On December 6, 2021, Miami Athletics informed Head Football Coach Manny Diaz that he would not be retained for the 2022 football season.
This came a week after Miami struggled to a 7-5 (4-3 ACC) season that is yet another in a long string of bad and unacceptable performances for the Canes under Diaz’s tenure.
The marriage between Diaz and Miami started with a bang. He was brought in to be the defensive coordinator by former head coach Mark Richt in 2016. This was following Diaz’s time at both Louisiana Tech and Mississippi State as DC. Both stops saw Diaz lead units that were vastly improved from the years before his arrival in Ruston and Starkville, respectively.
Upon his arrival in Miami in 2016, Diaz was a breath of fresh air following the tenure of Mark D’Onofrio and a passive defensive scheme that was never going to work at Miami. Diaz was the young hotshot DC who was rebuilding his career, a native son of Miami returning home to help the Canes get back to the business of winning. And, at first, it worked.
From 2016-18, Miami’s defense was among the best in the country. Highlighted by the 2017 unit which ranked 4th in sacks (44), 4th in TFL/game (8.54), 5th in total TFL (111), tied for 6th in turnover margin (+13), 12th in yards per play allowed (4.77), and allowed one of the lowest passer ratings for opposing players in the country (116.46). When you bookend that performance with other accolades, like the 2018 passing defense being the best in America BY FAR (allowed 135.6 yds/gm on the lowest passer rating allowed of any team in the country — 101.39), and you see why Diaz was a rising star in the coaching world back then.
After twice being a Broyles Award semifinalist for Best Assistant Coach in America, Diaz finally stepped up and accepted an opportunity to become a head coach for the first time. And that opportunity was with the Temple Owls. And on December 13th, 2018, Diaz was introduced as the new Temple coach.
Then, something very unexpected happened: Miami head coach Mark Richt suddenly resigned on December 30th. That happened while I was at brunch, but more importantly, while Diaz was home in Miami on break before returning to Philadelphia to lead the Owls through workouts and spring practice.
And, because of his proximity, then-Miami AD Blake James was able to get a pair of in-person meetings with Diaz the same day that Richt retired. And, after the initial conversation with Diaz, decided to eschew a National search and instead offered Diaz the job at Miami later that evening, and offer that Diaz happily accepted.
At his introductory press conference and repeatedly afterwards in his first offseason, Diaz said he was going to create “The New Miami”. The goal was to reinvigorate the program, and get Miami back to the business of winning.
At first, things were great! Diaz brought new energy, built a new staff, particularly proud of poaching OC Dan Enos from Nick Saban and Alabama (to the point where Saban notoriously screamed “WHERE THE FUCK IS DAN?!?!?!?” in the Alabama football facility while looking for Enos to join a meeting.....when Enos was already gone and moments away from being introduced in Miami). And there was more. Recruiting wins. Flashy booster events like pulling up on a yacht to The Wharf in Miami.
Diaz and his staff also famously “crashed” an FSU coaching clinic, hosting a meet and greet with free beer (!!!!!) for the coaches who met with them. And it was cross-scheduled against the FSU coaching clinic at the same time on the same resort campus. So, of course, a ton of coaches came by the Miami event and the FSU event was less of a hit than it could have been. You love to see it!
It was FUN! And pointed to a different kind of program, one that would both be brash off the field and dominant on the field.
And then games got played.
And the fun stopped.
Under Diaz, Miami limped to a 21-15 win loss record, including 16-9 in ACC play. Even with one strong ACC season — 7-2 in 2020 — Miami was unable to win the Coastal in any of Diaz’s season, which continued a troubling trend for the Hurricanes since they joined the ACC in 2004.
Among the losses that led to this dismissal were consecutive losses to Duke in 2019 and 2020, a first for Miami, bad blowout losses to Alabama (where just being competitive would have been a major step forward), Michigan State, and Clemson, losses to some bad teams, like 2019 Georgia Tech and — the one that proved to be unrecoverable — 2021 Florida State, close wins over some bad or lower level teams, like 2021 Appalachian State, 2021 Georgia Tech, 2020 Virginia Tech, and 2020 Virginia, making games close that shouldn’t have been if Miami played to the level of talent on the roster, and more.
There was also the 2-5 record following bye weeks for Diaz’s team, which isn’t great, but to his credit, has improved to 2-2 over the last 2 seasons.
There was also the 0-2 record in bowl games, including being the only bowl team to get shut out in 2019 in a 14-0 loss to Louisiana Tech (a former employer of Diaz, by the way) to close out that season.
And that’s before we even mention the coup de grace: the 2019 loss to FIU in Marlins Park, a game played on the site where the legendary Orange Bowl once stood. That loss, more than anything, showed that this job was a bit too big for Diaz at this point in his career.
Though he meant well and tried his hardest to get the team to win games, Diaz simply didn’t have what was needed to get the performance he needed from his team, and win the games he needed to win to keep his job.
Diaz could return to the ranks of Defensive Coordinator, or he could try, as other coaches before him have, to drop down to a G5 job and work his way back up to the big-time. Either one could happen now, and I think either one is entirely possible. I think Diaz could eventually be a solid to above average coach at a major, Power 5 job.
But he’s a long way from being that coach now. And that’s why Miami made the move to part ways with him today.
Here is the release on the dismissal from Miami Athletics:
“University of Miami announces change in football leadership
The University of Miami today informed football head coach Manny Diaz that he will not be retained for the 2022 football season.
“We are grateful to Coach Diaz for his many contributions to our campus community and to his native South Florida, and for the strong leadership and exemplary character he exhibited during his tenure at the University,” said President Julio Frenk. “We wish him and his family the very best as they move forward.”
The University is committed to providing its student-athletes with the best opportunities to succeed and to building championship-caliber teams at the U. An announcement regarding new leadership for the football program will be forthcoming.
We thank Manny Diaz for his time and dedication to the University of Miami, both as DC and HC. However, it was clearly time to go in another direction, and I for one think this is the best move for all parties involved.”
More on Miami’s Coaching situation in the coming days.