Randy's Gone, But Will Donna Shalala and Kirby Hocutt Step Up?


Luke, the man whose booty-shaking madness once made the U.S. Supreme

Court stand up for free speech, gets as nasty as he wants to be for

Miami New Times. This week, Uncle Luke comes to terms with the

end of the Randy Shannon era.

Saturday was one of the saddest

days for Miami-Dade's African American community with the firing of

Randy Shannon as the University of Miami's head football coach. At

the end of the day, I can't argue with athletic director Kirby

Hocutt's decision to let Shannon go, but his dismissal still hurts.


haven't hidden the fact that Shannon is a dear friend of mine, but

his ascendance to the top job of the Hurricanes program meant a lot

to blacks. He was one of the few people of

color to have a very high profile job in this town. We already know

it is virtually impossible that a black person will ever be elected county

mayor or be selected to be county manager, so seeing Shannon, a

hometown guy, reach the mountain top was something the African

American community could be proud of and aspire to.

But I know, more

than anybody, that college football is a cold hard business. Following the Hurricanes win over

Clemson, I spoke with Shannon, telling him that if he didn't win the

ACC this year, he would probably get fired. His response was that he

had no control over that. All he could do was coach the team as best

he could.

Unfortunately, his players let

him down and the university's administration turned their backs on

Shannon once the losses hit the school in the pocket book. When you

lose to a team like Virginia, the worst squad in the ACC, and South

Florida, a mediocre team from a mediocre conference like the Big East

in front of only 20,000 fans, there is not much Shannon could have

done to save his job.

I still believe Shannon would

have eventually won a national championship at the University of

Miami had he been given complete autonomy over the football program.

At the end of the day, he did what his bosses -- Hocutt and university President Donna

Shalala -- wanted him to do. He came in and cleaned up the program,

played the role of tough disciplinarian and graduated more players

than any other coach before him. Make no mistake, Shalala is fine

having a football program like Duke where the players' performance in

the classroom outweighs their performance on the field.

I'm not

saying that it is a bad thing, but at the same time, she and Hocutt

handcuffed Shannon from being the guy who won championships with the

Hurricanes as a player, graduate assistant and defensive coordinator.

People forget that Hocutt forced offensive coordinator Mark Whipple

on Shannon. Whipple was a disaster that Shannon had no control over.

I know he contemplated firing Whipple during the season, but Shannon

was too much of a nice guy to pull the trigger. And we all know nice

guys finish last.

There was a day when the

University of Miami had the most sought after coaches in Howard

Schnellenberger, Jimmy Johnson, and Dennis Erickson. Now the school

has fired its last two coaches for doing what the administration

wanted. Hocutt and Shalala were happy with a 7-5 team as long

as the players didn't act like the old rough and rugged teams from

the 80s. For the past nine years they've wanted a program that was

run like a military boot camp.

Hocutt and Shalala need to know they

can't have it both ways.

If they are serious about winning

championships, then going after a guy like Jon Gruden makes sense.

But they need to give him complete control. They can't tell him who

to hire to run the offense and the defense. If they don't, then this

program will continue to go down the tubes.

Now that they don't have Shannon

to deflect the criticism, the pressure is on Shalala and Hocutt to

let whoever comes in to let the U live up to its old traditions.

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