On how and what changed in his mind for him to realize he still wanted to coach…
“Two things happened, quite frankly. One was just the outpouring from former players that were wishing me well, that were thanking me for being an influence in their life - a positive influence. Just incredible. Text messages, phone calls, even [from] guys that I dismissed from the team just thanking me for loving them enough to discipline them and help them change the bad course they were going on – a lot of that. That was big, just to know that in this position, you have an opportunity to affect lives in a very positive way. That’s a big part of why I coach. That got me.”
“The other thing happened was, The U. It was the University of Miami. The fact that it’s my home, it’s my alma mater, and it’s a team that wen you coach, you want to go to a team that has a chance to do big things. By virtue of the fact that it’s been done here before, that’s a good indicator. By virtue of the fact that it’s one of the most fertile recruiting areas in the United States of America, that’s another factor. The fact that high school coaches in this state and down here in the south in the Miami area and nearby are some of the greatest high school coaches in the country, so you know you have a chance if you do it right, to bring in tremendous talent…not only tremendously talented guys, but guys that are really fine people. And I knew this job wouldn’t be open next year. [laughter]
On the timeline of being hired and process of reaching out to gauge interest…
“Just process of it, I believe at the time that Coach [Al] Golden was let go, relatively soon after that, there was some contact to gauge interest. But I have never had interest in anybody but the university that I was at, which was the University of Georgia. Because I made a commitment to Georgia. When I took [that] job, I said the same thing I said right here: my goal is to retire at this university. I do not want to walk in a team meeting room and say, ‘hey fellas, I really appreciate you helping me where I really, really want to be.’ That’s not going to happen. I’m going to be at the University of Georgia…excuse me, I was trying to say I would never say that today, but fifteen years is a long habit - my goal and my wife’s goal is to be at the University of Miami until I retire, or until the they throw me out the door, one of the two. I want to be committed to the young men who I recruit. I don’t want to tell them one thing and be gone a month later. It was hurtful enough as it was with the class I was recruiting at Georgia, even though it wasn’t my choice.”
“But the plan is to make this home. It already is home. My wife and I love Miami. We’re excited. We’re excited about doing excellent things, doing great things, but also doing them in such a way that everyone would be proud of it. We also can’t wait to get to know the players and try to find ways to bless them - not only current players, former players, former lettermen. I just think that we have an obligation to network, to help, to bless them anyway we can. I’m looking forward to that.”
“As far as the timeline – they spoke to me, and I said no. [laughter] I said, ‘No, I’m not interested.’ And then after the mutual agreement, we got asked again, ‘are you interested?’ You know what, I’ve been saying ‘no’ for 15 years. It’s time to say, ‘Yeah, I’m interested, I want to hear what everybody has to say.’ That’s when the ball began to roll, and at that time, talking to people, talking to Blake [James], talking to members of the board, former players and all that kind of thing, and also my wife and I began to pray and asked the Lord what He wants us to do. That’s the bottom line for me - to do what I think he has in store for me, and for us. We had peace that this is what we needed to do, so we did it.”
On what he expects from his team, and what it will take to reach championship levels…
“Like I said before, I think you have to start working. You have to start working with excellence. You have to have a plan. I’ve been blessed to be a part of a couple of tremendously fine universities that were highly successful, and being around a lot of men and a lot of universities across the country that have had tremendous success. I’m better prepared to be a head coach today than I was 15 years ago. I’m better prepared to know what I think is important, and what needs to be done in a lot of areas - not just football, but there are so many others factors that make a program great: the recruiting, the academics, the athletic training, the nutrition, everybody in the athletic family, all sports. There are so many things… obviously the fan base. There are a lot of factors that go into having a chance, because it’s highly, highly competitive.
“I’m convinced that through the board, through the president and through our athletics director that Miami is committed and will continue to be committed to excellence. I have all the faith and confidence that we will be given what we need to get it done, the proper tools to get it done. It doesn’t happen because you want it to happen - there’s a process of getting it done. We have to make sure we focus on the process more than the end result. Everybody can say they want to win, but are you willing to put in the work and work properly to get it done?”
On the last time he visited Miami before the coaching search began…
“I have not been here for a long time. The biggest reason was I became a Seminole. When you’re a Seminole, you’re really not welcome around here, and I understand that. For those first 15 years I coached – I was at East Carolina one year in the middle of all of that – it wasn’t like I would be a great guy to have at a lettermen’s event, being a coach at Florida State. And it would be hard to talk freely about anything if you’ve got the enemy right there within your midst.
“When I became head coach at Georgia - when you’re head coach anywhere - you really don’t have a lot of time to go socialize, so I never got the opportunity. I guess I was in the habit of not coming back to lettermen’s events, so I didn’t do it. At times I thought about it, but there’s always something going on that just didn’t allow me to do it. I have not been here in a long time. I’ve only seen a little bit so far, but what I’ve seen is really beautiful. I didn’t know if the landscaping just got phenomenal or I just never noticed it when I was 18 years old. [laughter] But it’s a beautiful place. There will be a lot to sell when it comes to recruiting.”
On his potential coaching staff, including which former assistants he plans on adding to the staff…
“That’s a huge question. Hiring a staff is probably the greatest and most important decision that I’ll make because these men will be in charge of our players. The job is too big for one man. I cannot connect with every guy. I will try to connect with every guy, but I’m only one person and one personality. You need a lot of coaches, a lot of different personalities, you need diversity in that area - in style, in personality so to speak. You need a united staff as far as the mission and how we’re going to go about our business, but you need different kind of people, and more than just one man to do it.
“Hiring a staff is huge, and I’m going to be deliberate. I’m going to take my time. I’m going to be careful that I do the right thing. What I’ve told the staff at Georgia, and what I would tell the staff here, is that my goal is to assess everything that I can possibly assess in trying to determine what’s going to be the best for this football team and for this University. I have not made any promises to anybody, in that regard, and I’ve got a little time to do it. I’d rather be right than fast. Sometimes people want fast. Sometimes people want to win on the day that you announce something. Sometimes that’s great for the moment, but in the end you have to get in the trenches, go to work and get the job done.
“I’m going to hire men that I believe are very competent at what they do, and I want to hire men that are men of character because I want them to be the right example for our young men. I want them to truly care about our players and treat them as if they were their own sons. In regards to their expectations, the expectations is to graduate. The expectation is to graduate. The expectation is to behave. The expectations are to grow into the man that God intended them to be. Those are the kind of men I want to hire. There is a massive amount of people that want to come here right now, I can tell you that. I’ve been averaging at least 250 text messages per day, literally, and probably 50 phone calls per day. Half of them are either guys that want to work, or somebody trying to help them get an opportunity…so there’s no lack of interest in wanting to be on this staff and be a part of what’s going to happen next.”