed at infrastructurally challenged Miami? Regardless, he is an experienced coach with NFL pedigree and some level of success, a guy with decent Miami connections (see: Shula, Don), and is relatively young at only 50 years old. Look, I don’t see Shula as anything special, he’s a very pedestrian hire. I don’t necessarily see him as a bad coach, but barring a transcendent staff beneath him, I doubt he can reinvigorate the program.


A Few Conclusions After Much Research…

After a great deal of research regarding the coaching search and potential hires, there are a few important trends to note.


  • We won’t know how good a hire it is until we find out the staff. Barring a homerun name (perhaps Urban Meyer’s heart feels a tad fluttery…), there won’t be a hire that tells fans immediately if it was the correct choice or not. All of these coaches have one major need- they require great staffs underneath them. We won’t know how good the hire was until we find out who they’ve drawn to the U as their assistants. For example, if we find out Schiano is the next coach many would pan the decision while some would exalt it. But if we find out a week later that Sciano is bringing Cristobal as assistant HC/OL, Jim Leavitt as defensive coordinator, and Scott Frost as offensive coordinator… We’d know the perfect hire was made.


  • Miami needs a Miami guy. This was shown painfully often under Golden, but it is worth reiterating. Obviously home run hires (Chip Kelly, etc.) are exceptions, but outside of them the Canes require a coach who understands the unique situation of Miami. They have to fully comprehend the lousy fan turnout, run of the mill facilities, and lack of administration support they’ll get here. They need to understand the high expectations and the swaggerful reputation here. Miami needs a Miami guy to succeed.


Some Rumors floating around….

  • Gary Ferman reported that Miami was close to a deal with Charlie Strong before a staffing issue arose. All the details of a deal were reportedly worked out, but when Strong mentioned he wanted defensive line coach (and Miami recruiter extraordinaire) Clint Hurtt on his staff Miami balked. Hurtt was an assistant here under Shannon, but was implicated in the Nevin Shapiro controversy. He’s since done a stellar job at Louisville (he is the main reason they have an obscene amount of South Florida talent), and is current coaching with the Chicago Bears. Hurtt would be a fantastic addition to any staff, but it appears the NCAA baggage he brings from the Shapiro era are a firm “no” from the university. This is currently the main roadblock in a potential Strong deal.
  • Ferman also reported shortly after Richt was fired that he is now the presumptive front runner for the job. My take on this nugget is simple- if Richt wants the job, Richt gets the job. I don’t see Miami turning away a coach of his pedigree. The only question is if he still wants to coach. As I said before, I’d be thrilled to have Richt but only if still has a passion for coaching.
  • Pete Ariz contradicts Ferman saying that Richt is not currently a candidate.
  • Ferman also alludes that it seems the school is also still pursuing one “big” candidate, but his identity has yet to be divulged.


  • Multiple sources and reports say Butch Davis is a safety candidate at the moment. Miami is looking at bigger name coaches and potential elite hires, and is currently relegating Davis as an emergency hire. The useage of the Korn Ferry search firm certainly hurts Butch’s chances further despite his support from many on the BOT. If you were thinking of placing a bet on Davis as the next coach, you might want to hold off…


  • Greg Schiano reportedly has the support of Jimmy Johnson and a handful of other former Miami bigwigs.


Some words on potential coordinators and assistants…

  • Sign me up for the Scott Frost bandwagon. I was shocked to discover Frost is currently making a mere 400,000 per year. Miami could sweep in with a million per year offer and a chance to build an offense entirely in his vision (away from the shadow of Helfrich and Kelly). I for one would be ecstatic to see his offense at the U. He is a rising star, and this could be a big step up for him. His success would no longer be asterisked with *worked under Helfrich and Kelly though*, and he’d receive a major upgrade in pay.


  • There are rumors that Ken Dorsey and/or Eddie Gran could be considered for the offensive coordinator job. Both would be phenomenal choices. Dorsey has done a masterful job developing Cam Newton, and obviously knows UM pretty well. He’d bring back the pro-style to Miami, but he’d do it with some of the best expertise in the business. Eddie Gran would be another awesome selection. He is one of the best Florida recruiters in the nation (he helped guide FSU to top classes in the state), and he has done an amazing job as offensive coordinator at Cincinnati (remember when their offense exploded against us? Good times…).


  • One name that has floated around for defensive coordinator is Winston Moss. He’s a former Miami star, and he’s been linebackers coach for the Green Bay Packers for the past several years. He’s well respected there, and his Miami roots and former players experience could parlay into a great defensive coordinator hire.


  • Count me on the Jim Leavitt bandwagon for defensive coordinator. Obviously, this must be asterisked with the condition that Leavitt has learnt from his controversy at USF, but the man can flat out coach. He did a great job building the Bulls program, and he’s long been one of the best defensive coaches in the business. Colorado thawed the ice around his career when they hired him last year. He’d be flawless defensive coordinator choice.


  • I’m convinced Kehoe must be replaced. I have always been a gargantuan Art Kehoe fan as he’s been a part of five national titles at the U, but this should be it for him. The offensive line was inexperienced this year but they are very talented, and he has done a lousy job coaching them up. Kehoe is likely on the decline as a coach, and he should be replaced. I appreciate all he’s done for the University, but it’s time to move on.


  • I like Kevin Patrick as a potential defensive line coach. He has serious Miami roots, and he’s had success at every stop in his career. This could be his big break.


  • Of course I’d love to see Ed Orgeron become defensive coordinator here, but he’s reportedly searching for a head coaching job.
  • If Barry Odom (Missouri defensive coordinator) is passed up to succeed Gary Pinkel, Miami should make a run at him for their next defensive coordinator. He’s one of the best defensive minds in the business, and he’s ripe to be stolen away from Missouri in the midst of a regime change.


  • Kevin Beard MUST be retained. He has done a tremendous job in his one year here, and he’s a Miami lifer. He is the only assistant on my list that I have labeled as MUST BE RETAINED.

The search has generated plenty of intrigue early on. Stay tuned for more updates.