This is part of a special feature, “Coker, Coaches, Quarterbacks: Commentary on the future of the hurricanes,” appearing in the current issue of The Hurricane. To read the remaining 2 parts, visit the Sports section of the site.
Larry Coker ended his six year career at Miami with a 17-14 win over No. 18 Boston College on Thanksgiving night. He wasn’t carried off the field like the Gators did for lame duck Ron Zook in his final game.
Why? Because few expected Coker to be fired within 12 hours of the win.
Sure, we all knew it was coming. We knew that after a 6-6 season there was no other choice other than to go looking for that next national championship leader. But did he have to be fired right after a win? Right after a win that made Miami bowl eligible?
Coker, along with Miami fans, has had nothing less than a turbulent season. It began with a horrible loss to rival Florida State at home, continued with a brawl against Florida International University that once again put UM in the harsh spotlight and culminated with the tragic loss of a teammate, Bryan Pata.
Through it all, Coker held his head up and pressed on, focusing on the season rather than looking for a new job. In fact, even after being fired, Coker said he will stay to coach the team in the MPC Computers Bowl game on New Year’s Eve. A lesser man would’ve taken his $2.5 million buyout and saluted goodbye.
It makes me wonder though that if he hadn’t had to deal with all of the gossip and speculation about losing his job, would Miami have had a better season? Would Coker have been willing to take more chances and coach the way Miami fans expect if the thought of losing his job hadn’t been in the back of his mind? Would he have still played it safe on so many calls?
Coker was a good coach. His track record, which includes one BSC title and a near second, is by far not a means for dismissal. He didn’t deserve to be sucker punched after a win. Let him enjoy the win and the Holiday weekend and fire him on Monday.
Let’s face it, at Miami, losing is not in our vocabulary. So, it was time for Coker to move on and move on he will. He’ll be able to find another job without a problem-maybe even back with Butch Davis in North Carolina as offensive coordinator. Whatever he does, he’ll do it with class and dignity despite having a leftover pumpkin pie thrown in his face Friday morning.
Whoever takes this job will have to be ready for the psychological battering from the Miami community and realize it’s all just part of the “U”.
They’ll have to be able to recruit big playmakers and a tougher offensive line or they’ll fall to the same fate as Coker.
Stacey Arnold may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.