The Miami Hurricanes have traditionally been college football’s black sheep. In spite of their storied legacy and their impact on the collegiate and professional ranks, the Hurricanes have long been cast in a negative light for behavior off the field. Displeased with that perception, new Head Coach Randy Shannon wants to see the “Thug U” image change.
“I just want to make sure we’re very respectful in the public view,” Shannon said. “We’re going to make sure everything we do, everyone at the University of Miami can be proud of.”
Under former Head Coach Larry Coker, the media ripped the University of Miami for its sideline-clearing brawl against Florida International University. The incident was predominately blamed on UM players and garnered nationwide attention that furthered the negative perception of Miami football players.
All that changed the moment Shannon was named head coach, as he immediately instilled a strict brand of discipline to change how the public perceives the Hurricanes. This behavior revolution has, in turn, been a tool for a successful recruiting campaign.
Shannon’s new rules forbid players from owning weapons. Curfews are frequently imposed on players as a result of the coach’s belief that “nothing good happens after midnight.” He also prohibits team members from eating or wearing hats during team meetings, as a way of showing respect.
In addition, Shannon places a strong emphasis on academics and requires players with a GPA of 2.5 or less to live on campus. Additionally, those caught skipping classes or workouts will not only see less playing time, but they’ll find themselves running more than they would like.
“Discipline is important,” Shannon said. “If you want to win games, you can’t have distractions. I’m changing how we feel about ourselves.”
That change is rooted in accountability-accountability to the University of Miami and accountability to one another. It’s a change evident to All-American junior defensive end Calais Campbell.
“Coach Shannon gets everyone next to each other in drills, in the locker room, in meetings. He wants us together, looking out for each other, making sure we’re accountable for one another,” Campbell said. “He makes us smarter, wiser people.”
To further this dependability on one another, Shannon has stripped all jerseys of players’ names, making it clear that no one individual is more important than another.
Those bonds of team unity, which have been absent in recent years, are just one more reason why standout high-schoolers still choose to play in Coral Gables, Fla., despite last season’s disappointing turnout.
For example, highly touted running back Graig Cooper, “the human highlight film” as he was referred to in high school, became a ‘Cane this year, after turning down offers from Oklahoma State, Tennessee and Mississippi. Cooper chose UM not for its legacy, but rather for the team chemistry Shannon champions. Cooper and fellow running back Javarris James have created a bond off the field that enabled them to work together to rush for 215 combined yards against Marshall.
“[The people here] were my family before I got here,” Cooper said. “When I got here, it was like I was already a part of the team.”
Like Cooper, elite high schoolers have committed themselves to the University of Miami since Shannon took over the program. As a result, experts predict the Hurricanes could be poised to make a championship run by 2009.
And Shannon is no stranger to winning; he has played on or coached three of Miami’s five championship teams. But he insists the price of victory is accountability.
Humility and hard work are Shannon’s formula for rebuilding the Hurricane football dynasty.
“We’re just going to make sure we meet our goal. And that’s to make sure each student athlete on this team is represented in the community and that we win football games.”
Victor R. Rodriguez may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.