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Miami AD confident in direction program is headed

8/19/2009

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Miami athletic director Kirby Hocutt said "it's a popular question," but it's one he won't answer publicly. The matter of Randy Shannon's contract, Hocutt said, is a personnel-related matter, "and those conversations are between Randy and myself."

As Shannon enters his third season as head coach, he does so with a 12-13 record and no bowl wins. Yet the one thing he does have is the "full support" of the only person who matters to his job security -- Hocutt. There is a sense of confidence in the direction Miami's football program is headed, and it starts at the top.

"I believe in what he's doing," Hocutt said. "He has a plan. When you look at all the areas surrounding our football program, from the community involvement the football team had this summer -- in the month of July alone they did 30-plus events. If you look at the accountability that Randy has established in this program, the young men he has recruited in his time as a head coach and look at the way he's leading these young men, you couldn't ask for more. I'm confident in the direction of this program and Randy's leadership and I'm confident he will be our head football coach for a long time."

There's not a lot left open to interpretation there. Both Shannon and Hocutt are thinking long-term, and the positive influence Shannon has had off the field seems to outweigh his losing record right now. That's a change in direction for the entire program -- and those within it haven't been shy about their desire to polish Miami's image. Even the players recognize the importance of that.

Check out what safety Randy Phillips told me this summer:

"You can't put another coach in his position and expect them to do better than what he did," Phillips said. "He had to change the program first. ... We can't change the program until you change the guys in the program. We had a lot of guys out there who were selfish. A lot of guys transferred, a lot of guys needed attitude adjustments. Now he's got the program where it needs to be off the field and now it's time for us to go out and win."

"You have to be patient with him," Phillips said. "His goal was to come in and make us better men. His goal is to win ballgames also, but at the same time you want him to graduate players and do all those great things like that. It's not all about winning all the time. To the fans it is, but they aren't the parents of the guys who are leaving with no degree, leaving with no education, going to jail, getting arrested, some even got killed. They weren't the parents or family members of people like that. Coach Shannon felt that. Coach Shannon went through all of that. He didn't want that to happen under his watch.

"If he was winning ballgames, and we were still going to jail and bad things were happening off the field, then you'd be criticizing him even harder, like, 'Oh he's running around with a bunch of hoodlums or thugs, like they used to call us. But you can't call us that anymore. Coach Shannon made sure of that. Now it's time to win, and after we win, you'll look at the program and say, 'that's a winning program. He really cleaned the whole program up.'"

But now, like Phillips said, it's time to win.

It's still Miami, where the standard is a national title, and no bowl wins doesn't cut it. It's still college football, where you can get fired at Nebraska for a 9-3 season. The Canes are still a young team, but they have the talent of a Top 25 team, and are capable of winning the Coastal Division this fall if they can get through their unforgiving schedule.

The key is patience, and this year we'll find out who at Miami really has it.

"I sense a lot of optimism is in the air around Miami," Hocutt said. "Everybody senses the direction this team is going. We're on the cusp of doing some great things and returning Miami to the position that it's held before in the college football world, which is at the top, but it's a process. It's a journey as well. College football is more competitive today than it's ever been, and it takes time. Randy has a plan and we're going to stick to that plan, understanding there will be highs and lows. We're not going to get too high with the highs or too low with the lows, but it's going in the right direction."

Which is why he's willing to wait.

"At Miami if you're in this profession, I believe you embrace the expectations," Hocutt said. "You want to be at a program that has the expectations Miami has, a program that has won championships and expects and demands championships. Patience I believe is an understanding of where this program has been over the course of the past five years and understanding how we're going to get it back to where it belongs, and I'm confident that it's on its way."