Barry Jackson’s now infamous article regarding the “party culture” within the Miami Football Program has become entrenched on Miami Hurricanes fan pages, propagated via social media. While Jackson’s article offers extraordinary insight as to what went on behind the scenes during the putrid 2019 season, everything that is asserted in the article was clearly evident to even the most casual observer of Miami’s games against GT, VT, FIU, Duke, and La Tech. In previous articles I have argued that Miami has a broken football culture here and here, as well as alluding to it here. At this point, I am not going to besiege the reader with any more qualification of that which is incontrovertible and self-evident: or that Miami indeed has, and has had, a broken football culture since the end of the 2003 season.
In my view, there is nothing more vital for the resurgence of the Miami Football Program going forward than the restoration of a healthy football culture.
What is a Healthy Football Culture?
From observing college football for about twenty years, I do not think there is a unitary nor monolithic “football culture” that can be considered healthy. Rather, I think there are various hallmarks of a healthy football culture but also harbingers of a destructive one. Miami clearly has a ruinous football culture, which downtrods those in it, as opposed to lifting them up. This is a reason why many UM players who do not excel in college go on to have prolific pro careers (Sam Shields, Rayshawn Jenkins, etc.)
The defining characteristics of a healthy football culture as I see it include an alignment of values resulting in a singular aim, camaraderie, and a player-motivated work ethic to achieve the singular aim.
1. Singular Aim
Unlike basketball or soccer, football is a team sport to the fullest extent. As such, a team must be in unison in their vision and aim: in a healthy football culture, team success is the highest aim. While team success will undoubtedly breed individual success and acclaim (Joe Burrow), it must be a secondary goal. Players (and coaches who will not adapt their approach to the talent they have been dealt) who are not willing to sacrifice themselves for the good of the team, are cancers who need to be eradicated.
Nothing serves to further the aim of a group more than a healthy camaderie. By this notion, I simply mean a bond between brothers, as opposed to divisions amongst the members of a team. Watching Miami over the years, it is clear division has been incessant—whether between upperclassmen and lower, or offense and defense, etc. No team can maximize its potential with internal strife and division. Many times camaderie is broken by selfish players who only care about themselves, which is antithetical to the concept of a team sport.
3. Player-Motivated Work Ethic
Contrary to popular opinion, coaches can only do so much in regards to motivating individual players to maximize their potential by straining in the weight room, in the classroom, and on the practice field. The great Miami teams of yesteryear that the current iteration of Miami is always trying (or claims to want to) to replicate, embodied this tenet to the fullest degree possible. On the ‘99-’01 teams, players lead practice rather than the coaches—the older brothers always sure to keep the fledglings in line until they themselves were knowledgeable and mature enough to become leaders in their own right. Not only does internal motivation foster camaraderie that helps to weed out cancerous individuals, it cultivates an intense culture of competition that requires the best of each individual involved, or else they will not cut it and will be encouraged to leave. When the players are holding one another accountable because they want to achieve the team’s singular aim, it allows coaches to do what they are supposed to do: coach technique and craft schemes designed to maximize the talent on the roster.
How Can A Healthy Football Culture Be Re-Established?
Make no mistake: the onus to re-establish a healthy football culture falls squarely on the shoulders of head coach, Manny Diaz. If Miami is to return, the cancerous culture will once and for all have to be rectified: for it has festered long enough.
How can coach Diaz accomplish what all of his predecessors have failed to accomplish? Not easily no doubt, but here a few steps I believe may help.
1. Inspire Confidence in the Roster
Perhaps the biggest reason why 2019 was an unmitigated disaster of a season on offense was Dan Enos’s irksome and stubborn approach that abrades people the wrong way. My take from the outside is that rather than gather input from the players he coached and perhaps take their input into consideration, Enos was transfixed in his coaching methodology and offensive system. It seemed that this created a rift between the players and coaching staff which eventually lead to players checking out, hence why Miami scored 0 points for three quarters versus FIU and none against La. Tech. While there is a place for discipline and even reprimanding of offending players, they must first be convinced that the coach generally cares for them as a human being and an athlete. In a healthy culture, the players and coaches are working together to achieve the same aim of team success as a cohesive unit. Hopefully Rhett Lashlee can inspire his players to put their best foot forward, rather than not invest in UM Football and turn pro after three mediocre years only to go undrafted.
2. Weed Out Cancer
Most importantly, Manny Diaz is forced with eradicating a cancerous scourge that consists of selfishness, apathy, and lethargy. While I am not sure how to go about reversing this destructive culture, it seems removing malignant individuals and cliques is of utmost importance. If an individual is not giving his best and is goofing off (as was reported in the case of the reserve OL members) during film study and practice, partying before games (as was reported of starting quarterback Jarren Williams), or failing to show up for class, film study, or practice (Jarren Williams, Tate Martell), it is my belief that Manny Diaz must remove these “tumors” to prevent the disease they carry from spreading. The Miami Hurricanes should consist 100% of guys who are committed to embodying what it means to be a Miami Hurricane—and no one should be exempt of this demanding requirement. With a new offensive coaching staff, I believe the offending players deserve one more chance to play at Miami for a coaching staff that inspires confidence.
3. Lead By Example
This final guiding principle applies to coach and player alike and demands that every Miami Hurricane, shut up and do the things necessary to improve. Whether player or head coach, the time has come for each individual to refrain from boasting and show-boating on social media and simply go to work at improving one’s technique, condition—or in the case of the coaching staff: approach and scheme. In 2019, every one with the exception of Deejay Dallas, Greg Rousseau, and perhaps Shaq Quarterman failed at their job of being a Miami Hurricane. In 2020, how will those who call themselves Miami Hurricanes respond?