Randy Shannon fired as Miami Hurricanes coach
BY SUSAN MILLER DEGNANsdegnan@MiamiHerald.com
The Randy Shannon era is over.
The University of Miami fired Shannon as football coach on Saturday night, hours after the Hurricanes suffered a shocking 23-20 overtime loss to South Florida in the final game of the regular season.
UM athletic director Kirby Hocutt announced the dismissal in a written statement.
``We have made a decision to seek new leadership for our football program,'' Hocutt said. ``Our expectations are to compete for championships and return to the top of the college football world. We will immediately begin a national search.''
Hocutt will address the media at 1 p.m. Sunday. UM said it will have no further comment until Sunday's news conference.
ESPN reported that offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland has been offered the interim role of head coach.
``Wow, that shocks me,'' UM linebacker Jordan Futch said when he heard the news of Shannon's firing. ``I was on my way to sleep when I heard the phone alarm go off. The coach had said we were off until Monday at 2:30 p.m. But we got a text that said there's a mandatory team meeting [Sunday] at 10:30 a.m.
``I thought Coach Shannon did a heck of a job. I felt he was the best man for the job. He knows us best. He recruited us. He's a great guy in all aspects of the word -- from football coach to father figure to best friend.
``We have so much talent. We shouldn't have lost. I think we play to our competition's level. I'm in total shock.''
One assistant coach who asked to remain anonymous said by phone Saturday night: ``I can't imagine what he's going through right now. He loved this program with all his life. It's the tough part of the business.''
Shannon began his UM tenure in 2007 after Larry Coker was fired. Shannon led UM to seasons of 5-7, 7-6 and 9-4 before being given a new four-year contract this past offseason. It is estimated that UM will have to pay about $1.5 million to buy out Shannon's contract.
He finished 7-5 this season, with a bowl game still ahead. Shannon's four-year record: 28-22.
Talk of Shannon's demise came long before Saturday, when the Hurricanes fought back from a 10-0 deficit to go ahead 17-10 with 3:54 left. USF then drove down the field and scored to tie it up, and eventually won in overtime with a touchdown.
An interception thrown by Jacory Harris prevented UM from possibly winning the game with a field goal with just a few seconds left in regulation.
The Canes were routed 45-17 by Florida State at Sun Life Stadium on Oct. 9, then lost to lowly Virginia on Oct. 30 before getting beat by Virginia Tech in a must-win game last weekend. UM went 4-9 against Top 25 teams and 16-16 against Atlantic Coast Conference opponents under Shannon.
Miami has not won the ACC title since joining the league in 2004, and Hocutt told The Miami Herald on Saturday that it was a goal UM had hoped to achieve.
Several sources said that UM president Donna Shalala was a strong supporter of Shannon's and was willing to give him at least another year. But the embarrassing losses to FSU and Virginia turned up the heat, and one source said she gave Hocutt the autonomy to make the final decision. Had UM beaten USF, Shannon might have had a much better chance of saving himself.
Potential candidates to replace Shannon include former UM quarterback and Georgia coach Mark Richt, former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach and Oklahoma associate head coach/defensive coordinator Brent Venables, who played at Kansas State, where Hocutt also played. Before the game, a plane flew over Sun Life Stadium with a giant banner flapping behind it that read: ``4 YEARS 0 ACC TITLES LOTS OF EXCUSES FIRE SHANNON.''
Hocutt told The Miami Herald before kickoff that the banner was ``very disappointing.'' When asked at that time how the game would affect Shannon's future, Hocutt said, ``This game has no impact. . . . It's just the next game on our schedule and happens to be the last game of the [regular] season. . . . You don't get too high with the highs and you don't too low with the lows.''
However, the shock of the loss to the 11 ½-point underdog Bulls (7-4) changed all that.
Not only was the result of Saturday's game ugly and the effort lethargic, the crowd of 26,369 was the smallest this season.
By the time the officials had reviewed the replay of the winning touchdown and announced, ``After review, the ruling on the field stands. Touchdown,'' most of the fans already had exited.
Many of the others stayed and booed.