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Programs are a mirror of their leadership

Manny Diaz can change the culture at Miami, if he’s willing to adapt his acquisition, development and deployment.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 23 Miami at FIU Photo by Samuel Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Miami lost to FIU. Butch Davis took Manny Diaz to school. The Panthers are Miami’s one true team. Etc. etc. You’ve already heard it and/or read it. Sure, I’m going to discuss the FIU game, but only as a foreground to a much deeper rooted set of issues at Miami.

This is a top-down issue from the University of Miami president, to its athletic director Blake James and the board of trustees. Blake James has just held status quo to an athletic department that lost its desire to win long ago. Gone are the College World Series appearances, Sweet 16 runs, and New Year’s Day bowl games.

From the very top, the athletic director, it’s the in-house, buddy system, quick fixes that will solidify Blake James’ lack of identity and legacy. James inherited Jim Morris, Jim Larrañaga, and Al Golden. He’s replaced Morris with an in-house promotion in Gino DiMare and Al Golden with Mark Richt (alumni) and Manny Diaz (in-house, too). These were easy, quick, and lazy hires from an A.D. that has limited connections outside of Coral Gables. That’s why you hire a search firm.

In an era where athletic departments hiring search firms is the norm (Podcast Ain’t Played Nobody covered this topic), James has promoted from within on two of his major sports openings under his belt. For the Miami head football position, ‘Canes fans were promised a national search that ended with out-going defensive coordinator Manny Diaz who was being lured away by Temple.

This isn’t a shot at Temple at all, they’ve put Al Golden at Miami (OK, that one is a shot), Steve Addazio at Boston College, Matt Rhule at Baylor, and Geoff Collins at Georgia Tech. But all of those coaches were given the chance to learn at Temple. Diaz abandoned the Owls before learning at Temple, and Blake James agreed to pay a buyout to steal a first time head coach from them.

From the top down, the administration promoted Blake James from an in-house role rather than bring in an experienced outside athletic director when Shawn Eichorst left for Nebraska. James has been the beneficiary of an in-house promotion and has passed those benefits on to his coaches. The athletic department is a mirror of his personality and that’s one that is underachieving and built upon waiting out the guy in front of you as opposed to going out and earning your position.

On the football field

On the football field itself, the program is most definitely a mirror of the coach’s personality. It always is. If the coach is a nasty, cheap shot artist their teams usually are, too. If the coach cuts corners their players will. If the coach is a hard worker, dedicated and determined- their players will be, too. And if their coach is all style and no substance, well they’ll do this down 13-0 to FIU.

Manny Diaz promised explosive offense with an up tempo modern feel. He hired Dan Enos from Alabama where Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa had just put up monster numbers in the Josh Gattis-Mike Locksley offensive experiment. Coach Enos was the quarterbacks coach. He saw the transition to the Gattis-Locksley offense from Lane Kiffin’s but chose to run his own offense, the one he ran at Arkansas and Central Michigan.

Manny promised fans modern and fans have gotten bland and predictable. Miami has the worst 3rd down conversion rate in FBS football. The ‘Canes have only converted 27% on 3rd down which places them at 130 of 130 teams. Imagine converting 3rd downs at a lower clip than 0-11 Akron. You don’t have to imagine because it’s a reality. Oh and points per play, Miami is ranked 75th between Kansas and Middle Tennessee.

NCAA Football: Florida at Miami Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Perception is reality

Think about the fanfare around yachts, keg parties and touchdown rings. All of those things are fine and good when you’re a national champion- except the national champions don’t have to resort to pyramid scheme false prophet tactics. They just show up and win football games. Don’t tell me that talent is lacking, Miami has the blue chip ratio to win the national championship.

When Diaz and Enos aren’t playing the Al Golden “smartest guy in the room” card, or blaming their players, we’ve actually seen legitimate breakout performances like a half of football against Florida State or the entire Louisville game. Then a bye week happened and the ‘Canes lost focus and desire. FIU came in ready. Miami got blown out on hallowed ground.

That style over substance is why the Miami program is currently just a mirror of their head coach. The players are too caught up in turnover chains, touchdown rings, dancing for social media and being the lack-of-culture transfer portal roster I warned Miami fans about before the season (read about my fears regarding the portal here. If you want to establish #TNM aka The New Miami it’s really hard to do with the same old players, and a bunch of cast-offs from other programs. Tate Martell has sat out games for “personal reasons” (I hope he’s okay, but you could’ve seen this coming), Jeff Thomas has been suspended again, and there’s a quitters mentality rumored to be floating over the locker room.

NCAA Football: Miami at Florida International Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Head Coach’s Job

This was not a rebuild. This is all the head coach’s fault. Manny Diaz hired yes men to be on his defensive staff that didn’t have enough experience to be in those positions. Blake Baker wasn’t the hire he needed. Manny needed to hire a defensive coordinator with some experience and leadership so Diaz could turn his attention to running a program. Dan Enos, too, brought in yes men and there is hardly any leadership on that side of the ball either.

If head football coaches are CEO’s, and in charge of acquisition, development and deployment (read more about that here)- Diaz is currently sitting at a D-grade heading into a game in Durham against the Blue Devils. David Cutcliff’s Duke team has struggled in 2019, but Coach Cut is the kind of guy who can curb stomp a sloppy Diaz team if Miami has indeed quit on the season.

Teams practice, lift, run, eat, and digest film the same way their head coach does. If your head coach is diligent and comes into practice keyed up to 100 with fire and passion then your practices will reflect that, as will your games. With all of the comments during press conferences about poor practice habits and a lack of focus and preparation- it makes you wonder what Diaz is doing to motivate and create culture.

The Culture

Manny Diaz was promoted to head football coach at Miami because Blake James is a lazy athletic director who perpetuates the lack of success in the entire men’s side of the athletic department (can’t hate on Miami women’s basketball, they’re fire). It was an easy hire and it still cost Miami Diaz’s buyout at Temple. Temple has gotten quite lucky in this move- and they’ve done a great job of finding young coaches looking for their break in the past. Diaz would’ve done well with Geoff Collins players and culture left behind, could have learned there, and if it worked out he could’ve come back south.

Diaz is currently blaming the culture, the culture. However, he is part of the cultural problem at Miami. Diaz has recruited, portal’d or begged over half of this program to be a Hurricane. Instead of standing up like Scott Frost and saying this is going to get worse before it gets better, Diaz was smug, arrogant and pretty much blamed Mark Richt. Now that the spotlight is on him after losing to FIU, Diaz blames the culture- one that he helped create on Greentree and in the brand new Indoor Practice Facility.

Manny Diaz is going to have to adapt or die. The ‘Canes must adapt the way they acquire, develop and deploy talent. Not only do coaching staff changes need to be made, but also changes to the way the Hurricanes practice and their strength and conditioning program. The culture changes from the top down. Until Blake James is removed, the Miami athletics department will have a culture of lazy, in-house hiring and band aid maneuvering. Diaz can change the culture of the football program or face the consequences that the Hurricanes program is all but dead.