Monday, October 26, 2015

Your Move, Blake James

By Jean Neuberger

We all saw it coming.

Al Golden was fired Sunday as the head football coach at Miami. It surprised no one, following the 58-0 drubbing the Hurricanes took from Clemson in front of a sprinkling of fans at Sun Life Stadium.

There's no shame in losing to Clemson. The Tigers are good. Scary good. National title level good. However, losing by 58 at home isn't acceptable, especially for a coach on the hot seat. Golden might be a nice guy, but he had lost his team and whatever was left of a fan base. The time had arrived. There's nothing to be lost anymore.

The shame is how Miami lost to them and just how far the Hurricane program has fallen.

To keep it simple: the U has completely lost its identity.

Southern Cal has struggled mightily with coaching/AD issues, but they still draw fans to the Coliseum and can pull a solid win or two with interim coaches. Last night, the Trojans looked dominant against a really good Utah team. There's potential there; there's promise.

Miami's is different. The Trojans were slapped around here and there with the NCAA sanctions and bumbling management. The Hurricanes have seemed to have lost the very soul of the program.

The swag is gone. The confidence is gone. The high-octane is gone. The speed is gone.

The stadium is gone. Playing the Hurricanes in the Orange Bowl was one of the most intimidating obstacles in college football. The old stadium was an atmosphere of sound and fury, and contrary to Shakespeare, it signified a huge piece of what made Miami a national powerhouse. Sun Life Stadium lacks that atmosphere. It lacks the blue collar, cage match setting that teams feared. No one fears going on the road to face the Canes today.

The onus is on Miami AD Blake James to make the right pick. This time, however, the pressure is elevated, more than ever before.
The future of the Hurricane program truly is at stake.

Miami needs a coach who not only will win, but will give the Hurricanes a winning identity as well. He'll have to recruit not only great players (never hurts when the city is loaded with talent), but he'll have to recruit fans back, as well. He'll have to figure out a way to build a hostile college environment in a NFL setting. And while university officials will never let Miami go back to the demeanor of the '80s, there's no doubt that there is swag to be rekindled in Coral Gables. The U needs to be returned.

Furthermore, it's a choice that will have ACC officials crossing their fingers in hope. Miami was brought into the ACC to help establish a solid footprint in college football. Miami, Florida State, Clemson, and Virginia Tech are supposed to be the football schools in a hoops-crazed league. Two of those schools are carrying the weight. The conference needs Miami to win in football again.

Certainly, Miami would be remiss to not take a look at current Alabama assistant Mario Cristobal. He's a graduate of the U, having been there during the peak of their football success. He's recruited Florida well; he made FIU football relevant while coaching there and he understands the culture more than your average coach. He currently coaches the offensive line at Alabama and needless to say, it's never been a weakness under his tenure. Miami's a very tough rebuilding project right now; maybe too much to land a big-money coach. Cristobal would be a bargain steal for the Canes.

If there's an established, big money coach to be had, a dark horse might be Georgia's Mark Richt. He's been in Athens for quite awhile now and UGA fans are growing restless at not winning a division or conference title despite having immense talent. Richt is a Miami alum who might enjoy a change of scenery. Otherwise, I'd look at maybe Greg Schiano, who has proven he can win with limited resources, something that could be very appealing for the Canes. Of course, Butch Jones, who has proven he can win and straighten up the Miami program at the same time, could be a retread decision that pays off.

Regardless, Blake James will take his time and really analyze everything before making this selection. He has to. His job is at stake. How Miami is seen as a football program for years to come is also very much at stake. A rise to glory or a decade of mediocrity. The Hurricanes seriously won't be able to handle the latter.

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