Randy Shannon wants to coach again
CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- Nearly a year ago, everything changed for Miami coach Randy Shannon. He was fired by his alma mater, his hometown school, the place he had been for virtually every bit of his adult life.
Time has healed most of that wound.
In an interview Wednesday with The Associated Press, Shannon discussed his past, his future, how the Hurricanes look under new coach Al Golden -- and the investigation into claims made by former Miami booster Nevin Shapiro, allegations that have already rocked the athletic department and could impact the football team for years.
He's ready to move on to the next challenge, and now just waits for someone to bring the invitation his way.
I needed this year to sit out. I needed to learn something new. And I think I've done that.” -- Randy Shannon
"I needed this year to sit out," said Shannon, who was fired last Nov. 27. "I needed to learn something new. And I think I've done that."
Shannon has been spending time at Alabama, TCU, North Carolina, UNLV, Oregon, Iowa State and Minnesota, packing up for a week at a time to embed with those programs and soak up knowledge.
The visits had nothing to do with football -- he refused invitations to sit down in X's and O's meetings -- but rather were about learning how the organizations worked, from security to scheduling and anything in between.
The way Shannon sees it, he knows plenty about football at this point in his life. After really only knowing the Miami way -- he played there, was an assistant there, a coordinator there and then head coach -- of operating the off-the-field sides of a program, he wanted to pick and choose from an array of schools to develop a better plan should the chance to coach come his way again.
"I spent my money and went to college," he said. "I met with the strength coaches, the policemen who are around some teams, compliance people, athletic directors, support staff. It wasn't just football. It was very little football. I needed to see other things, see a lot of ways to do different things, and it made me a whole lot better."
Shannon was fired after Miami lost to South Florida in last year's regular-season finale -- the teams play again Saturday in Tampa, Fla. Before the 2010 game in Miami, a small plane circled the stadium before kickoff displaying a banner that urged school officials to make the change. Hours after that loss, Shannon was gone with a 28-20 record in four seasons.
And with that, one change followed another at Miami. Athletic director Kirby Hocutt, who fired Shannon, hired Al Golden to take his place. Then Hocutt left to accept a job at Texas Tech, despite insisting he would not leave the Hurricanes just a couple weeks earlier. Shawn Eichorst was eventually hired to replace Hocutt as AD.
Then came the August bombshell, a Yahoo! Sports story detailing claims from Shapiro that he provided 72 Miami football players and recruits with cars, cash, yacht trips, nightclub outings, strip club access and more.
Maybe the only thing Shannon and Shapiro agree on is this: Neither liked the other very much.
"All I said was 'Wow,' " Shannon said when he heard of Shapiro's claims. "Everybody knows what kind of person I am. I don't like a lot of distractions or things going on. And we did extensive education when I was at Miami, telling kids where they need to go, who they need to be with, who they needed to watch out for. We did everything we could."
Shapiro never implicated Shannon, and has even acknowledged what many around the program say to be true -- that Shannon tried to strictly forbid his players from dealing with the booster. An investigation by the university and the NCAA found that some of the violations occurred while Shannon was coaching, but that the most egregious ones involving current players happened before they actually signed with the Hurricanes.
Shannon did not speak directly about Shapiro, declining to do so he said in deference to the ongoing investigation at his alma mater.
"I'll say this: I left the place in a whole lot better shape than when I found it," Shannon said.
Off the field, Miami raved about Shannon. His players didn't get in trouble. He cleaned up the program, addressing everything from class attendance to gun ownership. The team's grades and graduation rates soared. He's already being talked about as a candidate at some schools that either will have -- or expect to have -- coaching openings after this season.
At Miami, his problem was simple. The Hurricanes didn't win enough games. Prominent boosters grew more disappointed. And a year after Shannon got an extension, he got fired, a move that sent him into a funk for months, unsure of what he'd do next.
"I'm happy that he took the time to sit and relax and enjoy himself," said Miami quarterback Jacory Harris, who keeps in somewhat regular contact with Shannon.
"From just talking to him, it seems like he is enjoying himself. I'm happy for him. He went through a lot here at the University of Miami. It's the only school where he would go through things like that. If he had coached somewhere else, he would have gotten nowhere near the amount of pressure and scrutiny he got here.
"Great coach, great guy," Harris added. "Loved his players. It was a shame the way some people did him here. That plane last year at the USF game, that was wrong."
Shannon did some work with ESPN after being fired, and says now he isn't thinking about continuing to pursue TV. He'd rather coach. Shannon interviewed last year for jobs at Maryland and UCLA, saying he didn't "find the right fit" at either school.
He still follows Miami games, watching most on television, and feels for what Golden has gone through since Shapiro's claims came out, saying "no coach should have to deal with that."
When he's not traveling to various programs around the country, Shannon is mainly home. He's kept a finger on high school football as well, going to games and regularly being asked when he's returning to the sideline. It happened again just Wednesday -- someone stopped by the table where Shannon was waiting for his mixed-greens-and-chicken lunch, so he stood and shook the man's hand.
The visitor urged him to get back into coaching. Shannon assured him he will someday.
"No regrets," Shannon said. "You move on. I've stayed down here, not wanting to run from anybody or anything. There's a lot of supportive people out there. A lot of great things got done at Miami. I think some people know that. What makes you feel good is that you know some people still appreciate it."
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press