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Interview with Rudy Fernandez

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President Julio Frenk entrusted two men to propel athletics and the University of Miami’s football team successfully into the future. One of those men is Rudy Fernandez.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Doral Chenoweth / USA TODAY NETWORK

Kirk Herbstreit addressed the Miami Hurricanes on ESPN’s College Game Day and it bares repeating. “I guess football doesn’t matter. It matters to the alums, the brotherhood of the U, but I don’t know if it matters to the people making the decisions at Miami. If they don't change that, it doesn’t matter who the coach is.”

Julio Frenk heard the challenge and initiated the change. He promoted two change agents who were entrusted in symbolically rebranding and rekindling the flame that was once known as the U. Senior Advisor Joe Echevarria and Chief of Staff Rudy Fernandez were now called upon to shake up the status quo.

Fernandez currently serves as Senior Vice President for Public Affairs and Communications at the University of Miami and is no stranger to politics. He spent over a decade in Washington DC and was a Special Assistant to the President in the George W. Bush White House.

The qualifications Fernandez amassed certainly vetted him professionally. There is no doubt his past accomplishments rightfully gave him access to sit in close proximity and give University President Frenk trusted advice. That advice would ultimately shape the athletic program for years to come.

But there is something that you need to realize about Fernandez. There is something you need to consider in terms of a core center piece to the whole process. Fernandez is a fan of the football program. A huge one.

Recently I had the pleasure to interview Senior Vice President Fernandez on the Orange Bowl Boys podcast. It was an unadulterated no holds barred interview that was candid and honest. Fernandez handled every question like a pro and that is because he is one.

But behind the veil of stature and importance the biggest take away for me is that he has a heart that bleeds orange and green and that isn’t just lip service. Have you ever been that upset after a Hurricane loss that your family knows to just leave you alone and let you have a moment? That is Fernandez.

Here is some excerpts from the close to an hour long interview with the primary architect of the University’s restructuring. He is unapologetically steadfast that this is a business and in order to achieve ultimate success, you surround yourself with successful people.

Scoop- “If we go 6-0 to finish this season and don’t lose to FSU does all of this still happen?”

RF- “You know I learned a long time ago in the world of politics never to answer hypotheticals. We did not go 6-0. You will see the honesty in my eyes. We like Manny Diaz a lot at the administration level and I know the fanbase turned on him but we liked him a lot. He did a lot of great things. He recruited some kids that played hard for him throughout. But I am unapologetic trying to improve the University of Miami. The one thing that was my north star throughout the last couple months, the only goal is to improve the University of Miami. What’s in the best interest of the University of Miami. What’s in the best interest of our football players. And those kids come here wanting to compete for championships. And if we have an opportunity to hire a unique talent like Mario Cristobal, then we owe it to those kids to do so.”

Toast- “There is a debate among the fanbase about what we should do about the number 26. Should 26 be retired or should it be a tribute number that is earned by an upperclassman. Do you have any feelings on Sean Taylor’s number 26?”

RF- “You got to retire number 26 and I am going to me a major proponent of that. I will be leading that charge and I think we should retire 26.”

Toast- “As a cane fan, do you have a time table for when you would like to see us make the playoffs?”

RF- In order for this investment to pay off in my mind, we should be a playoff team within the next three to five years. And my view is as a fan, Mario may say Rudy doesn’t know the first thing what it takes to get a team prepared for this and he would be right. But as a fan I think we aught to be winning the coastal more often then not. Not once in 16 years. Five, six, seven times every decade that’s what I expect as a fan. I am sure I will get an email from Mario saying shut the hell up.”

Roman- You brought up the Orange Bowl and there is a faction of fans that are talking about a potential new home. And Raddy (New Miami Athletic Director Dan Radakovich) mentioned it too about maybe exploring those options. Is that a real possibility on your end?

“I know there is a lot of people talking about it externally and no one has talked to anyone in the administration about it yet. If they approached us obviously, I owe it to the University of Miami to always entertain options that I feel will improve the standing of the university or the football program. We have eleven years left on the lease at Hard Rock. I think Hard Rock is a great facility to play in. And one of you made a point on your show that I agree with which is, in thinking about stadium locations would it be better to be closer to the campus? Sure. But you have to think about the fact we draw fans from all over South Florida not just from Coral Gables or south Miami. We need to take that in account an be very very careful about that decision.”

Catch the full interview entitled “Rudy’s the Wolf” for a candid and full behind the scenes view of the program moving forward. For me personally, I walked away with the firm belief that the program is in great hands. Let me know if you agree.