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Revisiting the Last Five Miami Coaches’ First Season

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With Mario Cristobal taking over as the Head Coach of the Miami Hurricanes Football program, we should revisit the first year under the most recent coaches who took over in the same position.

Syndication: USA TODAY ROBERT HANASHIRO / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Miami Hurricanes have struggled to compete at a national level in college football over the last two decades. It seems they have also struggled to find the right person to lead the program over that time frame.

With Head Coach Mario Cristobal moving towards his first season in his position at Miami, the former Hurricane doesn’t have a high ceiling compared to his predecessors. The last five coaches for Miami have gone a combined 38-24 in the first seasons with the program.

That record may not seem as terrible as it should solely because one of those seasons includes the best college football team ever assembled. But to give an idea of what the Hurricanes could do in 2022 under Cristobal, it’s important to remember what other first-year seasons have looked like.

Manny Diaz, 2019

After leaving as defensive coordinator at Miami in December 2018 for the head coaching job at Temple, Diaz would come back to fill that same role less than three weeks later.

He would struggle in his first season as the head coach, finishing with a record of 6-7. He began with one-score losses to Florida and North Carolina before getting his first win against Bethune-Cookman. He avoided an upset loss to Central Michigan and then gave up 42 points in a loss to Virginia Tech.

Diaz picked up his first against a conference and ranked opponent, beating Virginia 17-9. They would fall to Georgia Tech before going on a three-game winning streak, which included wins on the road against Pittsburgh and Florida State and a blowout-win of Louisville,

The wheels then fell off when they would lose their final three games against Florida International, Duke, and Louisiana Tech. There were some big highs during this season, with Quarterback Jarren Williams throwing for five touchdowns against the Cardinals, but the lows were even lower with losses to two group of five schools and winning by only five against another.

Mark Richt, 2016

Even though the best season of ‘Canes football came under coach Mark Richt, he didn’t arrive and produce a ton of wins immediately.

After leaving the Georgia Bulldogs after 15 years, he arrived in Coral Gables as a huge hire. With tons of experience in the SEC, hopes were high for the former Miami quarterback.

His first season back with the Hurricanes was a year of runs. With junior quarterback Brad Kaaba under center, they began the season with a four-game winning streak against Florida A&M, Florida Atlantic, Appalachian State, and Georgia Tech.

They reached as high as 10 in the AP Poll when they entered a home game against Florida State. They would lose that game by one, the first of four consecutive losses.

They would bounce back in big fashion with five wins in a row, all by double digits. This would include wins over Virginia, Pittsburgh, NC State, Duke, and West Virginia. The win over the Mountaineers was the first win in a bowl game in 10 years.

Al Golden, 2011

Taking over for Randy Shannon in 2011, Al Golden was coming from Temple where he was the head coach and had turned the program around. There was hope he could do the same with Miami after seven consecutive seasons with less than 10 wins.

They did not get a turnaround, especially in the first season under Golden. He began his tenure with the Hurricanes without his starting quarterback and many other players due to suspensions from the Nevin Shapiro debacle.

Without Quarterback Jacory Harris, Golden started Stephen Morris against Maryland. They would lose that game 32-24, but then follow that up with a 24-6 win over Ohio State.

Other than back-to-back wins over North Carolina and Georgia Tech, Miami would not have any streaks, whether winning or losing. They would finish the season 6-6, but not play in a bowl game.

Randy Shannon, 2007

After falling off at the end of Larry Coker’s tenure, the Hurricanes would hire defensive coordinator Randy Shannon to lead the program. Shannon led the defense since 2001 and played linebacker for the ‘Canes in the late ‘80s.

Shannon’s first head-coaching job began pretty well with a 31-3 win over Marshall. Miami would lose #5 Oklahoma the following week, but win their next three, including a 34-17 win over #20 Texas A&M to give them a 4-1 record.

They would then struggle to finish the season, dropping six of their final seven games all against ACC opponents. This would include losing the final three games by a combined score of 120-28. The tough end to the season would give the Hurricanes a 5-7 record and have them miss a bowl game for the first time in nearly a decade.

Larry Coker, 2001

Not much needs to be explained about the infamous 2001 Miami Hurricanes team and what they accomplished with Larry Coker at the helm.

Probably the best job a first-year coach has ever done with a team, Coker was hired as the head coach at Miami when Butch Davis left for a job in the NFL. Coker, the offensive coordinator with the Hurricanes from 1995-2000, was the players’ choice to take over and lead a stacked team.

After finishing the 2000 season with an 11-1 record and being snubbed for a place in the National Championship game, the team was hungry for revenge. And that’s what they got during the 2001 season.

Coker was extremely fortunate to take over the best team in college football history and lead a team that likely could have won the National Championship without a head coach. They would finish with a 12-0 record and destroy almost everyone they faced, including Nebraska in the Rose Bowl to take home the program’s fifth National Championship.