Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Defense of Shannon

College football is at a tipping point. Television contract, corporate sponsorship, enormous BCS pay-outs and "professional" high school athletes are rapidly eroding the student athlete, replacing it with profit-generating employee. While none of these individual aspects are new to the sport, their effects are having an increasingly detrimental affect.

On by-product of the current culture of college football is the hasty firing of good coaches, exemplified by "the U" firing Randy Shannon. When he took over the program at Miami, disarray would be a courteous description; academic issues, disciplinary problems, and stagnation on the field. In four years, Shannon has turned Miami into an exemplar for student achievement, a feat wish is too often under-looked in college athletics where, as the NCAA advertises, "over 90% of us are going pro in something other than sports." It should also be added that those lucky few who are drafted and play in the NFL, they won't be there long (average tenure is four years) and thus all student athletes need their degree throughout the rest of their adult lives. Furthermore, the news has been notably devoid of stories of athletes doing things they shouldn't be, despite all the distractions that come with attending college in Miami. Finally, a great culture has been established within a team that has gone to three straight bowl games.

Unfortunately, Shannon didn't win enough for Miami standards. Miami has been lulled into a false sense of believing they have a great football program, when in reality a few outstanding coaches created a history of winning without necessary support structures (outside of the pipeline of talent that comes out of South Florida). "The U" lacks offices, meeting rooms, weight rooms, or practice facilities that would put them on par with the rest of the ACC, needless to say a premier national program. Additionally, they play their home games off campus in a NFL stadium, not exactly the best environment to build an atmosphere for a strong "home field" advantage.

In the discussion on Shannon, Lou Holtz brought up a very interesting point, you make the most mistakes in your first head coaching gig. He referred to his esteemed days with the Tribe as a time when he learned a lot about being a better CEO of his program and was able to use those lessons that the higher level, more exposed programs. We've seen the results with Gene Chizik at Auburn compared with Iowa State and if I were the AD of any university looking for a new coach, I would be thrilled with the successes and character of Randy Shannon and vault him to the top of my prospect list.

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