Back in 1992, Dave Maggard’s parting gift to Miami athletics was the promotion of Brad Kelley to head baseball coach to replace a legend in “The Wizard” Ron Fraser. Fraser had won two national titles in 1982 and 1985 and Maggard, who was only the athletic director at Miami from 1991-1993, chose that moment to hire Kelley. Kelley was fired after only a season on the job and new athletic director Paul Dee could make a hit or miss hiring. He lured Jim Morris away from Georgia Tech for one of the biggest moves in school athletics history.
Enter Paul Dee
In late 2000, Dee was at the same crossroads with Miami football. Dee needed to replace Butch Davis, the personnel mastermind behind the greatest collection of college football players ever on one roster. Davis left Miami for the Cleveland Browns and Dee’s idea was to promote Larry Coker from within. Miami could’ve lured just about anyone with that talent pool and chose to hire from within. Coker won a national championship in 2001, lost* the title game in 2002 mainly because he believed in only having one running back on his depth chart, and lost two games in 2003 before ushering in a complete collapse to the LSU Tigers in the Peach Bowl in 2005.
In a half decade Larry Coker killed off what was once NFL U and turned Miami into a missing persons story. In Dee’s final moment as athletic director he could have hired anyone to bring Miami football back to prominence. Dee chose to promote from within, again, and hire Randy Shannon. Shannon’s demise was slow and painful as he alienated local coaches in Miami-Dade and lost football games making the ‘Canes a laughing stock of college football.
Dee’s other failures were in the basketball realm. Replacing Leonard Hamilton wasn’t going to be easy, but Dee chose Perry Clark who at least was able to get Miami future NBA players and into the tournament. When Clark left Dee brought in Frank Haith, the king of the NIT. Miami basketball fell off, during a time when Nevin Shapiro was allegedly paying for prostitutes and recruiting dinners. Dee, a former lawyer, had two runs of NCAA penalties in his career in Miami.
Paul Dee managed to win two baseball national titles and a football title, but did a terrible job of replacing Butch Davis and Leonard Hamilton which led to the downfall of the big three men’s athletics programs under his watch as well.
Life After Paul Dee
The Miami Athletic Director position then became hot potato as Kirby Hocutt, Shawn Eichorst and Blake James all held the position between 2008 and 2012. Hocutt’s three years in Miami saw the hiring of Al Golden as head football coach. Golden came over from the Temple Owls, again, another ho-hum hiring. Golden brought in talent but failed to win on the field and was fired mid-season.
Eichorst was only the Miami athletic director from 2011-2012, but he was able to hire Jim Larrañaga. Larrañaga has helped bring intensity and recruiting to the Hurricanes’ basketball program but a first round exit in 2018 has brought question marks around Hurricane athletics.
The Blake James Era
An in-house hire himself, athletic director Blake James pulled a coup in hiring Mark Richt, but he’s now lazily pulled off a ‘coach-in-waiting’ scenario with the baseball program. The Hurricanes will replace two time national champion Jim Morris (1999, 2001) with hitting coach Gino DiMare. DiMare is alumni and a longtime assistant over two tenures. However, DiMare is the hitting coach of a roster that has as many starters in the lineup hitting under the Mendoza Line as above it. With alumnus Greg Lovelady just up I-95 in Orlando, FL as the head baseball coach of UCF, Miami will settle on an in-house hire which could mean Miami is out of the NCAA tournament again after four-plus decades of post-season appearances.
Blake James has been more consistent than the past AD’s before him, but sometimes consistency can be overrated if it’s mediocre. Larranaga can’t coach forever and Miami needs a succession plan. DiMare may want to be at Miami forever but with the team not hitting and currently under .500, Miami baseball needs to look outside of Coral Gables for the replacement of Jim Morris.
The questions are: what happened to Miami Hurricane athletics? Is it the cheap boosters and school administration that weren’t upgrading facilities or paying coaching salaries commensurate with the rest of the NCAA? Cost cutting hires like Coker, Shannon, Golden and now DiMare have been detrimental to the athletic department. The new Indoor Practice Facility for football should help Miami find a post-Richt replacement but what about life after Larranaga and DiMare? Will Blake James be able to even replace Mark Richt, Larranaga and DiMare with quality hires? The next five years could be make-or-break in Miami athletics. James has to prove he’s the person that can get the job done in Coral Gables.