I take no joy in writing this, but the truth hurts sometimes and it needs to be said. I will probably feel better after I write this, so you are all acting as my pseudo-therapists and we can work on our Canes-related problems together. You might feel better after you read it as well. As a 1989 graduate of the U, I am certainly not used to having to endure seasons like the one that we are currently going through.
As Bill Clinton used to say, "I feel your pain."
So, it was announced that the Hurricanes are going bowling down in Shreveport, the third-largest city in Louisiana. They will be facing a tough South Carolina team with a quarterback that has amassed close to 3,300 yards and led the SEC in passing. They are also led by head coach Steve Spurrier who knows a thing or two about growing programs and winning big games on the road. This is two storied programs in a tier-two bowl game. For those that are not in the know, tier-two is the politically correct term for lousy bowl game that no one wants to go to or hear about.
However, that is what you end up with when the team finishes 6-6, loses its last three games and has no where to go but up.
Things are so bad in Miami that Coach Golden has not addressed the media since the night of the loss to Pittsburgh. He cancelled his day after game phone conference with the media and released a statement about his excitement to play in this bowl game.
If the NCAA was not all about grab as much cash as you can when you have a chance, there would be no Independence Bowl and the Canes would be staying home for Christmas. When the NCAA was about winning and not about money, it was a reward to go to a bowl game and there was less than a dozen of them. You needed ten wins to qualify. Now, you only need six wins out of 12 or 13 games to qualify for a bowl and every product is hocking a bowl game. They are even playing a bowl game in the Bahamas this season.
Hearing the information about the bowl bid was like opening up the one early Christmas present from your crazy aunt that gets you a speckled necktie and you have to look happy with it and take pictures of yourself wearing it. Deep down, you hate it, and you want to tell the world that you hate it, but in this season of giving and charity, you have to be humble and accept it with grace and thank her for her gift and for her having exquisite taste. Not one player came out with any statement on social media that said that they were grateful to be going to the Duck Dynasty Bowl or whatever they call it. There is no joy in Mudville. Bowls are supposed to bring joy and happiness, this game brings nothing but mediocrity and a desire to finish out the string.
The Canes have been to some pretty bad bowl games during the Randy Shannon years, but this could be the all-time low. There is a quality opponent in South Carolina, but who wants to go to Shreveport for the holiday? One could tell by social media as the players did not even tweet out with any glee that they were happy to be going. The players do not appear happy to be going bowling again, despite the fact that they will have another opportunity to compete against a quality opponent. Do not be surprised if the Canes come out flat and mail this one in.
If the Mount Rushmore of Canes coaches could talk, Howard Schnellenberger, Jimmy Johnson, Dennis Erickson and Larry Coker. yes Larry Coker, the one who "chaperoned" the team to a national title, they would be spitting angry epithets like Lou Holtz right now. The coaches and players that built this program would not deem this to be acceptable for the Hurricanes. How is the fan base and the alumni supposed to react? Sure, you always support the team, but there must be some anger and that anger may be vented on social media, as we have seen in recent weeks. At some point, the administration has got to get the message and do something to help turn this program around. The University makes money off of football. When the Canes are winning big bowl games and national titles, the admissions go up and the costs related to tuition go up. When the years are lean, so are applications. Feel free to check the statistics.
The Canes of Christmas and New Years' Past have grown accustomed to New Years' Day Bowl Games and bowl games that compete for top-ten rankings. This is a just a 13th game that will give us one more opportunity to see one of our favorite sons, Duke Johnson, before he leaves and also gives us one more opportunity to scold Al Golden about what he did not do right at the end of the game.
Chances are significant that Miami will be 6-7 when the game is over. They have not practiced together since before the debacle against Pittsburgh and are not scheduled to practice until this Friday. That gives them 15 days until the Bowl game.
The question remains the same. What do you do when the dust settles, the game is over and the team gets home? Do you keep things status quo and try not to upset the recruiting apple cart, or do you clean house and salvage as many recruits as possible?
I say go with the latter. I am not going to start the Al Golden needs to go away rant, because you all know my position on that. I have opined about that several times during the season. I would love to see them bring in a better head coach, but I do not see that happening. Al has certainly not achieved the results that we have been promised or that we have come to expect, but I do not see the moxie in the administration to fire another head coach. If they cannot fire Al, then they need to take away his control over his staff and make some decent hires.
Ask yourselves this question. Why would a defensive recruit want to play for Mark D'Onofrio when he cannot win a thing? He cannot craft a defense that can actually stop an offense and has no track record at developing players for success in the NFL. His current players gave up on him, by virtue of their performance the last three games.
The Canes administration can only do better and hire up, when making a change. Ed Orgeron is out there and already had at least one interview since the season ended. Will Muschamp, who failed miserably at Florida as a head coach, would make a great defensive coordinator, although he might be headed to Auburn to replace Ellis Johnson. Johnson would be a significant improvement over D'Onofrio and is a tremendous recruiter and is well respected amongst high school coaches.
As for position coaches, Miami needs to make a run at Travaris Robinson, the defensive backs coach that was on Muschamp's staff at Florida. He is a great recruiter in South Florida and would make a great addition to the staff. Another good positional hire would be Bill Clarke, who is about to lose his job at UAB as they have disbanded the program. He served as their head coach and tripled their wins in 2014 and led them to a bowl-eligible season. But for political greed and a University of Alabama Board of Trustees Chairman that acted in his own best interests, the Blazers would be a team to be reckoned with in the near future.
I am over the talk that Miami does not have the money. They have the money and they can get more. This is not a poor school. This is the University of Miami, one of the wealthiest educational institutions in the south. They can come up with the money to hire a coach and buy out Golden if they really wanted to improve the football program and instill some pride back in the program.
I watched A Football Life last night on the NFL Network and it featured Jimmy Johnson. He gave such a rousing speech to the kids at the U, long after he retired, that I was ready to run through a wall for him. Well, maybe not run, but walk briskly. I do not see our current staff having that mojo. I knew Jimmy when he was at Miami and he made you believe that you were the best at what you did, no matter what it was. You could have been the janitor cleaning the urinals and he would make you believe that he has never seen urinals so clean and have you so excited that you could not wait to get to work the next day. That is what you want around your program. He gets you excited and amped and that is without cafecitos. Our current staff just mails it in and does what is minimally expected. I have not heard of a great speech that anyone gave at the U, from the current staff, that had to be leaked to the press or mentioned after a game.
You know why? We have a staff that has never won anything and will never win anything as a collective group. Coley comes the closest as he won the ACC Championship at Florida State. Golden and D'Onofrio have never won anything and their run together looks like it is coming to an end. How are you supposed to motivate a team when you are not motivated yourselves? How can you talk about winning titles and big games when you have never won them yourselves? Is Al going to talk about Temple's signature wins over Lehigh? He certainly has not won anything at Miami to write home about. He beat depleted Ohio State and Florida teams that were decimated with suspensions and injuries, at home.
Now, if the unforeseen happens and the Canes do pull off the upset, it would really give the program a shot in the arm and give them something to boast about in recruiting. To defeat Spurrier and the Gamecocks in a nationally-televised bowl game, when you have not won anything since November 1, that would really take something special. It would be something that Golden could build on when going into recruits homes. It would take something huge.
It would take a Christmas miracle.