Miami New Times.This week, Luke addresses why the U is no longer black Miami's favorite college.
At the Russell Athletic Bowl last weekend, Teddy Bridgewater and his University of Louisville teammates from Miami went on a riot. They looted the University of Miami football program they grew up rooting for and demolished it 36-9. Bridgewater and fellow Miamians Michaelee Harris, Eli Rogers, John Miller, Charles Gaines, and James Burgess Jr. showed the Canes nation that they are the ones bringing back the swagger.
These young men all had a chance to play for the Hurricanes. However, they didn't need the U as much as the U needed them. They chose to leave the Magic City for the backwoods of Kentucky to make a statement. Miami's African-American football community hasn't forgotten how UM President Donna Shalala and school boosters ran coach Randy Shannon out of town after using him for more than 20 years to land tough-as-nails, super talented high school football players from Homestead to Liberty City.
It took Shannon three years to clean up the program, which had dozens of football players not finishing school and one student athlete, Bryan Pata, get murdered. Shannon accepted the role of drill sergeant in order to produce one of the highest graduation rates in the country among football players and put an end to troubling off-the-field incidents.
We always knew that Shannon was on borrowed time and that school president Donna Shalala was never going to give him the kind of long-term commitment she's showing Al Golden, the Hurricanes' current head coach. Shannon also knew he didn't have job security because the school made him fly commercial and rent a Ford Taurus. So when Shalala and the university's Board of Trustees gave Shannon his pink slip in 2010, they thought recruits like Bridgewater, Harris, and Rodgers would just roll over and still be Hurricanes.
We don't have a voice on sports talk radio or in the Miami Herald's sports section calling out the U for treating young African-American men as tools to make the school richer. UM expects the local black community to tell a prized recruit it's all about the U. That's why Orlando's Citrus Bowl stadium was packed with black people from Miami rooting for Bridgewater and the Cardinals.
After starring at Northwestern Senior High, Bridgewater and his high school teammates opted to make their future with another African-American head coach, Charlie Strong. That decision speaks volumes. They are part of a historical movement of college football players who don't feel obligated to swear allegiance to the traditionally great schools.
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To his credit, Strong lets his squad play with the reckless abandon and swagger that once inspired Miami's inner-city boys to wear orange and green. That's why Gaines talked smack to UM coaches on the sideline, telling them how they've screwed up the program. And it's why Bridgewater mocked the U with a throat-slashing gesture after scoring a touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
I hope Shalala is paying attention. She should offer Strong the head coaching job when Al Golden bolts for Penn State.