MARIO CRISTOBAL TO MIAMI HURRICANES FAITHFUL; “ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?”

There’s an old adage in journalism about a focus on being right, opposed to the empty calories that come from being first and risking getting it wrong.

Unfortunately, old school sportswriting processes don’t exist when everyone has a voice, platform and take via social media—the constant race to break news, or to offer scathing critique with limited information—with emotion besting logic and common sense.

If someone isn’t giving their hot take on Twitter within minutes of reading a rumor on a message board—don’t even bother playing the game or attempting to enter the chat, as you’re too late.

Before this rant goes all “old man yells at cloud”, let’s cut to the chase and make sense of the past almost-three months in Hurricanes history.

Former Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal lost the Pac-12 title game on Friday December 4th and by Monday morning he was announced as the University of Miami’s 26th top dog—returning to his alma mater after a strong run with the Ducks, and four career-building years in Tuscaloosa, where he drafted his blueprint on how to build a juggernaut while studying every move Nick Saban made.

That in itself should’ve been the only storyline and national focus.

Instead, a hot mess of Miami supporters frustrated with the timeline—while critics, attention-starved talking heads and garden-variety haters piled-on UM in regards to process, or leaving it’s current head coach out to dry for 48 hours—as if he didn’t pull his own shady moves two years prior.

The story wasn’t about Cristobal’s homecoming; instead a focus on how he left Oregon, or how Miami worked under the radar to land the architect for a return to glory. If the same storyline surrounded any program outside of the University of Miami, the narrative would’ve been everything and it’d have been the feel-good story going into the off-season.

For any out-of-the-know, Cristobal is a Miami native who played for local Christopher Columbus High and stayed home to play for the hometown Hurricanes–where he won two national championships under Jimmy Johnson and Dennis Erickson—before joining the program as a grad assistant under Butch Davis, which he parlayed into an invite to resume-build by join Greg Schiano at Rutgers, when the former defensive coordinator was named head coach in 2001.

Three successful years in Piscataway sent Cristobal back to UM for a three-year run coaching tight ends and offensive line—before nearby Florida International gave him his first shot as a head coach, cutting his teeth with the Golden Panthers for six seasons.

Cristobal took the underfunded, poorly-run program to its first bowl game—and first post-season win—before the experiment prematurely crapped out and he was off to Alabama to learn from the best in the biz, which paved his way to Oregon and a spot with the Willie Taggart-led Ducks—where he was promoted to head coach when Taggart bailed for Florida State.

Cristobal looked in for the long-haul with Oregon—a 35-12 run over four seasons with the Ducks, highlighted by a 12-2 season and Rose Bowl win in 2019—as well as three division titles and two Pac-12 championships.

It’s this point of the story where Miami most take pause, as Cristobal-to-the-Canes couldn’t have been more far-fetched as 2021 came to a close. The on-the-rise head coach was building something special in Eugene—all the money, all the resources and his own Nike contract from Phil Knight to help sweeten the pot. Life was good for Cristobal and arguable a 99% chance he would settle in for a lengthy run with a Pac-12 contender.

All that to say, one-in-a-million shots are discussed for a reason—because sometimes the 1% wins out and the improbable actually happens when stars align perfectly.

While all was well in the Pacific Northwest, a story was brewing downs south as Miami continued its lengthy run of underachieving under Manny Diaz—the Canes’ fifth head coach in 14 seasons—seismic shifts fast-taking place with new, big-money, billionaire boosters coming out of the works and hellbent on bringing Cristobal home to build a winner. (Not to mention, influential 305-bred moguls like John Ruiz and family on a mission to get ‘The U’ it’s own near-campus stadium at Tropical Park, or elsewhere.)

If not for Diaz’s early face-plant this past season—digging a year-three hole impossible to crawl out of—the final six weeks of 2021 don’t play out in miraculous fashion for ‘The U’—and even now, its still somewhat impossible to fathom just what the f**k happened to reverse this brutally-bad course Miami had been on; UM crying poor for decades, not making a financial commitment to building a winner and settling for low-rent, knee-jerk, safe hires for years.

Cristobal-caliber coaches were forever out of reach for ‘The U’—until one day they weren’t; a fact that when combined with daily noise on social media, via a fan base that’s been as off-track as this program itself the past two decades—it helps make sense of the chaos witnessed the past 76 days since a program-defining changing of the guard that still doesn’t feel real.

These new ways, big moves and monstrous off-season victories have even proven too much for some to grasp—tripped up every step of the way, with no ability to let things play out before coming in hot.

Kevin Steele was hired as Miami’s defensive coordinator just over two weeks ago—February 3rd and one day after National Signing Day, where Cristobal worked his magic over a seven-week span to turn Diaz’s disastrous 60th-ranked class into the 15th-best in the nation—an all-killer, no-filler haul of 14 players, with a few late-in-the-process surprises.

In vintage Miami fan fashion, the narrative remained focused on those who got away—some blaming a lack of a defensive coordinator when highly-coveted defensive end Shemar Stewart stuck with Texas A&M, instead of focusing on the fat NIL bags Jimbo Fisher and staff dropped, en route to what on-paper is the most-talented recruiting haul of all-time—packed with seven 5-Star ballers, including Stewart.

The second half of December and all of January was nothing but a bitch-fest regarding the timing surrounding assistant hires; digs at Cristobal “striking out”, dragging his feet or being in over his head—while any who praised his thoroughness or process was immediately mocked as the Miami Miserables relied on old muscle memory—expecting things to go south or quickly blow up, as has been the case since 2005.

In a matter of weeks, Cristobal took Diaz’s 60th-ranked class and finished with a punch-packing No. 15 group.

FOCUS ON THOSE ONBOARDED; NOT WHO GOT AWAY

In mid-January, defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson was poached by Alabama—many unable to grasp that when Saban calls, smart coaches answer, take the promotion and haul-ass to Tuscaloosa to further their careers—just as Cristobal did post-FIU, after temporarily agreeing to join Al Golden and staff in 2013—sticking around a matter of days before he was called-up to Bama’s big leagues.

At the same time, there were also leaks that Arkansas offensive coordinator Kendal Briles supposedly turned down Cristobal in the Canes—when in reality, it appeared to be a textbook negotiating move to shake down the Razorbacks for more cash. (According to Miami, no offer was ever made—and per Cristobal’s hiring history, offers aren’t extended to assistants not legitimately committed to getting on board.)

Cristobal was attacked for “losing” Robinson—fans in sky-is-falling mode again. The ace recruiter and former secondary coach who called Miami his “dream job”—it was now and indictment on Miami’s new leader for “T-Rob” wanting to beef up his resume by working for the best-run program in the sport.

The perceived “hits” continued days two weeks later when co-offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon—who followed Cristobal from Eugene to Coral Gables—got a shot to return to his alma mater and trekked north to Georgia to work under Kirby Smart and the defending national champs. The topic resulted in an all-over-the-place, 72-page thread on CanesInSight—one that went as far as attacking McClendon’s wife’s looks as why she didn’t feel comfortable in Miami—prompting his barely-got-to-know-you stint at UM.

Not for nothing, but Charlie Kelly and his “Pepe Silvia” evidence wall on a fan-favorite episode of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia comes across more logical than some of these current message board threads and Twitter Spaces rants.

Robinson and McClendon jumping ship, no assistants hired by NSD—too many refusing to let things play out; chastising Cristobal and prematurely playing that here-we-go-again card—negativity was quickly replacing all new goodwill surrounding the program, and for what? These self-imposed timelines by overly-aggressive fans who want to make up 15 years of incompetence in 15 minutes?

Whatever self-imposed dark skies fans chose to hover under for two months—clouds finally parted after the Steele hire and February has gone gangbusters ever since for Cristobal and his Canes.

Three days after landing a veteran defensive coordinator, Cristobal poached Michigan offensive coordinator Josh Gattis—the 2021 Frank Broyles Award Winner also a masterful recruiter who runs a balanced offensive attack and is a massive addition to the staff.

Next up, the Robinson void was filled—and improved upon—when Cristobal poached Georgia’s defensive backs coach Jahmile Addae from Smart’s staff. Addae was ranked by 247Sports as the nation’s No. 2 recruiter for the Class of 2022—the Dawgs No. 1 in scoring defense, No. 1 in red zone defense and No. 2 in total defense during their 2021 title run.

No McClendon? No problem, as Cristobal reeled in Appalachian State offensive coordinator Frank Ponce in a quarterback coach and passing game coordinator role. Ponce is another ace recruiter and was a successful head coach at Miami Senior High, where he also played—these deep local ties set to pay dividends with local high school coaches on the recruiting trail.

For good measure, to add a little more beef to the defensive side of the ball regarding experienced position coaches, it was announced Friday night that Cristobal is adding Charlie Strong to his staff as linebackers coach.

The former longtime Florida defensive coordinator—and top-flight recruiter—parlayed that success into a four-year stint as Louisville’s head coach, before getting hired away by Texas and then a run at South Florida in the same role. One year as an Alabama assistant lead to a one-year role with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2021—and now he’s on board with Cristobal’s Canes.

Another sneaky little pull during this February to remember—former Michigan State staffer Andrew Rodgers took his talents to Coral Gables two weeks back. One big storyline from 2021; how the Spartans and Mel Tucker dominated the Transfer Portal with two dozen new players—including former Wake Forest running back Kenneth Walker Jr.—it was Rodgers who creates lists and compiled the info for Tucker regarding these transfers.

Add these key pieces to staff that already saw Joe Salave’a (defensive line), Alex Mirabal (offensive line), Aaron Feld (strength and conditioning) and Jeff Eaton (assistant strength coach) following Cristobal from Eugene to Coral Gables—this might’ve just become the best top-to-bottom coaching staff in the ACC in a matter of weeks.

Translation; Cristobal and Miami are going to go ham on the Portal in the coming month, in a way that should even supersede Diaz’s impressive three-year off-season run.

Highsmith in a much-talked about GM-type role; the final piece to the infrastructure puzzle Cristobal is building.

Lastly, for context- and narrative-sake—chatter surrounding Alonzo Highsmith returning to Miami in the oft-talked about GM role many wanted him in a year ago—balls seem to be in motion. Manny Navarro of The Atlantic–and former Miami Herald UM beat writer—guested on the a recent “Wide Right” podcast and worked in the Highsmith tidbit (around the 53:35 mark) when discussing if Ed Reed will continue in his Chief of Staff role under Cristobal.

All of this recent movement playing to the hyperbolic title of this piece—the Maximus Decimus Meridius quote from Gladiator—after the former Roman general makes mincemeat of a few well-armed opponents. Cristobal remains fueled—by his Cafecito scuba tank and desire to build a winner—to hear, or give a collective shit about any critique or outside noise.

Not delivering on superfans’ timetables? No one gives a shit. Questioning the resume of guys he thoroughly interviewed through a rigorous process? That’s why Cristobal pockets a reported $8,000,000 annually and has a monster budget to bring on who he deems the ideal fit—while critics furiously peck away online, getting Doritos dust all over their keyboards.

FROM PRETENDERS TO CONTENDER-ISH OVERNIGHT

Incredible to think that three short months ago Miami was shuffling out of Doak Campbell Stadium as losers, dropping a must-win game to a joke of a Florida State program that had won six football games dating back to October 2020—upset at home by Jacksonville State two months prior, and sitting at 3-5 when the Hurricanes rolled in.

Fans were at their wits end with Diaz—the 1-2 start to open his third season at the helm; demolished by Alabama (mocked for celebrating with silly jewelry while getting manhandled) and outlasted by Michigan State (outscored 21-3 in fourth quarter after holding up “four fingers”)—while almost upset by Appalachian State in-between the two (a late field goal to escape victorious).

The chase for a Coastal Division title was even all but out the window by mid-October—sitting at 0-2 in conference after gut-wrenching, slow-start, last-second losses to Virginia and North Carolina.

The unexpected emergence of Tyler Van Dyke and a Heisman-like performance from the new quarterback helped Miami go 5-1 from that point on—but it also masked a dismal defensive performance as Diaz’s unit underperformed, regressing as the year rolled on.

There was zero hope going into 2022 had this madness continued; Diaz set to lose offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee—by way of Van Dyke’s emergence and SMU wanting their former play caller to return in a head coaching role—while Diaz stubbornly stuck to his self-imposed dual role of program CEO and maligned defensive shot-caller.

Recruiting was a disaster and a 7-5 run killed any improvement narrative had Diaz returned for year four—but everything changing when a few rogue Miami boosters went big game fishing and set out to  in Cristobal.

The act itself nothing more than a pipe dream and ultimate long shot before pressure ramped up by way of the slow start to a new season—resulting in a few difference-makers building off the shots fired by ESPN College GameDay’s Kirk Herbstreitwho took UM to task on the September 25th broadcast.

University of Miami football had legitimately been irrelevant since the 2005 Peach Bowl—when No. 9 LSU waxed No. 8 UM, 40-3 on New Year’s Eve—and it’s been a rinse-wash-repeat disaster ever since.

Larry Coker gutting his staff for a lame-duck 2006 season before getting canned—leading to the low-rent hire of defense coordinator Randy Shannon, who was never ready for prime time—going 28-22 over four seasons. Meanwhile, Golden was an empty-suit and nowhere near the up-and-comer he was tabbed as coming out of Temple—going 32-25 before canned in the middle of his fifth season, on the heels of a 58-0 ass-kicking Clemson laid on Miami at home in 2015.

Mark Richt was the right guy at the wrong time; the Canes needing the 2006 version of the former Georgia Bulldogs head coach—not the 2016 guy leaning towards retirement with too many miles on the odometer after a 15-year run in the SEC—temporarily reignited when his alma mater called.

As for Diaz, that show was over before it started—former athletic director Blake James with a career-defining gaffe—paying Temple a reported $4,000,000 to bring his defensive coordinator home as head coach, 12 days after he’d agreed to taking over the Owls program and signed less than a day after Richt stepped down.

Due diligence and any legit interview and hiring process, be damned—which thankfully helped lead to James’ departure and the off-season hiring of Clemson’s Dan Radakovich—who Miami has since made the highest-paid athletic director nationwide.

Those who followed this program for decades—defeated is an understatement. The OG’s saw the top of the mountain in the 80’s and early 90’s, suffered through the probation era, saw Davis rebuild this program against all odds—only to capture that fifth national title in 2001, with Miami set up to dominate for years to come.

Instead, Davis’ extension was mismanaged and he bailed for the NFL payday—leaving the wheels to fall completely off in matter of years. Still, hope remained as no true college football power emerged—until Saban turned things around at Alabama and captured his first championship with the Crimson Tide in 2009.

At that moment, Miami was stuck hoping it could fail upwards—relying on past glory, and hoping it could keep enough local talent home to compete—which didn’t happen as the likes of Alabama, Georgia and the others started throwing millions of dollars at recruiting budgets, in effort to lure South Florida’s best out of state.

Wheels fell off New Year’s Eve 2005 in Atlanta and have never been put back on—until now—as Cristobal will change everything.

NO MORE FOOL’S GOLD; ‘THE U’ WITH REAL DEAL

Each new hire brought a modicum of home to Miami faithful—if Shannon could just lock down local talent, if Golden could create something out of nothing like he appeared to do at Temple, if the proven and experienced Richt could do with the Canes what he did earlier in his career with the Bulldogs—or if Diaz could find that 2017 defensive energy, coupled with bringing a prehistoric offense into the modern era.

All those “if” moments never panning out—while the Hurricanes put together a pathetic 118-85 run, starting that gut-wrenching night in Atlanta on December 31st, 2005.

Hope is what keeps college football fans coming back for more—albeit expectations vary on the respective program one pulls for. Some hope it’s the year they can simply beat a rival, others hope to win a division and to get a crack at a conference title—while the elite aim for conference championships, College Football Playoffs berths and playing for national championships.

Miami used to be a title-or-bust program back in the day; where a 10-2 run in 199o—capped with a 46-3 beatdown of No. 3 Texas in the Cotton Bowl and No. 3 rank in the final polls—was seen as a “down” season; an opening-season loss at No. 16 BYU getting the Canes off to a bad start, with title dreams ending in South Bend late October went falling to the sixth-ranked Irish.

To go from that, to only winning the Coastal Division one time since joining the ACC in 2004—boat-raced out of the stadium by Clemson, 38-3 in Miami’s lone ACC Championship Game appearance? The logical Cane learned to make peace with history, to appreciate the glory days and to hope for a resurgence—but to expect the worst, as 7-6 seasons were the new norm and 9-4 seasons were the new benchmark for a step-foward season.

All of this is what makes the Cristobal hire so hard to wrap one’s head and heart around less than three months in. These kinds of big-money moves happen at other programs—not at the University of Miami—highlighted in an October 2019 deep dive we did at ItsAUThing.com regarding the University of Georgia’s $200,000,000 investment in their program; the “Do More” campaign designed to help them make up what little ground their was between the Bulldogs and the University of Alabama Crimson Tide.

Two years later, the investment paid off and Georgia took home its first national championship since 1980. Could Miami legit be on a similar trajectory with Cristobal and the financial commitment the university is now making in its efforts to again become a contender?

LEARN TO BE A WINNER AGAIN; PROGRAM & FANS

Cocky as Miami fans come across, 16 seasons of being a pretender took a toll—that loser’s muscle memory real—which causes many of the negative reactions to any perceived setback; the time it took to assemble a staff, an assistant bailing for a bigger program or a 5-Star the Canes started chasing late in the process going elsewhere.

It’s almost as if many supporters of ‘The U’ don’t know what to do with any level of prosperity—while unable to “trust the process” of a real head coach, as so many previous frauds spouted the phrase and never delivered.

The tide as finally turned for Miami and before going into spring football, some Portal robbing and some spirited fall practices that set the stage for Cristobal’s inaugural season at his alma mater—a quick reset and acknowledgement of all that’s taking place.

Diaz is gone, Cristobal is home—and while the process of assistant-hiring didn’t fit the self-imposed timeline of many—the gangster, Saban-like moves of Miami’s native son are all that matter right now.

Months back, this program was on track for a Ponce to replace a Lashlee as offensive coordinator, while fans could only hope Diaz focused on his CEO role and brought someone like Strong run his defense. Instead, it’s Cristobal in charge, a head-coach-caliber offensive coordinator like Gattis in the driver’s seat, a salty veteran like Steele running the defense—and ballers like Ponce and Strong both stepping into coordinator-like roles, simply to be a part of something special that is brewing.

If that doesn’t get the orange and green juices flowing, check your pulse to make sure you’re alive.

Everything has changed overnight in Coral Gables—which is part of the reason it’s so hard for some to digest all that is taking place. That being the case, it’s time to exhale, sit back and enjoy the ride—because for the first time in a long time, there is a process that be trusted and a total pro in the driver’s seat—confidently on the move and chasing that sixth ring.


Chris Bello has been covering University of Miami athletics since the mid-nineties. Getting his start with CanesTime, he eventually launched allCanesBlog—which led to a featured columnist stint with
BleacherReport. He’s since rolled out the unfiltered, ItsAUThing.com where he’ll use his spare time to put decades of U-related knowledge to use for those who care to read. When he’s not writing about ‘The U’, Bello is a storyteller for some exciting brands and individuals—as well as a guitarist and songwriter for his band Company Jones, who just released their debut album “The Glow”. Hit him on Twitter for all things U-related @ItsAUThingBLOG.

DIAZ OUT, CRISTOBAL IN AND MIAMI HURRICANES READY TO AGAIN CHASE CHAMPIONSHIPS

Mario Cristobal is the new head coach of the University of Miami football program.

The feeling of typing and reading back those words remains incomprehensible in this whirlwind of a 2021 season—not to mention 15 years of incompetence and some degree of acceptance that “The U” would never again compete as a big time college football contender.

Equally as welcoming, the news that Manny Diaz is out—his Hurricanes entering the preseason with a glimmer of hope, a No. 15 ranking and expected to take a step forward in a make-or-break third year for the now former head coach.

Instead, the type of free-fall that ended an era and ushered in a new one—humbled by Alabama in the opener and a late kick needed to survive Appalachian State the following week, only to see Miami then outworked and out-hustled by a Michigan State squad with a second-year coach looking much further ahead than UM’s third-year guy.

The Spartans were the ones who were supposed to wilt in that sweltering South Florida heat and humidity—not the homegrown kids, who held up those fourth quarter “four fingers” before getting outscored 21-3 over the final 15 minutes.

The ugly 1-2 start prompted ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit—the Hurricanes’ unofficial 2021 MVP after all that’s unfolded—to undress UM’s top brass in front of the nation, hours before Miami beat up on a glorified high school out of Connecticut and mugged for cameras with chain and rings like they were en route to 4-0.

No sooner were all eyes a fledgling Miami program, Diaz went 0-2 in conference play in a Coastal-or-Bust season—the Canes now 2-4 as defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory against Virginia and North Carolina, who both finished the year with matching 6-6 records.

A freshman quarterback played some rookie-of-the-year level football—literally—which did nothing but postpone the inevitable, as an MVP offensive performance only masked the fact that Diaz retaking over the defensive coordinator role was a disaster; Miami the worst-tackling unit in the nation for most of this season, when defense has always been UM’s calling card.

The comeback narrative exploded in tragic, yet necessary fashion—a disastrous loss against a Florida State squad that had won six total games over a two-year span.

All of Diaz’s warts were on display in this rivalry showdown; from an opening quarter where Miami had eight penalties—false starts, late hits and mental mistakes—to a comeback blown after failing to convert on a late third down and surrendering a 4th-and-14 dagger, which capped an 11-0 run for the Seminoles in the game’s final minutes.

DIAZ: TOOK LUCKY BREAK, BROKE IT IN TWO

The tank-job in Tallahassee saw any comeback narrative fast crashing and burning, rendering lackluster wins over Virginia Tech and Duke completely meaningless, outside of bowl eligibility and a ticket punched for El Paso to take on Washington State month’s end.

On his way out the door, Diaz lobbied like the son-of-a-politician; working to spin negatives into positives—focused on kids not quitting, despite facing “significant injuries and adversity”, as well as “unique challenges” to which his players “repeatedly responded”.

Zero talk about a 2-4 start, or the fact a 3-1 run in November was against bottom-dwelling teams that finished the season with a 17-31 combined record—in the worst collective year the ACC has seen in forever; No. 17 Pittsburgh and No. 18 Wake Forest facing off in a lackluster championship game—Diaz whiffing when the Coastal was wide open and a basketball school took the Atlantic.

When the smoke finally cleared, Diaz was 21-15 after three years—on par with the type of dead-end runs predecessors like Randy Shannon and Al Golden put together before soon fired—as well as 0-2 in the postseason, zero division titles and a slew of signature losses, with no landmark victories.

Many clamored for Diaz’s exit as far back as 2019, when the first-year coach was upended by former Miami dynasty architect Butch Davis and Florida International—Canes players rolling in flat and dancing on the sidelines while down 23-3 in the fourth quarter against a commuter college, before waking up and seeing comeback fall short.

The Golden Panthers have won one measly football game since that colossal upset over Miami two years ago.

A week later, the still-punch drunk Canes were embarrassed at Duke and then shutout by Louisiana Tech in a meaningless bowl—6-7 in a season that started with Diaz mixing it up with players and tacking dummies with “7-6” on their chests, in the same building Cristobal would hold an introductory presser less than three years later.

Diaz was part of an ongoing rinse-wash-repeat process; knee-jerk hires, low-rent up-and-coming coaches and rebuild-after-rebuild do-over moments—and without a recent influx of money and a handful of big-money boosters taking things into their own hands—history shows that there would’ve been a year four, if not more for Diaz.

Cristobal’s has come up for years—half of a crowded board of trustees room lobbying for him in 2019 when Diaz was hired, but the rest of the room too shaken by Oregon’s buy-out to entertain the notion as a reality. As Diaz stumbled to a losing inaugural season, Cristobal went 12-2, winning the Pac-12, a Rose Bowl and conference coach of the year honors.

The refrain with Diaz was the same as with a Golden or a Shannon; Miami could ill afford to send their current coach packing, couldn’t afford a wish-list coach’s buyout and certainly couldn’t take on a bloated top-flight head coach’s salary—let alone his demands for the next-level staff it’d take for him to even entertain the move.

In the matter of weeks, months or even years—the embarrassing hat-in-hand, frugal mindset went up in smoke.

MONEY FINALLY TALKED; BULLSH*T SENT PACKING

Jaded and stuck-in-their-ways, millionaire board of trustees members who once yielded all the power—pushed aside when big-dick-energy, nine-zero-having billionaires took the reigns; Canes loyalists like John Ruiz and Jorge Mas and their respective families very vocal in their desire to see Diaz’s #TheNewMiami looking more like old, ass-kicking, take-no-prisoners Miami and that decade of dominance era that once defined this proud program.

There was also the COVID-inspired turnaround of Miami’s own U-Health department; in the red for years, but now in the black to the tune of almost a billion dollars the past two years—yet there currently so much donor money at play, the Canes haven’t even had to tap into medical school profits.

Should athletics need any of those funds, president Dr. Julio Frenk has seen the light—thanks to guys like Rudy Fernandez—abandoning the old eat-what-you-kill attitude former president Donna Shalala had towards athletics; hence Miami leaving Nike for more adidas money, or abandoning the Big East for the ACC and the TV revenue that came by way of a more-prestigious conference.

The University of Miami literally went from digging in couch cushions for money, to doing Scrooge McDuck dives in a swimming pool full of greenbacks—again, unfathomable after years of crying poor.

This return to the University of Miami was always Cristobal’s dream job—even if he wisely and professionally chose to avoid putting his homecoming through any nostalgic filter during Tuesday’s welcoming press conference. The passionate, calculated and driven head coach is showing a degree of gratitude regarding the pinch-me opportunity—while staying on-brand with his time-is-wasting, let’s-get-to-work attitude and energy.

This quickly and wisely shuts down the emotion-related queries that reporters in Eugene and Coral Gables are chasing, in effort make sense of and to humanize the moment—but for reeling Ducks fans making sense of the departure, as well as Canes fans clamoring for soundbites signaling a return to glory; Cristobal also staying on point with the now and future at “The U”, without getting distracted by the type of nostalgia the media loves peddling fans.

Without all this found money and new power moves, Cristobal would still be in Oregon today—a fool to abandon what he was building with the Ducks. Resources galore in a Pac-12 conference ripe for the taking for years—where he could take the blueprint he helped implement under Nick Saban at Alabama in four years as an assistant head coach, offensive coordinator and head of recruiting, learning from the best in the business.

Cristobal was so respected in his four-year run in Tuscaloosa, many had him on a short list to replace Saban when the iconic head coach steps down in the coming years—a logical landing place after chasing Pac-12 titles and Playoff berths in Eugene, which was in the cards soon enough, proven by a 35-13 stint heading back to an interim bowl game loss in 2017.

Tossing out last year’s COVID-defined season—more brutal for the Pac-12 than others, as suspect leadership resulted in a shortened season and later start than most—Cristobal went 22-5 in 2019 and 2021 combined; winning the division twice, a conference championship and a spirited Rose Bowl.

Flaws? Sure, there was an annual loss-of-focus moment where Oregon pissed away championship dreams—tripped up by an average Pac-12 opponent it should’ve rolled—not to mention the buzzsaw Cristobal ran into against Utah this season, dropping two of his final three games with the Ducks in ugly fashion; his offense looking nothing like the squad that dropped 550 yards and 35 points on third-ranked Ohio State in Columbus months back.

All that to say, the good greatly outweighs any bad—and outside of Saban, every coach in the sport seems to have moments and games like these. The goal is to keep working for season-long focus, which comes in due time with veteran leadership, the right players and those special seasons where championships are within reach—the team feeling it and getting into an unflinchable zone.

CANES IN THICK OF COLLEGE FOOTBALL CHESS MOVES

A week before Miami landed Cristobal, USC fired a shot and pulled Lincoln Riley from Norman to Los Angeles, hours after Oklahoma choked away a Big 12 title game berth and crack at the Playoffs, falling to rival Oklahoma State in the regular season finale, along with an earlier loss against Baylor which came back to haunt.

Last year, early-season losses to unranked Kansas State and Iowa State had Riley and OU in a fast 1-2 hole, before bouncing back and winning the Big 12—but the damage was done and Playoffs dreams ended in September. The year prior, the Sooners were in last in the final four and crushed by top-seeded LSU—but still had no answer for an inexcusable loss to a Kansas State squad that finished 8-5 and fell to Navy in the Liberty Bowl.

No sooner was Riley a Trojan, Brian Kelly bailed South Bend for Baton Rouge and a monster payday from LSU—abandoning the one-loss Irish after a dozen years at the helm. A regular season home loss to Cincinnati kept Notre Dame out of this year’s Playoffs; one of many head-scratching losses in Kelly’s career—though less egregious than the postseason beatings he’s taken over the years.

Last year the Irish were dismantled by Clemson, in a COVID year ACC title game appearance, then smacked around by Alabama in the semifinals, outscored 65-24 over eight quarters of big time football—proof that Kelly had his his ceiling in South Bend. His best there wasn’t going to cut it—Kelly needed a bigger time program if he wanted to win a national championship, hence the fake Southern accent and beeline towards the Bayou state.

The disgruntled folks in Oregon can fight and deny it, but Cristobal’s decision proves that Miami is the better program when the Hurricanes are hitting on all cylinders—which hasn’t been the case for two decades, until this week.

The way UM refused to invest in football over the years, zero argument that UO ran smoother—with their top-notch facilities and Phil Knight shoe money pumping—swinging for the fences and more upside as a result.

Not anymore.

Not with the abundant talent in South Florida and not with the return of a hometown hero, with two decades of deep recruiting ties and newfound support from UM to seriously get after it.

Still, for all the financial talk and boasting about Oregon’s deep pockets, it was Miami who came in hot with the $8 million-per-year, 10-year offer—trumping the annual $7 million the Ducks were willing to pay—and its the Canes who are allocating an $8 million annually for assistants, which now tops the number Clemson allows Dabo Swinney for his guys.

Cristobal’s coaching prowess, his new financial resources, UM’s aggressive new attitude—as well as the talent pool in the Canes’ backyard—it all adds up to Miami having another gear Oregon wasn’t expecting.

A paradigm shift has taken place and “The U” is officially back—because these long-awaited changes are set to deliver conference championships, Playoffs appearances and the big-time football the Canes would never see again if competing on a budget and hoping stars would align someway, somehow.

The new-look Miami and these type of deep-pocket resources; Cristobal is being set up for success—just like powerhouses in Alabama and Georgia—both of which spend more money on recruiting than any other NCAA programs, in effort to lock down the talent in UM’s backyard.

The result; the best of Dade, Broward and Palm Beach county have been leaving the state en masse for Tuscaloosa and Athens—chasing conference titles and national championships.

CANES DAYS OF LOSING TOP-FLIGHT TALENT ENDS NOW

The recruiting pipeline out of what Howard Schnellenberger dubbed “The State Of Miami”—it’s been broken since Larry Coker attempted to keep alive what Butch Davis worked so hard to rebuild decades ago.

Forget what Alabama stealing an Amari Cooper out of Northwestern or Georgia going into American Heritage and poaching a lifelong UM fan like Sony Michel—what about losing Central’s Devonta Freeman and Dalvin Cook to Florida State at a time when both the Noles and Canes were average and on a level playing field?

Even lowly Louisville built it’s entire program on having it’s way with top Miami prospects when Charlie Strong ran the show and pulled recently-fired Canes defensive line coach Clint Hurtt north when the Shannon era came to a close.

The Cardinals’ 2011 roster featured 25 players from Schnellenberg’s fenced-off region—including a dozen from Dade County; eight of which hailed from Northwestern—including quarterback and receiver duo, Teddy Bridgewater and Eli Rogers.

Screw an article, one could write a book regarding almost two decade’s worth of local prospects bailing on the Hurricanes, coaching turnover and low-rent rebuilds. Forget what Alabama, Georgia, Florida State or Louisville was peddling—it came down to what Miami couldn’t offer.

So many kids and their parents who grew up on “The U”—looking for any way to justify their kids playing at home, but in the end forced to accept that the hometown program lost its way and their kids would be better off taking their talents elsewhere.

All of this explains why Hurricanes fans are jumping out of their skin over an a head coach who just got his teeth kicked in by Utah two times in the past three weeks. Oregon in whatever shape or form they were in under Cristobal this fall; pales in comparison to what he can bring to UM, with a new-school attitude, budget an big-Cane energy—set to produce two vastly different results.

Cristobal is the first sitting Power Five head coach Miami has hired since Dennis Erickson left Washington State for South Florida in 1989—eventually replaced by Davis, who cut his teeth under Jimmy Johnson as a defensive assistant at Miami and went next level with the Dallas Cowboys; winning championships at both stops.

Davis’ recruiting efforts could never receive enough praise; the 2001 roster he assembled—and even the “how”—hamstrung with lost scholarships in the late nineties due to years on probation, yet still cherry-picking talent and the right-fit guys to rebuild this program.

PATH TO MARIO (UN)OFFICIALLY UNDERWAY FOR YEARS

Cristobal’s recruiting success has been on display for years. Nationally recognized for his road wins at Alabama, there’s also a Davis 2.0 aspect to what he brings in this return home; as it’s not just about talent—it’s about identifying Miami guys and seeking the kind of player that will be an ideal fit for this unique program.

The beauty of a five-year run as a player between 1988 and 1992—when the program went 55-5, won two national titles (1989, 1991), lost a championship game (1992) and was arguably the best team in the nation the two years it didn’t play for it all (1988, 1990)—the high-level players Cristobal was around daily. The attitudes, the work ethic, the way championship players carry themselves.

Cristobal also saw it as a grad assistant between as Miami was turning a post-probation corner; part of that 1998 team that went from a 66-13 drubbing at Syracuse to a thrilling 49-45 upset of second-ranked UCLA days later.

There for that statement win in the Meadowlands against No. 9 Ohio State in the 1999 opener, the near-takedown of No. 2 Penn State at the Orange Bowl weeks later and match-ups at No. 1 Florida State or No. 2 Virginia Tech—teams that owned probation-era Miami, but a feeling the was turning as players were growing into future superstars overnight.

When Miami broke five-game losing streaks to the defending national champ Seminoles and title-game runner-up Hokies in 2000, the Canes were back—and snubbed of a title shot, took their frustration out on No. 7 Florida in the Sugar Bowl—off the field in a notorious Bourbon Street brawl, as well as the Superdome via a 38-20 smackdown.

The muscle memory of Miami’s 26th head coach as both a player and an assistant—as well as where his coaching trajectory took him over the past 15 years the Hurricanes were bleeding out—it all led back to this moment.

“What better place than here—what better time than now?,” as Rage Against The Machine so passionately shouted it two decades back, as the Canes turned their 1999 comeback corner.

Further proof this is a game-changer for Miami; the reaction from the outside—proving the “us against the world” mentality is back in full-force—as the college football universe gets chippy whenever the Hurricanes seem to be on to something.

The critics, rivals and haters prefer “The U” stands on the precipice of greatness; living for those early-season runs where outsiders—not insiders—start with all the premature, “Is ‘The U’ back?” chatter, knowing it’s not and getting ready to pop the bubbly when the Canes ultimately fall.

UM football is polarizing and when talking about a small, private school nestled in Coral Gables—where most fans aren’t alumni—there is going to be more hate surrounding this program than love.

The heads on College GameDay often quick to say the sport is better when Miami is a contender; they know the Hurricanes are good for ratings. Many of ESPN’s top-ranked games have UM on the marquee; most of the nation tuning in praying “The U” gets wrecked—which has been often as Miami sports a 118-85 record dating back to a 2005 Peach Bowl beating courtesy of LSU, 40-3.

THE ERA OF DOUBLE STANDARDS RETURN

Look at all the outside chatter this week and the hypocrisy surrounding Miami’s efforts to land Cristobal, opposed to what USC and LSU did to nab their big fish.

Zero focus on how Riley abandoned Oklahoma hours after losing at Bedlam and sending rival Oklahoma State to the Big 12 title game and pissing away a shot at the Playoffs—or fact that conversations with the Trojans obviously took place for weeks, based on how quickly a deal came together.

The same for Kelly’s coarse goodbye to his players, the morning after they learned via the wire that he was bailing out—not to mention viral video of his faux Cajun accent in his first public outing as the Tigers’ new head coach—both non-news stories that were buried within a day.

Riley to USC and Kelly to LSU are feel-good stories—no one in the media harping on how Oklahoma or LSU were left high and dry—or chastising the process.

After years of penny-pinching and media rants about how a college football is better when Miami is contender—moves are made to precisely shift that narrative—the Canes writing checks to compete and bringing home their native son in epic fashion; the media wants to make it all about the “how”.

Cristobal—known as one of the good guys and one of the sport’s brightest coaching stars—landing his dream job; nitpicking articles immediately pointing out that UM didn’t show “common courtesy” in reaching out to Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens for permission to speak to the Ducks then-head coach—while hammering Miami for how it handled Diaz over a 48-hour period; Cristobal chatter starting up hours after Friday night’s Pac-12 game, deals worked on over the weekend, Diaz fired Monday morning and Cristobal-to-The-U official by Tuesday. 

Coaching at this level is a cut-throat game and all seems to be fair in love and war, until it happens at Miami; the forced outrage and case-building to constantly make UM the villain—yet lost in how Miami supposedly mistreated Diaz, the fact three years prior the recently-fired Canes leader was the one doing the screwing.

Hired by Temple mid-December 2019, Diaz strangely stuck around the Miami program for a last hurrah at defensive coordinator—a meaningless third-tier bowl game after a 7-5 season—when he should’ve been in Philadelphia building a staff, on on the road closing recruits, much like Cristobal has since arriving in Coral Gables late Monday night.

Wisconsin went on to smoke Miami in Pinstripe Bowl, 35-3 on Thursday December 28th—third-year head coach Mark Richt calling it a career the morning of Sunday December 30th. Diaz—back to South Florida from New York, dealing with loose ends before heading back north—openly lobbied for Richt’s job, had his agent pressuring UM to get a deal done immediately and 16 days after agreeing to terms with Temple, he was named Miami’s 25th head coach; the same evening his boss stepped down.

THEY HATE US ‘CAUSE THEY AIN’T US…

The logic-driven college football fan would quickly formulate a thought that Diaz arguably got what he had coming in some karmic fashion—doing Temple dirty, finding payback in how Miami let him squirm for a few days—and that’d be the end of it.

Instead, outsiders and national writers have turned into social justice warriors overnight—feigning outrage over how Diaz was treated, when in all reality the displaced frustration is solely rooted in Miami landing a top-flight coach ready to lead them back to the promised land.

ESPN’s Andrea Adelson—a Miami native, University of Florida graduate and former columnist of the Independent Florida Alligator—went attack-mode in her latest piece; that Gators DNA pumping as she talked up the Cristobal hire, as well as reports that Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich is also UM-bound.

“Simply throwing money at the problem, and making two good hires on paper, is not going to cure a rotten culture that has surrounded the program, seeped into its very foundation, spread its tentacles and suffocated those who have tried to change it.

That rotten culture left Miami officials—desperate to land Cristobal—to abandon decency and class and leave another native son, former coach Manny Diaz, dangling in the wind for nearly two weeks while it cajoled someone else to take his job”, Adelson wrote in sanctimonious fashion.

The long-time columnist even let emotions get in the way of facts when describing Richt’s exit in late 2018.

“That rotten culture places outsized, unrealistic expectations on everyone who walks in the door, and as soon as the struggles begin, lights fires only to watch them burn. Nobody is given time to get anything done. Look at celebrated coach Mark Richt. It was only five years ago his hire was celebrated and former athletic director Blake James was praised for doing what nobody thought possible. But when things went bad in Year 3, the pitchforks came out and Richt resigned.”

Not one word in her piece about the offensive-minded Richt fielding one of the most-prehistoric offenses Miami has seen in decades—in line with former defensive coordinator Diaz taking back defensive reigns this season, while that side of the ball backslid and was the worst-tackling, underperforming units in the nation.

Same for letting emotion replace fact, resulting in selective memory as there were “pitchforks” out for Richt; just an ask that the veteran coach bring in a quality play caller and sticking to a CEO role, instead of the nepotism that kept his son Jon Richt coaching quarterbacks and involved in the offensive game-planning.

Worn down from 15 years in the SEC—leaning towards retirement before his alma mater called—Richt tapped out as the rebuild seemed too daunting. There was also a recent diagnoses of early onset Parkinson’s Disease—which he wasn’t ready to share with the world—which Adelson left out of her carefully-worded piece, working in the phrase “rotten culture” in three consecutive sentences.

Adelson is hardly alone in her shaming of Miami’s handling of its break-up with Diaz and it’s courting of Cristobal—but a noteworthy example as her tone shift over a 19-day span is telling.

Weeks back Adelson went all-in on a glowing piece regarding the 20-year anniversary of the 2001 national champion Miami Hurricanes—quick to lean on “South Florida” street-cred—growing up 250 miles north of Miami, in Orlando—and landing a gig with the Orlando Sentinel upon a return from Gainesville.

“I had a front-row seat as the Miami beat writer for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, that season. I grew up in South Florida, and watched the previous four Miami national champions closely. I went to the University of Florida, where as a freshman in 1995, the Nebraska Cornhuskers staked their claim to the greatest-of-all-time throne after dismantling the Gators in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl. I still have visions of Tommie Frazier leaving Gator defenders in his wake,” Adelson wrote.

The piece went on to nostalgically praise the 2001 talent-heavy Hurricanes—how hard they hit, how hard they worked, how they dominated the opposition—as well as the unparalleled leadership and how accessible, mature and professional the faces of the program were.

“That openness allowed us to truly get to know the players and coaches, and develop a rapport with them, so we could tell their stories in a deeper way — and share a fair narrative as the season unfolded. Nobody was too “big time” for anything. We could see with our own eyes what made that team go.”

Praising Miami’s past greatness so easy, even a Gator could do it—Adelson reaffirming these Hurricanes of 20 years ago were undoubtedly college football’s GOAT’s. Giving UM it’s due as the program officially rises from the ashes—an immediate narrative shift—rivalry DNA arguably kicking in and partially fueled by savior Dan Mullen flopping, while feigning excitement for the Billy Napier era, as Miami jumps out of its collective skin landing a whale like Cristobal.

Or maybe it’s simply good business, as Miami is a polarizing program and an ESPN writer is going to gain more traction riling up rival fans and outsiders about the Hurricanes making moves than they would speaking from the place of someone with true insight to “The U”—fully aware what an unprecedented, out-of-nowhere move this was for the long-time, cry-poor university.

Supporters of UM, alumni or even beat writers and long-time op-ed columnists—well aware Miami is back on track when forced again to embrace the hate—rivals and opposition in a fit of rage, arguing points with emotion instead of logic and harping on the way something was done, opposed to what was accomplished—which was the way stories about Riley to USC or Kelly to LSU were reported, or digested.

Miami won’t be “back” overnight—but there’s no denying the seismic shift that just took place in college football, as the Hurricanes followed up big moves by Southern Cal and LSU with resounding checkmate. “The U” is technically *back* when that sixth national championship is claimed, but safe to say Miami is a legit contender again and won’t be backing in ACC title games, or trying to win division titles on a wing and a prayer.

Cristobal isn’t perfect, but he checks off every box that matters most—and he’ll not only be embraced by his hometown and alma mater with open arms—he’ll do with with a level of financial and administrative support never seen before at the University of Miami.

Combine that with the lockdown about to be put on Schnellenberger’s “State Of Miami” as well as the ability to send one of the game’s best recruiters into the homes of top talent nationwide…you already know.

Heed the warning, college football pundits—December 6th, 2021 is the day the game completely changed…one mo’ ‘gen. The college football universe has been puton notice; building a champion has become top priority for the University of Miami—and with the right coach, the infrastructure, the blank checks and proximity to the nation’s best talent—you have every right to be mad, sad, scared and despaired.

Been a minute since this phrase held any meaning, but it’s a Canes thing—y’all wouldn’t understand.

Chris Bello has been covering University of Miami athletics since the mid-nineties. Getting his start with CanesTime, he eventually launched allCanesBlog—which led to a featured columnist stint with BleacherReport. He’s since rolled out the unfiltered, ItsAUThing.com where he’ll use his spare time to put decades of U-related knowledge to use for those who care to read. When he’s not writing about ‘The U’, Bello is a storyteller for some exciting brands and individuals—as well as a guitarist and songwriter for his band Company Jones, who just released their debut album “The Glow”. Hit him on Twitter for all things U-related @ItsAUThingBLOG.

CALM BEFORE THE STORM; INNOVATE-OR-DIE MOMENT FOR ‘THE U’ IS HERE

It’s been days since the Miami Hurricanes ended their 2021 regular season and all remains quiet in Coral Gables—sans a slew of boisterous fans with “sources” attempting to predict the future, while others remain in sky-is-falling mode—trusting that UM will stay true to its flawed ways, never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

Understandable concern considering 15 years of football incompetence and an administration that has gotten it wrong more often than right. Lame duck coaching hire after lame duck coaching hire, Miami is now 118-85 since LSU smacked the Canes around in the 2005 Peach Bowl—which was the official car crash ending of UM’s previous dynasty.

The most recent low-rent hire—Manny Diaz—now a disappointing 21-15 as year three draws to a close.

In what was supposed to be a step-forward season for this Diaz-led squad, Miami limp-dicked it’s way to 7-5, in arguably the worst collective season the ACC has seen in years; No. 17 Pittsburgh set to face No. 18 Wake Forest in Charlotte for all the conference marbles this weekend.

The Canes went 3-1 in November—including an unforgivable loss at Florida State—against foes that were a combined 17-31 on the year. Prior to that loss, a three-game win-streak that was nothing more than lipstick on a pig after a brutal 2-4 start.

Miami finished on a two-game win-streak after the disaster in Tallahassee, rolling Duke, 47-10 last weekend—which should’ve been the case, considering the Blue Devils finished 3-9, went winless in the ACC, and ride and eight-game losing streak into 2022–with a new head coach as David Cutcliffe was let go days back.

Louisville hung 62 points on Duke, while the ACC’s “best”—Pittsburgh and Wake Forest—dropped 54 and 45 points, respectively.

The Blue Devils were doomed from the start; losing to Conference USA bottom-dweller Charlotte in their season-opener. Miami should’ve beaten the brakes off these guys by even more, after dropping two of the previous three to a basketball school.

A CHANGE IS GONNA COME

A changing of the guard at Duke doesn’t even scratch the surface regarding the coaching carousel that’s taken place in college football over the past few days; massive shots fired in Los Angeles and Baton Rouge, where Southern Cal and LSU both let it be known they’re on missions to build champions—price tags be damned.

Lincoln Riley walked away from Oklahoma on the heels of a 10-2 season—hours after losing to rival Oklahoma State—becoming the next head coach of the Trojans. A day later, Brian Kelly bailed on a one-loss Notre Dame squad knocking on the door of the College Football Playoffs—taking his talents down to the bayou, in effort to chase championships with top-flight Tigers talent that he never pulled in South Bend.

Calling these seismic shifts for the sport is a gross understatement; big time coaches leaving big time programs for bigger time destinations and championship-caliber programs that are ready to chase titles.

Conference shuffles are also underway, as the SEC builds a Marvel-like super-power—welcoming Oklahoma and Texas next year—while the Big 12 attempts to reload by adding Cincinnati, Central Florida, BYU and Houston to its roster.

Throw in rumblings about the playoffs expanding to eight teams—if not more—and it’s become crystal clear that the entire sport is exploding in a manner set to further separate the haves from the have-nots.

Translation; if the University of Miami doesn’t get its collective shit together, break the bank and embrace a football-centric attitude and approach—it will be nothing but nostalgia for the Hurricanes from this moment forward. Lower the casket, start shoveling the dirt and remember the good times via a pair of 30 For 30 documentaries, as ‘The U’ will be deader than a doornail without some massive moves being made immediately.

All this to say, it appears said moves are being made—albeit not on the timeline an impatient fan base wants—but none of that matters as long as Miami gets its guys in the coming days; both a football-driven athletic director and new head coach capable of building a winner.

Fragile egos and public callouts make for strange bedfellows, but the two overlapped late September of this year when ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit used his College GameDay platform to tell the sports world that the University of Miami didn’t give a shit about football anymore.

Feathers were ruffled and four dozen egotistical board of trustees members were probably quick to puff up, but it didn’t make the statement any less true—an embarrassing track record of bad hires, coaching turnover, average seasons and one division title since joining the ACC in 2004; proof how far the mighty had fallen—which Herby was all over.

Kirk Herbstreit’s September 25th takedown of Miami football set winds of change in motion.

“Until you get a president and an AD and a coach together on the same page, I guess football doesn’t matter. It matters to the alums, to the brotherhood of ‘The U’—but I don’t know if it matters to the people making the decisions at Miami and if they don’t change that, it doesn’t matter who’s the head coach,” Herbstreit shared in his mic-drop moment.

Miami players went out and routed Central Connecticut State that afternoon, but it was a hollow victory for any with deep loyalty to this program—the Hurricanes sitting at 2-2 and about to find themselves 2-4 weeks later after stumbling out the gate in conference play.

UM president Dr. Julio Frenk penned an awkward letter days later in effort to calm a frazzled fan base, explaining that the university could “either be disrupted” or could “play a role in strategically shaping the course of disruption”.

There was also what sounded like fluff when signing off’; calling the Canes “one of the preeminent programs in college athletics” and reminding readers that “excellence in academics and excellence in athletics are not mutually exclusive”, despite no recent behavior to back that up.

CAN’T PUT BAND-AID ON CANCER; IT’S OVER

Over the coming weeks, Diaz was bailed out by an all-world, MVP-like quarterback performance from Tyler Van Dyke—who went on to deservedly win ACC Offensive Rookie of the Year honors; his efforts under center masking an abysmal defensive effort from Diaz’s side of the ball—causing short-sighted fans to bask in empty calorie victories that could’ve potentially earned an in-over-his-head coach an underserved fourth season.

A three-game win-streak was halted in Tallahassee—as was any notion Miami was turning a corner. Diaz put on a masterclass in how not to manage a football game in the waning moments; giving up 11 points in the game’s final two defensive drives—while surrendering a 4th-and-14, as well as not being able to convert a game-ending third down.

Brutal to digest in the moment, falling to a dismal Florida State team that had won a whopping six games in two-and-a-half seasons—all the goodwill surrounding recent wins was out the window. On Monday morning, maligned athletic director Blake James was finally out of a job and the first domino had fallen regarding sweeping change.

Articles began to surface, as did interviews from those with ties to the program. Information that monies were actually available—and that the old Donna Shalala way of sports programs only eating what they killed would be no more under the new president.

Miami’s U-Health department was back in the black, profiting upwards of $800M over two years; $20-30M of that found money set to annually go into football’s new budget—and information shared that Frenk’s eyes were initially opened as far back as 2017, when College GameDay took over campus hours before Miami went on to smoke third-ranked Notre Dame on national television.

UM finally appeared to have a president that understood how a successful football program is the ultimate marketing tool for the university and it’s overall brand—and now there was actually money to pour back into the sport.

The lightbulb finally went on—holy shit—a eureka moment after 15 years of heads being planted in the sand. Will wonders never cease.

While this was all welcomed news to a disgruntled fan base, these leaks were also smoke signals being sent from Coral Gables to Eugene, Oregon—as former Canes offensive lineman, two-time national champion and current Ducks head coach Mario Cristobal is far and away UM’s top target to replace Diaz—as he should be.

Same to be said for the direction the university wants to go with its athletic director; carefully crafted language about this being a football-centric hire and names of former greats like Gino Torretta and Alonzo Highsmith being tossed around; Diaz reportedly instrumental in blocking Highsmith from getting on board in a GM role two years back, instead opting for Ed Reed in a powerless Chief of Staff role to “appease” the fan base.

Miami’s recent revelations directly countered the correct-at-the-time notions Herbstreit shared—and the sent shockwaves through the college football stratosphere, much to the chagrin of those that had left the Canes for dead years ago.

Where Miami’s realistic coaching options looked dismal in late 2006, 2010 and even 2015, before Mark Richt threw his tired hat in the ring—the Canes have some realistic option they haven’t had in the past.

Outside of Cristobal remaining mum on the matter—doing nothing to take his name out of the running, or pledge his allegiance to Oregon—many in the Lane Kiffin camp leaked that the Ole Miss coach would crawl on broken glass from Oxford to Coral Gables for the Miami job; a far cry from the likes of Randy Edsall, Marc Trestman or others who were mentioned for the UM head coaching gig over the past decade.

Kiffin would be a massive upgrade from Diaz, as would countless other ready-to-jump coaches in the sport—but Cristobal is the most-logical option and is thankfully UM’s top choice, even if their “Columbus mafia” strong-arming and crowded board of trustees efforts are flawed.

UM FOREVER IN OWN WAY, CAN STILL GET IT RIGHT

A broken process can still deliver the correct result, which will be the case if Cristobal is named Miami’s 26th head coach soon after he’s coached Oregon in Friday night’s Pac-12 championship game—which appears to be unfolding based on what’s not being said or done.

Whatever the Diaz camp has pulled off by leaking stories or shifting the narrative, the University of Miami has done nothing to back the movement. Articles that Diaz “could” return in 2022; zero reason to not confirm that days after the regular season finale was in the books and Miami coaches are out attempting to recruit.

Alonzo Highsmith’s podcast with the Orange Bowl Boys confirmed he’s the answer for a GM-type football role at UM.

Arizona State faithful are frustrated with Herm Edwards—now 25-17 four years into his tenure in Tempe. Many were clamoring for his firing after an 8-4 run; few even fazed by the Sun Devils’ rout of rival Arizona last weekend and more focused on the future.

No sooner was the Territorial Cup victory in the books—defensive back Chase Lucas and athletic director Ray Anderson both stated in post-game pressers that Edwards would return. Edwards even did the same in the Pac-12 Network pre-game show, stating, “I’m the coach here. I’m coming back. I’m not going anywhere. I’m a Sun Devil.”

Outside of what Miami is not saying, Cristobal isn’t saying anything either—leaving some Oregon fans to question his future, while others downplay his ties to his alma mater and hometown; a belief he’d never leave where he’s at for where he’s from.

A public commitment to staying in Oregon would also calm any locker room chaos as his team prepares for a conference title game against a Utah team that spanked them, 35-7 weeks back in Salt Lake City—but there’s been nothing, outside what one would assume is standard coach-speak around ignoring outside noise and rumors and focusing on the task at hand.

Even if Cristobal were to talk down the Miami opportunity, those words would mean nothing in this high stakes poker game head coaches are now forced to play. Moments after Oklahoma fell to Oklahoma State at Bedlam—conference title game dreams dashed—Riley was asked about his future.

“I’m not going to be the next head coach at LSU,” was his answer. The following morning, news breaking that Riley was headed to Los Angeles and would be the next coach at USC; a move that certainly made him a prick in Norman, but not a liar, by way of omission.

The following evening, news breaking out of Baton Rouge that Kelly was walking away from a one-loss Notre Dame program on the brink of a Playoffs berth—the world finding out hours before he was scheduled to meet with his team to share the departure in person.

“IT’S A CANES THING…”—A LIFESTYLE, NOT A SLOGAN

On paper, it would make sense of Cristobal chose to stay at Oregon over Miami—perception becoming reality, as the Ducks have recently won their conference, won a few Rose Bowls and even lost a national title game in the past dozen years, while the Hurricanes have been in a tailspin over that same timeline.

All that to say, life isn’t played out on paper—it’s in 3-D and living color, fueled by emotional decisions and heartfelt moments. These forks in the road are big ones—timing always a factor, as are personal dreams, goals and the legacies we want to leave behind.

What the folks in Eugene are missing; that brotherhood of ‘The U’ on display in those aforementioned 30 For 30 docs. The University of Miami cannot compete with the pageantry seen in smaller college towns, where athletics are the big fish in a little pond—packed stadiums week in and week out; football the lifeblood for most of these cities.

Highsmith touched on this on a recent podcast; Miami guys are a different breed. They sign up to play for UM knowing that stadium will only be filled when they’re playing at a high level, winning big and Hurricanes games become the event in town that day or night.

They know the facilities are good enough, but not over the top—and they develop a chip on their shoulder as a result. They carry it over to battles on Greentree or off-season workouts.

ESPN recently ran a piece about the 20-year anniversary of the 2001 Hurricanes—arguably the greatest collection in history—and it opened with a story about players choosing to workout at 1:00 p.m. in the sweltering South Florida heat and humidity.

Nobody really wanted to do this, but they knew they had to—as to not squander a chance to bring home the program’s first championship in a decade.

“They were the hardest workouts we ever did,” cornerback Mike Rumph said. “But it was crucial to never show how much pain we were in. We used to say that was the easiest workout and we would suck our fingers, like that was pie. It started as a joke first, but it just went to like, no matter what you put us through, we can’t be hurt. We’re tougher than you think.”

Cristobal played for Miami from 1989 through 1992, meaning he was part of the program’s third national championship as a true freshman, watched the Canes squander a shot at another the following year (but getting to wreck No. 3 Texas as a Cotton Bowl consolation prize, 46-3) and then going undefeated for a second national title in 1991, but failing again at another bid for back-to-back rings in the Sugar Bowl the following year.

Two national championships, two left on the field and a 44-4 record playing for his hometown program in its heyday—it will take someone with Cristobal’s muscle memory to want to get Miami back on track for all the right reasons.

UM tried this with Randy Shannon, but the former linebacker wasn’t head coaching material—as proven by his career trajectory since he was let go after the 2010 season; a position coach for years, before eventually working his way back up to defensive coordinator.

Mario Cristobal checks off every box regarding the only direction ‘The U’ should turn in it’s rebuild.

Richt also fit the former-player-who-gets-the-brand mold, but rolled in on fumes after 15 years of the SEC kicking his ass. On the brink of returning when parting ways with Georgia, the one-time Canes quarterback only took the call because it was his alma mater—and hung it up after three years, as the rebuild was something for a younger buck with more fire.

Diaz wasn’t a former player, but he was a forty-something Miami native who grew up in the Decade of Dominance era—and up-and-comer who seemed to understand the brand; drawing rave reviews for his Turnover Chain prop in 2017—a it was quintessential ‘305’ and a throwback to swaggier days for the Canes—until it wasn’t.

A motivational tool for that 10-0 start four years ago, Miami is 28-24 since—the one-time fun prop turning into a laughing stock when rolled out down 27-0 in the season opener to Alabama, as were Touchdown Rings when finally finding the end zone in the fourth quarter, cutting the deficit to 41-10.

LIKE NEO, MARIO IS “THE ONE”

Cristobal doesn’t need props or gimmicks to pad his stats. Teeth cut as a grad assistant under Butch Davis early in his coaching career, he followed then-Canes defensive coordinator Greg Schiano to Rutgers for a three-year run coaching tight ends and the offensive, before returning to UM for a three-year stint doing the same.

Florida International came calling with a head coaching opportunity that lasted six years, before the plug was pulled prematurely. Set to come back to Miami for another run, Nick Saban swooped in at the final hour and lured Cristobal to Tuscaloosa for a four-year run that saw him coaching the offensive line and assuming the role of recruiting coordinator and assistant head coach.

Willie Taggart added Cristobal to his Oregon staff in 2017 and soon as Taggart bailed for Florida State, the Ducks had seen enough to turn Cristobal from interim head coach to a full-time guy—where he went 12-2 his second season, won the conference and a Rose Bowl—before a COVID-related stumble in 2020, as the Pac-12 stumbled in how it handled the pandemic athletically with a late and shortened season.

The Ducks enter this year’s Pac-12 title game 10-2, having upset Ohio State in Columbus, before stumbling at Stanford and getting routed by Utah in the regular season. The Utes are slightly favored in the rematch, while all of Hurricanes nation silently roots for Oregon to lose a close one—expediting what feels like an undeniable and fateful next step; Cristobal’s third official stint as his alma mater.

One would assume the athletic director position will be filled prior-to the hiring of a new head coach—but when dealing with Miami’s top brass and unorthodox ways—hardly a gimme.

UM appears to have pushed back from interest show by former Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich—who has some late-career scandal after a legendary run with the Cardinals—while University of New Mexico AD and Miami native Eddie Nuñez was reportedly in the running, before that conversation hit a wall.

Latest reports out of Coral Gables have the internal chaos on full blast, which couldn’t be more Miami—the program that never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity—every board of trustees member attempting to yield their power, with too many folks not on the same page.

Even with that, hard to see the stars not finally aligning this go around—an amateur hour athletic director long gone, while the bank account is stocked.

Feelings for ‘The U’ aside, Cristobal wouldn’t leave what he’s building for anything less than a blueprint for a rebuild, the right pieces in place and the necessary budget to compete. Those pieces appear to have finally fallen into place and that helps make an emotional decision a logical one, as well.

Furthermore, at 51 years old this truly feels like a tipping point moment for Cristobal, as well as a Miami program talking the talk and walking the walk regarding becoming a football power again. If it’s not Cristobal, have to believe that the Hurricanes aren’t going to chase down another type of home run hire—lessening the odds that UM’s and Cristobal’s paths would re-align as they are right now timing-wise.

(This sentiment is further confirmed by breaking news that Miami is on the brink of hiring Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich to replace James—Radakovich earning his M.B.A. from the University of Miami, as well.)

Both the head coach and his alma mater are both at a crossroads, each ready to sink their teeth into a moment and opportunity. The next ten years of Cristobal’s career, as well as Miami’s football trajectory appear ready to go next level—regardless of whether they do it together, or independently of each other.

In the coming days, Cristobal will either go all-in with Oregon, sign an extension and double-down on his commitment to the program that hired him full time three years ago—or he will take a leap of faith, come home to his life-long dream job and get to work rebuilding the Hurricanes in way five predecessors were unable to.

How it all unfolds and plays out in the coming days—still an unknown—but stars have been aligning since a September 25th callout, a doinked field goal kick five days later, a tipped pass two weeks after that, a November 13th face-plant at Tallahassee and taking out the trash 48 hours later, in the form of a lame duck athletic director who overstayed his welcome.

Along the way, Miami found its quarterback, backed into bowl season and fumbled just enough to warrant change—as well as achieving enough success to pique the interest of a new, capable leader.

All the questions will soon be answered and when the smoke clears, have to believe a few old school members of  Miami’s football brotherhood are again tethered to this program, ready to right this ship after 15 years of wrongs and to get back that special something that was lost along the way.

Chris Bello has been covering University of Miami athletics since the mid-nineties. Getting his start with CanesTime, he eventually launched allCanesBlog—which led to a featured columnist stint with BleacherReport. He’s since rolled out the unfiltered, ItsAUThing.com where he’ll use his spare time to put decades of U-related knowledge to use for those who care to read. When he’s not writing about ‘The U’, Bello is a storyteller for some exciting brands and individuals—as well as a guitarist and songwriter for his band Company Jones, who just released their debut album “The Glow”. Hit him on Twitter for all things U-related @ItsAUThingBLOG.

MIAMI FALLS TO MOST-BEATABLE FSU TEAM IN RECENT MEMORY; DIAZ MUST GO NOW

The Miami Hurricanes pissed away a must-win game in Tallahassee on Saturday—falling to arguably the worst Florida State squad in recent memory.

The 31-28 loss ended a four-game win-streak against the Seminoles and should immediately end the tenure of lame duck, third-year head coach Manny Diaz—his team slipping to 5-5 on the season, while his overall record dropped to 19-15.

If there’s any solace in this abortion of a performance—it’s the fact the Diaz era has now passed a point of no return. Any manufactured goodwill built up over the past three weeks—win-starved fans clinging to eked out victories over North Carolina State, Pittsburgh or Georgia Tech—long gone.

The frustration is back to where things were at when Miami was 2-4, if not worse—as there is no excuse for falling to an abysmal Florida State team that had only won six of it’s past 20 games, dating back to mid-November 2019.

Players and coaches alike come to Miami to beat Florida State, and vice versa. Even in the most down of a year, the winner of this game can find a silver lining that helps with both recruiting, as well as overall morale; just ask anyone in Tallahassee since Saturday evening’s late rally.

This same Seminoles squad that went 0-4 out the gate—losing six of their past seven dating back to last October, including a home upset at the hands of Jacksonville State months back—managed a 31-point, 434-yard performance against the Hurricanes’ shoddy defense, while holding Miami’s ground attack to a measly 43 yards.

Some quick context on the rivalry and state of the two programs; the Canes outscored the Noles, 79-20 the past two years combined—yet now this.

Florida State is a bad, disjointed football program—yet it still bounced back from blowing a 17-0 lead and early fourth quarter eight-point deficit, rattling off 11 points in the final five minutes—while Diaz fumbled away another big moment that his all-everything quarterback couldn’t bail him out of.

This latest pathetic loss of 2021 is the epitome of why so many were rooting for an epic collapse after a 2-4 start—refusing to feast on any empty-calorie victories against the Wolfpack, Panthers and Yellow Jackets—as all only got in the way of a bigger movement; Diaz gone by all means necessary.

2021 SEASON—OVER BEFORE IT BEGAN

Those who took any solace in that three-game win-streak—does it still feel good at 5-5, in the wake of this awful loss to the Seminoles—another sour Monday morning and learning that Diaz is still employed by UM?

This 2021 season was kicked in the teeth week one and officially dead in the water two games later, when Michigan State wrapped their 21-3 fourth quarter trouncing of Miami—wearing down the Canes in that hometown heat and humidity that was supposed to work in UM’s favor.

Then again, what kind of grit did anyone really expect out of a team previously seen celebrating meaningless moments against Alabama—mugging for cameras when forcing a turnover (that was fast overturned) down 27-0 to the Crimson Tide—or busting out silly little rings when finally finding the end zone in the fourth quarter of a then 41-10 football game?

Furthermore, what can anyone really expect out of a group of players coached up by a program leader who celebrates mediocrity and overhypes conference wins over mediocre foes? Hardly a shock today’s Miami players find joyous moments in games they’re getting smacked around, or falling apart in big-time moments.

Even with five losses on the season, still no worse a look than Miami sitting at 1-2 and over celebrating touchdown after touchdown in a 69-0 rout of lowly Central Connecticut State—choreographed sideline photo shoots with bling, rings and other shiny things—zero concern for sharpening up their game with conference play around the corner and a losing record by late September.

Diaz and his Canes weren’t paying attention, but the talking heads as ESPN sure were—Kirk Herbstreit and others using their College GameDay platform to eviscerate all in charge of athletics at the University of Miami.

“If you look at the powerhouse programs—Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State—the president, AD and head coach are all aligned in their vision for what needs to happen,” Herbstreit said on the panel broadcast. “Recruiting, budget, stuff, whatever that means. That’s what it takes.

“Miami does not have that. So I don’t think it matters who the head coach is. Until you get a president, AD and coach together on the same page, I guess football doesn’t matter. It matters to the alums, the brotherhood of the U, but I don’t know if it matters to the people making decisions at Miami. If they don’t change that, it doesn’t matter who the coach is.”

Stubborn as the University of Miami has proven over the years, those in charge of this program might be dumb, but they sure aren’t deaf.

These words have echoed through the Hecht Athletic Center for the past eight weeks and there’s nowhere to hide after this level of exposure. UM was called out in front of the college football world and Miami became must-see TV—not with any expectation the Canes would turn a corner, but for outsiders to witness the demise, the disfunction and to feast on the carnage.

At 2-4 with North Carolina State and Pittsburgh looming, Diaz was on a collision course for a Halloween firing—2-6 looking inevitable—before a freshman quarterback’s play slapped a Band-Aid on the cancer that is this 2021 season.

FEASTING ON ‘EMPTY-CALORIE’ WINS; RECIPE FOR DISASTER

Tyler Van Dyke has undoubtedly been a bright spot for a program that has been searching for the next great Miami quarterback for over 15 years—but in vintage right guy at the wrong time fashion that plagues these Hurricanes—his efforts over the past three weeks have shifted the focus off of glaring defensive issues that broke Miami’s back in the waning moments at Florida State.

There was no worse recipe for the middle of this season than for a bad football team to knock down a few paper champion, conference teams in underwhelming fashion. North Carolina State and Pittsburgh were propped up to be bigger than they really were—one loss teams, at the time—in a brutally bad year for ACC football; currently tracking for a lackluster Wake Forest and Pittsburgh title game.

Dropped balls and a quirky overturned fumble were the difference in a one-point win over the Wolfpack, while two bad decisions out of a usually-sound quarterback helped the Hurricanes survive the Panthers.

Kenny Pickett had one interception on the season for Pitt, but managed two against the Canes—not seeing a wide open receiver streaking towards the end zone and forcing a pass into double coverage early, as well as a late-game overthrow of another open wideout, sailing his pass into the arms of a roving safety.

38-34 became the only number that mattered to some Miami faithful, completely ignoring that Pickett carved up Miami for 519 yards and three scores—which would’ve been just shy of 600 and five touchdowns, had he not made two uncharacteristic mistakes.

Fans starved for wins were also quick to dismiss a brutal defensive effort by the Canes in these two games—allowing emotion to best logic and getting wrapped up in sports cliches like the kids “showing up”, “having heart” and “not quitting”—which only fit the narrative when victories are snatched from the jaws of defeat.

This mental-midget, “a win is a win” mentality worked for quality, undefeated teams that are able to rally and find a way—but the sentiment loses all luster when simmering in a sad, 5-5 stew.

Miami’s three-game win-streak took the focus off the program’s macro-level issues, in favor of short-term job and celebrating a couple meaningless moments that ultimately did more harm than good. Three wins by a total of eight points are the reason Diaz is 5-5 and still employed—opposed to 2-8 and out on his ass.

Van Dyke’s 1,240 yards, 10 touchdowns and one interception over that three-game span—unfortunately enough to counter the 1,337 yards and 94 points Miami’s defense gave up to North Carolina State, Pittsburgh and Georgia Tech, combined.

SAME GAME AGAINST GT & FSU—WIN CLOUDED JUDGMENT

Miami’s outing against Georgia Tech eerily foreshadowed what would shake out against another 3-6 football team in Tallahassee a week later—but few wanted to dissect the brutal performance, as the Canes “found a way”, “showed heart” and because “a win is a win”.

A fast 14-0 against the Yellow Jackets, versus a 17-0 hole against the Seminoles—a vast difference—but three first quarter turnovers were the culprit against both; Miami trailing Georgia Tech, 21-17 at the half, while down 17-7 to Florida State.

Up 33-30 late—instead of 35-28, when a two-point conversion was intercepted and returned.

Facing a chance to put the game away with a first down—much like they’d also deal with against the Noles—the Canes were forced to punt and on the first play from scrimmage, looked to be in big trouble as Georgia Tech quarterback Jeff Sims dropped a 31-yard pass into the arms of a streaking, wide open Adonicas Sanders.

The Canes were granted a reprieve as Sims’ knee touched the ground when handling a bad snap—the play called back and the Yellow Jackets now staring down a 2nd-and-16 scenario—opposed to first down mid-field and just outside overtime-forcing field goal range.

Facing 4th-and-4 with a shot at putting the game on ice, Miami’s defense gave up an 18-yard reception—called back by a hold that had nothing to do with the completion.

Tech’s final attempt fell incomplete and the Canes escaped victorious—which again took the spotlight off of open receivers on final drive, against an inferior football team—with a quarterback who couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn all day.

“Showed heart.” “Stepped up.” “Found a way.” “Never quit.” “On to FSU!” 

Fast-forward to early evening in Tallahassee this past weekend, failing to convert on 3rd-and-4 when Will Mallory caught the ball short of the sticks.

The play similar to Jaylan Knighton running up the middle on 3rd-and-1 late against Georgia Tech and stuffed—Miami again punting after unable to convert a third down that would’ve resulted in a victory formation and another comeback win.

Georgia Tech couldn’t turn Miami’s and Diaz’s incompetence into fuel for an upset—but Florida State proved up for the challenge—made easier after a late special teams flub by the Canes.

Lou Hedley dropped a well-timed, clutch punt—that managed to roll through a half dozen Miami players, into the end zone for a 20-yard swing and some much-needed breathing room for quarterback Jordan Travis.

One play later—just like Sims-to-Sanders a week prior—a Miami opponent with a back-breaking type of play; Travis finding a wide open Ja’Khi Douglas for a 59-yard gain, the Noles in business at UM’s 21-yard line.

A false start on third down looked like a well-timed setback—setting up a 4th-and-14 after an incomplete pass to Douglas—yet Diaz and the Canes blew it again; reminiscent to a 4th-and-17 unraveling at Chapel Hill in 2019.

Diaz chose to rush three—instead of bringing the house at Travis, forcing a pressured throw. The result, a 24-yard connection with the wide open Andrew Parchment—made even worse for Miami when the receiver was down at the one-yard line with :58 remaining.

Inexplicably, Diaz flinched and waited :12 to call his second timeout of the half—Florida State with a first down from the six-inch line, :46 on the clock and Miami down to it’s final timeout—which it burned after Travis was stuffed on first down.

Two plays later, Travis was in and after a successful two-point conversion—timeout-less Miami and Van Dyke had :26 for a miracle that wasn’t pulled off.

In the spirit of second-guessing, Diaz theoretically could’ve—and should’ve—allowed Florida State to score after the first time out, as it was foolish to believe this shoddy defense was going to win that battle of wills; the Noles needing six inches with four tries.

Doing so would’ve given Van Dyke and Miami the ball with :46 and one timeout—simply needing field goal range to force overtime—opposed to trying to accomplish this with almost half that time and no timeouts.

However it played out, another game where Miami not showing up early is a bigger story than how things wrapped in the fourth.

Three first quarter turnovers and eight penalties—five on the opening drive; UM jumping offsides while getting hit with two personal fouls that cost them 30 yards—resulted in a fast 14-0 hole that took most of the afternoon to dig out of.

Regarding the *why*, some interesting post-game comments and reasoning depending if listening to the head coach, or a freshman defender.

When pressed on the brutal start, Diaz chalked it up to players being too “amped up” and “hyped up”—blaming the “emotional setting” and stating his guys lacked discipline—where linebacker Corey Flagg Jr. ultimately said the quiet part outloud.

“We were very undisciplined. That’s on us. We knew … it’s a habit that happens in practice. Coach Diaz gets on us about it all the time. Brought up in the game, it’s not a shocker that it happened. Again, that’s on us.”

DOUBLE DOSE OF BLAME FOR DUAL-DUTY DIAZ

Diaz spent 13 seasons as a defensive coordinator at Middle Tennessee, Mississippi State, Texas, back to Starkville for a second run, as well as Miami—before assuming head coaching duties in Coral Gables in 2019, while keeping his hand in running this defense.

All that to say, how in the hell are the Hurricanes ten games into Diaz’s third season running this program—six years at the helm for the Canes’ defense—yet he’s unable to keep players from jumping offsides, both in practice and on game day?

Fundamentally, Miami has been ripped all season for being one of the worst-tackling teams in all of college football—now it’s coming out that the Canes have an ongoing problem regarding jumping offsides, which hasn’t been corrected during the week.

News flash, Diaz—it ain’t the big moment in Tallahassee if your guys are doing the same thing at Greentree day in and day out. This incompetence from a Miami head coach and long time defensive coordinator has reached new levels of indefensible.

Gaffes aside, as far as the simple nature of tackling, defending and making plays—this Diaz-led defense is surrendering an average of 35 points-per-game and 45 yards-per-game against the eight Power 5 teams faced in 2021. Abysmal.

There is a culture problem under Diaz that has been discussed ad nauseam for almost three years and it deserves to come up again, as this season’s free fall continues and Miami’s 25th head coach is now sporting an indefensible 19-15 overall record.

It’s been amateur hour at the University of Miami since well before Diaz was handed the keys; a series of low-rent, poorly-executed, knee-jerk hires—UM hoping a gamble on an up and comer would yield the type of results usually only seen when investing big dollars in a quality candidate.

Diaz worked for Miami, on paper—a mindset that he was head coach-ready, simply because Temple was ready to hand him the same job—as well as the lazy approach of keeping things status quo with promoting a coordinator to replace a vacating head coach, in effort to avoid the standard down cycle that oft comes with a rebuild.

Diaz’s resume was at best Temple-ready, but nothing about his career trajectory or persona was Miami head coaching-caliber.

Floating into booster events on yachts, an edgy social media persona, tackling dummies and a WWE-like spectacle when the new indoor practice facility launched, victory cigars after beating a bad FSU team or slip-and-slide in the rain after surviving Virginia last year—all acceptable if winning big football games, but immediately cringe-worthy when losing 15 times over the course of three seasons.

Same to be said for being ill-prepared after bye weeks, not taking Florida International seriously, losing to Duke, getting shutout by Louisiana Tech in a garbage bowl game, struggles against Central Michigan and Appalachian State—and now face-planting against arguably the most-beatable Florida State team in recent memory; one year removed from trouncing the Noles, 52-10 at home.

WHEN APATHY REPLACES ANGER; UM IN HUGE CONUNDRUM

This Miami football program has been stalled-out at the same crossroads for a decade and a half—and the natives are no longer restless; apathy has officially kicked in and the Canes are left with a numb, lifeless fan base that is reaching new levels of not-giving-a-shit anymore—supporters getting to the place no longer caring much worse for this program than the frustration and bitterness that used to define this era.

Read the nearest message board, social media commentary or comments section in any UM-related article—the tide has turning to a point where many have abandoned all hope that this will ever turn around—leaving them to check out and invest their money and energies elsewhere.

Many folks now brazen with comments about no longer donating to the program, going to games—or even watching from home; finding new ways to spend Saturday as UM has crushed their spirit and they feel like fools for blinding supporting an university that as Herbstreit pointed out weeks back, “doesn’t care about football”.

I don’t often write in first-person in these op-eds, but the conversations I’ve had with friends, family and long-time supporters of this program this dismal season—it bears a quick rant from this frustrated place.

Hurricanes football was once all-encompassing; growing up in a family that owned allCanes (formerly All Sports) for over four decades—”The U” was more than just Saturdays at the Orange Bowl—it was our livelihood. We lived and died with this program, literally—a double-win when championships were captured, while financially steamrolled when the losses piled up and fans didn’t need the newest shirt or ball cap.

When Miami lost a game, everyone in our little universe knew to give our family a wide berth and a few days to recover—crushing blows, falling out of the national championship race or leaving titles on the floor—it was painful, it stayed with you and in many ways left some scars.

Walking out of my first in person game at Orange Bowl in 1984—after the unthinkable second half collapse against Maryland—followed by a Thanksgiving memory weeks later when my dad and uncle were too rattled by Hail Flutie to sit down to dinner; pacing around the pool like mental patients and trying to make sense of what just happened.

Same for morgue-like environments after choking against Penn State in the desert for a second national title in the wee early hours of 1987—or bids for back-to-back titles falling short against Alabama in 1992, or stolen by Ohio State a decade later.

I still have an out-of-whack knuckle on my right hand from punching a file cabinet in the office when Kevin Thompson dropped a perfect pass into the hands of Chafie Fields for that 80-yard bomb—an upset bid against the second-ranked Nittany Lions falling short in 1999—as well as vividly recalling that sinking feeling when walking out of Doak Campbell Stadium after 47-0 two years prior, forced to ponder if Miami would ever field a competitive team again.

Thankfully the Hurricanes were back by the turn of the century—but as mentioned, the dominant ride was short-lived and brutal days were again just around the corner; Miami’s downward spiral bottoming out in late 2005 when blowing a shot at an ACC title—the third-ranked Canes stumbling 14-10 to a very average Georgia Tech squad.

When the Canes we’re sunk in 2006—a four-game losing streak mid-season, as well as an on-field brawl with FIU and the murder of a beloved player weeks later, en route to a 7-6 finish after winning a blue turf bowl game in Boise—full acceptance that Miami had slipped back into that probation-era level of trash football.

By the time Virginia crushed Miami, 48-0 in the Orange Bowl finale in 2007—the event was nothing more than a tragic comedy, as orange and green confetti sprayed all over the venue and celebratory music cranked through the PA—the university’s top brass never playing out any post-game scenario where a scrub Cavaliers team pounded the Canes like Miami would a Bethune-Cookman.

Still, “The U” had rebuilt before, leading most of us to believe it could do so again—so trust the process for a few years and Miami would soon be “back”, right?

Over a decade later, still waiting—riding this sick cycle carousel in three- to five-year increments; mustering up hope for a new hire, teased in to believing things will turn a corner, hitting that moment you know it’s not going to happen—and then waiting on UM to reach the same realization in the coming years; fire, rehire, start the process again.

Since Miami got smacked around 40-3 in the 2005 Peach Bowl by LSU, this program has amassed a 116-84 record and is on it fifth different head coach over that span—an average of 7.73 wins and 5.6 losses-per-season, over a 15 years.

The Canes have won the ACC’s lowly Coastal Division once—blown out 38-3 in their lone championship game appearance; 2017 their only double digit-win season since 2003, as well.

Dominant for decades, mediocre every season since—University of Miami football is at a turning point like never before.

The writing on the wall regarding low-budget, work-in-progress head coaching hires not being the answer—as well as needing to solve the athletic director-related conundrum—either stuck with a lackey like Blake James, or watching the likes of an opportunist Kirby Hocutt or Shawn Eichorst using the program like the rest stop and stepping stone it is to most in the profession.

For the first time in four-plus decades of this program pumping through my DNA, 2021 proved to be the first year I actually rooted against present day Miami—welcoming losses this season, in the name of change and a better tomorrow.

I saw zero value in beating a North Carolina State or Pittsburgh once the Canes had fallen to 2-4 and Diaz showed he’s not the guy to resurrect this program. Once that determination was made, 2021 be damned—it’s all about 2022 and leaning on UM to get their collective shit together next hire around.

Wins fell into place against the Wolfpack, Panthers and Yellow Jackets—and par for the course, I saw too many back to drinking the Kool-Aid; wrapped up in the temporary endorphin rush of a pointless win and no longer beating their drum about change.

A temporary moratorium this weekend as it was Florida State on the other sideline—the hatred for the rival running too deep—leaving me, like so many other disgruntled fans, clamoring for a win.

Instead, just the type of sobering, gut-wrenching loss needed to remind everyone what a train wreck this current staff is.

Diaz didn’t just lose this game in the end—his team pissed it away early, fought to get it back and then let an inferior squad just snatch it right back from them—bad decisions, poor execution and breakdowns resulting in a few daggers by a Florida State squad that had won six measly football games dating back to mid-November 2019.

Virginia Tech and Duke remain for this up and down .500 squad, followed by a third-tier bowl game if Miami at least beats one of the two—begging the question, who is all right with this pathetic brand of football at this once-great university?

Whoever is in charge, may you pay attention to this painfully bad product on the field, as well as the growing indifference shown by a disgruntled, over-it fan base. Miami has again reached a tipping point and anything short of sweeping change for the better—the Canes are no longer on the brink of irrelevance, but extinction all together. Lose the losers—Diaz and James—and go all-in on quality replacements; proving that football actually is a priority at the University of Miami.

Anything less, and even the most diehard of fans will continues this mass exodus and fast-tracked detachment from this once-great, currently-toxic program.

[Editor’s note. Within an hour of this article’s posting, the University of Miami relieved athletic director Blake James of his duties—the first domino officially falling.]

Chris Bello has been covering University of Miami athletics since the mid-nineties. Getting his start with CanesTime, he eventually launched allCanesBlog—which led to a featured columnist stint with BleacherReport. He’s since rolled out the unfiltered, ItsAUThing.com where he’ll use his spare time to put decades of U-related knowledge to use for those who care to read. When he’s not writing about ‘The U’, Bello is a storyteller for some exciting brands and individuals—as well as a guitarist and songwriter for his band Company Jones, who just released their debut album “The Glow”. Hit him on Twitter for all things U-related @ItsAUThingBLOG.

CANES CLOSE WINS DON’T DERAIL DISASTROUS DIAZ NARRATIVE

The Miami Hurricanes are back to .500 football after eking out unexpected wins against North Carolina State and Pittsburgh in back-to-back weeks.

Left for dead after heartbreaking losses to Virginia and North Carolina weeks prior, Manny Diaz and his squad appeared headed for 2-6—games against the ranked Wolfpack and Panthers looking like even bigger uphill battles than “lesser” opponents in the Cavaliers and Tar Heels.

The football gods tooketh away earlier in the season—a kick hitting a goal post, or tipped and intercepted ball—but they gaveth back since; opponents dropping balls, a reversed turnover or a veteran quarterback making two rookie mistakes.

Conversely, quarterback play has absolutely saved Miami in back-to-back weeks—freshman Tyler Van Dyke slapping together two Heisman-worthy performances—throwing for 751 yards, seven touchdowns and one interception in season-altering victories.

To some, Miami has gone from left-for-dead—back to winning-out and favored to beat everyone left on their schedule—Georgia Tech heading south this weekend, a road trip to Tallahassee next up, Virginia Tech down south for Senior Day and a regular season finale at Duke.

On paper, the Canes should extend the win-streak to six—but Miami also should’ve beaten Virginia and North Carolina, while potentially stumbling against North Carolina State and Pittsburgh—so plotting out and making predictions means absolutely zero regarding this consistently-inconsistent program.

The sadly-familiar, annual we’re-still-in-this-thing Coastal Division refrain is again pumping full-force—if A beats B and C can get upset by D—strangely more plausible than in years passed, as the underwhelming ACC is that wide open this season.

Inconceivable as it’d be in a more competitive year—a once 2-4 Miami can actually roll to 9-4 with its first conference win, setting up and Orange Bowl berth as ACC champs.

Even if Miami somehow rattled off seven wins since the tip heard ’round Chapel Hill—there are still deep-rooted issues surrounding this broken program and a wrong-fit head coach; all of which seemed closer to being addressed before Van Dyke’s yeoman’s effort saved Diaz from a year three in-season firing.

Without this rejuvenated offense, Miami would be sitting at 2-6—and 2-8 dating back to what would’ve been the Canes last Power Five victory (a 48-0 rout of Duke last December)—a four-game losing streak and 0-4 conference start arguably enough to see the joker Diaz out on Halloween morning.

Instead, the MVP-like performance from Van Dyke propelled the Canes to back-to-back wins—by a combined five points—short-term memories going full-throttle, working overtime to forget how disastrous and embarrassing the first half of this season played out.

DISASTROUS DEFENSE DESERVES HEADLINES

31-30 and 38-34 are the only numbers some want to focus on—instead of 587; the amount of yards Pittsburgh dropped on Miami’s struggling defense. Senior quarterback Kenny Pickett carved up the Canes secondary for 519 yards through the air—done-in by two uncharacteristically bad decisions that ultimately cost the Panthers the game.

Had the veteran Pickett seen Jordan Addison midfield and streaking past the Miami secondary—he’d have dropped an easy 45-yard game-tying touchdown in the sophomore receiver’s mitts. Instead, Pickett didn’t identify the gimme, looked left and forced his pass into double coverage—Tyrique Stevenson jumping the rout and taking the pass 18 yards the other way.

Four plays later, Miami was in the end zone and up 31-17—a defensive breakdown and sure score fast-swept under the rug when Pickett whiffed and Stevenson capitalized on the mistake.

Late fourth quarter, trailing 38-34 and looking for the game-winner—Pickett was again moving the Panthers at-will against a backpedaling Canes defense—Addison again wide open for a would-be 31-yard touchdown, but his all-everything quarterback overthrew a pass landing in the arms of roving safety James Williams.

Van Dyke cooly responded and got Miami out of a jam with a clutch 18-yard, timed sideline hook-up to Charleston Rambo—the Canes facing a 3rd-and-11 from the one-yard line without the completion. Instead, a first down, some space, an opportunity to run Jaylan Knighton for a huge seven-yard gain—the Panthers blowing timeouts on back-to-back plays—before Van Dyke found tight end Will Mallory for six-yard dagger on 3rd-and-4, resulting in victory formation and the ballgame.

Still, lost in the elation of the victory, the fact that Pickett—who had one interception on the season—gifted two to the Miami secondary. The gaffes cost his team 14 points, the ballgame and a personal stat line that should’ve read 41-of-55, 595 yards and five touchdowns—further proving the Canes’ defense couldn’t stop him; Pickett stopped himself.

Two plays were the difference between 38-34 and 48-27—the loss hurting Pitt’s chase of a Coastal title, while allowing Miami to ignore glaring defensive issues, now overshadowed by the false glow of back-to-back wins.

None of that takes away the credit these Hurricanes deserve for not packing it in when backs were to the wall after the program’s worst start since the 1997 season. A youth movement is finally underway in Coral Gables—Diaz’s hand mostly forced due to injuries—but Miami’s underclassmen have some bounce in their step, are showing heart and have played balls out the past two weeks, amidst some mistakes.

Still, to see so many going from the low of lows after two conference losses weeks back—to fully on board after eking out two wins—it’s borderline insanity. A Heisman-caliber performance from a freshman quarterback over an eight-day span cannot negate the fact that Diaz is fielding a train-wreck defense; a unit he put himself in charge of last off-season, which has regressed since.

Van Dyke showed tremendous moxie in the wake of his game-sealing interception against North Carolina—calling his shot against North Carolina State and then delivering a 325-yard, four-touchdown performance—as the Wolfpack wound up as snakebitten as the Canes had been weeks prior.

Case in point, an early third quarter muffed punt by Jacolby George looked like another here-we-go-again moment for Miami.  Danny Blakeman recovered the ball on the five-yard line and the Wolfpack looked to be in business—until a review on the play saw a helmet-less Anthony Smith in the scrum, resulting in an unsportsmanlike call, offsetting a Canes’ holding penalty and forcing a re-kick.

North Carolina State forced a three and out, but lost the field position battle—settling for a field goal on the ensuing possession—the quirky, overturned turnover resulting in a four-point swing in an eventual one-point game.

CLOSE WINS; SHORT-TERM ENDORPHINS RUSH

Before any retort or rant about how this is football and games are made up of small moments like this every week—no shit and well aware. Teams can play good football and lose, bad football and win, good football and win or bad football and lose.

The point being made; that recent wins are seemingly clouding judgment and perspective regarding Miami fielding a good enough football team—one that can back into wins, while continuing to suffer head-scratching losses, en route to 8-4 type seasons—versus the type of fall that would’ve sent Diaz packing; capitalizing on negative national media calling out the university’s commitment towards rebuilding a champion.

An early-season, sympathy-driven narrative was spun by maligned athletic director Blake James and local bleeding heart media—an implication that the Canes were victims of bad luck in last-second losses to Virginia and North Carolina—when in realty, Miami played some really piss-poor football against both; slow starts, dropped passes, untimely penalties, mental errors and trash fundamentals when it came to angles taken or lazy tackling.

Conversely, an offensive resurgence and Van Dyke slapping an “S” on his chest, playing Superman—the only difference-maker in Miami stealing two victories which their defensive did everything to blow. The final score remains the only headline, while desperate fans feast on empty-calorie, meaningless-in-the-grand-scheme-of-things wins—the type of sad victories that give a lazy University of Miami athletic department enough fuel to roll an “improved” Diaz out for another go-around.

Lost in this two-game win-streak and 2-2 stretch—the fact this Diaz-led Hurricanes’ defense surrendered 1,839 yards and 139 points over that span—forcing two turnovers in three games, before Pickett’s unraveling and two gift-wrapped interceptions; his second and third of the season.

Miami’s defense has played poorly enough for 4-4 to easily be 2-6 going into this final stretch—but the Hurricanes’ offense outperformed expectations, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat—which begs the question, how much longer can this current ecosystem of next-level offense and abysmal defense survive?

The Canes are currently running a one-dimensional passing offense, with zero power running game—Miami limited with both Don Chaney Jr. and Cam Harris lost for the season, while working to break in newbie Thad Franklin; the thunder to Knighton’s lightning.

Impressive as Van Dyke was throwing for 325 yards against North Carolina State and 426 at Pittsburgh—the Canes only amassed 95 yards on the ground against the Wolfpack, and 64 yards against the Panthers, 40 of which came on a touchdown run by Knighton.

Despite the fact this final month of football is anything but a Murder’s Row schedule for Miami—doesn’t take a world class defensive coordinator to see the chinks in the Hurricanes’ offensive armor and to believe Van Dyke will start to feel more pressure, while offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee will have to dial up some form of a ground attack to survive.

The Canes’ offensive game plan over the next four games needs to consist of more than Van Dyke airing it out—playing mistake-free football and averaging 4o0 yards and three or four touchdowns-per game. Miami’s defense better figure things out—and fast.

WINS DON’T CHANGE OVERALL DIAZ NARRATIVE

The pressure to solve these defensive setbacks sits squarely on Diaz’s shoulders—noise levels needing to rise within this rowdy fanbase, as too many have gotten fat and happy—forgiving bad defense due to success on offense.

The lead story and headlines have been built around a baller freshman quarterback, a youth-led movement and the show-their-heart Canes “finding a way”—while the defense bleeds out weekly on Manny’s watch.

Weeks back, social media was flooded with memes, imagery and comparisons to the plight of former Canes head coaches Al Golden or Randy Shannon in year three of their runs run at Miami—versus where Diaz stands as many games in—Golden at 19-11, Shannon at 17-13 and Diaz at 16-14 after falling in at North Carolina.

Two weeks later, a complete narrative shift for those blinded by two wins—some going as far as to lob Dabo Swinney comparisons (seriously)—who was 23-12 eight games into year three, not counting going 4-3 in an interim role at Clemson in 2008.

Weeks ago this fan base was afraid of Miami potentially losing out—yet is now daydreaming about taking the ACC and pulling off a big bowl victory, en route to the same 10-4 record Swinney posted in 2011; the Tigers’ head coach also winning the conference in his third year.

Left out of that clunky, stretch of a comparison—the fact West Virginia rolled Clemson’s shoddy defense in the Orange Bowl, 70-33—a massacre that saw Kevin Steele and Charlie Harbison removed from their co-defensive coordinator posts, before Swinney chased down one of the baddest defensive minds in the game and landed the coveted Brent Venables, now in his tenth season with the Tigers.

While Clemson reeled in the biggest defensive fish they could hook after Swinney’s third full season—the missing piece to chasing championships—Diaz used his year-three off season to promote and demote himself. The current head coach decided he was Miami’s best defensive option—splitting time in a role held by Blake Baker the past two seasons; who Diaz protected, helped coach-up and was saved from having to fire after LSU bailed him out and brought Baker to Baton Rouge to coach linebackers.

Not that Venables-caliber coordinators grow on trees—but Diaz could’ve turned the keys over to quality, veteran alpha that would put a foot up the ass of kids on that side of the ball—while he focused on his learn-on-the-job new CEO gig.

Diaz rolled into this new season on shaky ground—14-10 overall, and two games removed from a 62-24 beating former boss Mack Brown laid on him in last year’s season finale—yet his immediate answer was to play part-time defensive coordinator, while making sure fifth version of the Turnover Chain and third incarnation of Touchdown Rings were bling-tastic and camera-ready.

Teeth kicked in by Alabama. Nail-biter against Appalachian State. Outlasted and steamrolled in the fourth quarter by a tougher Michigan State team.  Over-celebrating and looking like buffoons while smacking around Central Connecticut State. Back-to-back, slow-start losses to go 0-2 out the gate in conference play.

Miami was in complete crash-and-burn mode—a megalomaniac head coach in over his head, about to have the leg swept—before two pedestrian wins arguably saved his season. This short-term buzz some are feeling; in realty a huge step backwards for the movement, if the goal was to ultimately punt daze in favor of a better-fit head coach for 2022.

BEWARE AS EVERY GAME NOW “WINNABLE”

The good news for these Hurricanes is that the meat of the schedule is in the rearview and they’ll be favored in all four remaining games. The bad? The fact that Miami is prone for late-season shitting of the bed since joining the ACC; pissing away countless winnable games, despite everything—or nothing—being on the line.

From that still-painful late-year stumble against Georgia Tech in 2005 as the No. 3 team in the country—blowing a shot at an Orange Bowl match-up with Penn State as ACC champs, or runner-up Gator Bowl showdown versus Louisville—the Hurricanes drop the ball, literally and metaphorically.

Miami and Virginia Tech both joined the ACC in 2004; the Hokies taking the title outright year one, beating the Canes in a winner-take-all season finale. UM’s former Big East rival has won the conference four times and taken the division seven—while Miami’s lone Coastal Division championship (2017) resulted in a 38-3 bloodbath at the hands of Clemson.

Diaz’s Canes also admittedly have an issue handling success.

In the wake of arguably the program’s most-embarrassing loss—upset by commuter college Florida International in 2019—Diaz stated that his team was believing their own hype, reading the headlines and rolled in big-headed after a three-game win-streak over Pitt, Florida State and Louisville.

The Canes fell into a 23-3 fourth quarter hole against the Golden Panthers, before waking up and falling short—only to get upset by a basketball school the following week in Durham, North Carolina and then no-showing a fourth-tier bowl game; shutout by Louisiana Tech, ending 2019 with a massive thud.

Georgia Tech stumbles in with a 3-5 record—which has Miami faithful like those odds, until recalling the Yellow Jackets were 1-5 the last time these two met in 2019; weeks removed from a loss to The Citadel, before outlasting the Canes in overtime.

Miami’s had Florida State’s number the past four tries—but anyone who’s followed this rivalry knows the law of averages kicks in and the pendulum swings the other way. The Noles stumbled hard out the gate, but have won three of their past four—upsetting North Carolina by double-digits on the road—while having Clemson dead to right, before stumbling late last week.

Everything goes out the window when the Canes and Noles get after it—and a porous defense isn’t the answer for a road game against a Florida State squad starting to wake up from a multi-year slumber.

Virginia Tech is a hot mess, but like both Georgia Tech and Florida State—the Hokies have some pretty decent muscle memory when it comes to upending the Hurricanes over the years. Miami is 6-3 dating back to 2012—but Virginia Tech had a 7-2 run prior-to and Diaz 0-1 against the Hokies at home after an embarrassing 2019 showing where the Canes fell into a fast 28-0 hole.

Even lowly Duke has gotten in on the action—beating Miami in two of the past three showdowns of this insanely lopsided series the Canes lead 14-4.

IN THE END…

The point in this rant; based on Diaz’s overall track record and the Canes late-year slip-ups—there are no gimmes these next four weeks. Nor should newfound excitement over a young quarterback’s efforts cloud judgment in regards to a painfully bad defense in need of a coaching overhaul.

Some want to waste energies battling over allegiance and alliance; as if rooting for these Canes, or against—in the name of building for a better future—has any bearing on the outcome. The only conversation worth having; those who actively go head-in-the-sand over glaring weaknesses, in favor of short-lived jubilation when close wins are squeezed out against marginal opponents—as long-running problems won’t go away without sweeping change.

Whether Miami finishes 4-8 or a miraculous 10-4—a reckoning must still in the cards. Diaz must be judged as harshly for the hole he’s put Miami in—4-6 since last December, saved by three late-game wins—opposed to being let off the hook or keeping his players engaged and “showing up” these past two weeks.

8-4 is certainly doable as the regular season winds down, though 7-5 seems more realistic—Miami a combined 25-16 this past decade regarding the final four games of each season—the Canes losing focus and ultimately stumbling.

This up and down 2021 rolls on—one-game seasons and fast-changing narratives the name of the game, while the ongoing issues seem to stay the same.

Arguably less appropriate on the heels of back-to-back wins—but refuse to be blinded by fool’s gold and staying the course; Dead Manny Walking.

Chris Bello has been covering University of Miami athletics since the mid-nineties. Getting his start with CanesTime, he eventually launched allCanesBlog—which led to a featured columnist stint with BleacherReport. He’s since rolled out the unfiltered, ItsAUThing.com where he’ll use his spare time to put decades of U-related knowledge to use for those who care to read. When he’s not writing about ‘The U’, Bello is a storyteller for some exciting brands and individuals—as well as a guitarist and songwriter for his band Company Jones, who just released their debut album “The Glow”. Hit him on Twitter for all things U-related @ItsAUThingBLOG.