In Miami-Dade's close-knit football community, nothing is more important than making sure that student-athletes get to college and that local coaches get job opportunities at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) level.
A few years ago, a group of high school football coaches came together to hold college football programs accountable when our kids and local coaches don't get a fair shake. As the founder of the Liberty City Optimist Club and a high school coach at Miami Edison, I am a member of this special committee.
We were running into situations where some college coaches were unfairly dissing kids from Miami-Dade. They would offer some student-athletes scholarships and then drop them for no apparent reason right before or after national signing day — leaving them with no chance of getting an athletic scholarship at another university. Some coaches mistreated our student-athletes once the players got on campus.
The group was also formed to support local coaches who get opportunities to coach in the NCAA and to help those who want to expand their coaching careers beyond the high school level.
Telly Lockette, who coached state championship teams at high schools Miami Northwestern and Miami Central, has been in the college ranks for nearly six years, most recently as a tight-ends coach for the Florida State Seminoles. Billy Rolle, the only coach in Florida to win state titles with three high schools (as well as a high school national championship), is the assistant head coach for the Florida A&M Rattlers. Corey Bell, who coached at Miami Edison and American between 1996 and 2013, is the cornerbacks coach for the University of Central Florida Knights.
In Miami-Dade, we develop and coach the most talented football athletes in the world. So it makes a lot of sense for headliner college football head coaches to hire our guys. We've had longstanding relationships with Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban, Kentucky Wildcats assistant head coach Steve Clinkscale, Penn State Nittany Lions running-backs coach Ja'Juan Seider, and Louisiana State University Tigers defensive-backs coach Corey Raymond, among others.
But some college coaches are disrespecting Miami's football community. For instance, FSU's Mike Norvell canned Lockette shortly after Norvell was hired in early December to take over the Seminoles program. Norvell and Lockette went to all the inner-city high schools. Norvell told us that, more than likely, he would retain Lockette in a move to secure student-athletes from Miami-Dade to sign with FSU. Lockette had promised those young men and their parents he would still be with the Seminoles.
After Christmas, when those kids had already signed letters of intent to play for the Seminoles, Norvell fired Lockette. As a result, Florida State will have a tougher time recruiting players from South Florida. We don't appreciate our student-athletes and their parents being misled, and we don't like it when our coaches are treated unfairly.
We also took issue with Manny Diaz Jr., head coach of the University of Miami Hurricanes football team. We had a sit-down with Diaz last year around this time. We believed he had overlooked coaches from the inner city when he hired high school coaches from Broward and South Miami-Dade. We let Diaz know our displeasure. Coincidentally, his staff didn't land any players from the top inner-city schools in Miami that won state championships in 2019.
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Diaz recently announced he planned to bring in Lockette as an offensive analyst. Though it's a nice gesture, Diaz is just putting a Band-Aid over a bullet wound. Diaz didn't make Lockette an assistant coach even though the Canes had an open job for receivers coach. Instead, Diaz hired Arizona State University's former offensive coordinator, Rib Likens, for the position. Because Lockette is not a coach, he cannot recruit student-athletes per NCAA rules.
Lane Kiffin, who left Florida Atlantic University to take over the Ole Miss Rebels football team, also ruined the relationship he had established with Miami-Dade coaches. While he was at FAU, Kiffin had hired longtime Miami Northwestern coach Chris Perkins as an offensive analyst. Perkins is well known in coaching circles as the mentor of a rich stable of star high school quarterbacks that included Teddy Bridgewater, Jacory Harris, Rakeem Cato, and Jeff Godfrey.
When Kiffin left for Ole Miss, he didn't offer Perkins a job. But Willie Taggart, the former Seminoles head coach recently hired by FAU, will have an open the door to the hood. He did what Kiffin wouldn't do. Taggart promoted Perkins by naming him running backs coach.
We're tired of our coaches getting mistreated. In other football states like Texas, Alabama, and Georgia, high school coaches are promoted to the college ranks. That doesn't happen in South Florida often. We're going to change the narrative.