The Miami Hurricanes survived the Appalachian State Mountaineers last Saturday at Hard Rock Stadium—leaning on the foot of a true freshman kicker, as well as a the spottiness of an average opposing transfer quarterback, for a too-close-for-comfort 25-23 victory.

As far as a recap goes, what is there to say? Miami rolled in lethargic a week after Alabama smashed them and Canes coaches didn’t appear to have any strategy or noticeable game plan for the Mountaineers—who played with passion and purpose and probably would’ve pulled off the upset had a former Duke quarterback been a little bit more accurate with his deep ball.

Year three of the Manny Diaz era has started with more questions than answers and one would be hard-pressed to find a logic-driven Canes enthusiast that wasn’t concerned with the overall state of this program, yet again.

No sane person expected Miami to topple the giant that is the Crimson Tide—but the 44-13 shellacking, an early 27-0 hole and a 41-3 mid-third quarter deficit before Nick Saban put it into cruise control—it was everyone’s worst-case scenario come to life, while exposing the the insane segment of this fan base with the audacity to call for the Canes to roll by double digits.

Equally as disheartening—any attempts to figure out whatever second-year Canes coordinator Rhett Lashlee rolled out as his offensive game plan; running delayed draws into the teeth of Alabama’s defense on second- or third-and-long—as if waving a white flag and trying to run out the clock in the first half, limiting Bama’s offensive touches.

Back in the day, the last team anyone ever wanted to face was Miami coming off a loss. For the better part of this century, no one has feared the Canes—who are now 49-28 dating back to the start of the 2015 season—on their third head coach over that six-plus year span.

Taking it back to the end of the 2005 season—No. 9 LSU dismantling No. 8 Miami, 40-3 in the postseason—the Canes are an embarrassingly bad 121-81, with two measly bowl wins and zero conference titles.

Regarding the mention of that 16-year old Peach Bowl; a true turning point moment where UM’s top brass made it clear they didn’t give two shits about its football program or rebuilding a contender—hanging on to a lame duck head coach one season too long (after forcing him to can some long time position coaches, in favor of some retreads)—and passing on an opportunity to bring home the architect of the most-recent dynasty five short years after departing.

Every coaching move since Butch Davis bailed for the NFL in early 2001 and Larry Coker was given a six-year substitute teacher-like position; nothing but theatre, smoke and mirrors or jumping the gun prematurely—amateur hour at its finest.


Two games into Diaz’s third season at Miami, there is cause for alarm—just as there was when UM went knee-jerk in their hiring of Diaz, weeks after he was lured away … by Temple. Miami’s barrage of swing-and-miss hirings over the years has made it easier to sniff out wrong-fit guys as this program has become known for making cheap or safe choices, instead of the ballsy type of moves that prove it wants to get back to championship ways, or to build a contender.

On the surface, great—the Canes survived the Mountaineers. They did what they needed to do to get the win—and hey, all teams have games like this throughout the season. Even the vaunted 2001 Hurricanes needed a miracle to survive Boston College on the road, a well as a batted down two-point conversion at Virginia Tech in the finale to hang on for a close win, right?


Great teams catching the occasional trap game is night and day from present day Miami eking out a win over Appalachian State—a year three stumble that felt exactly like Diaz’s first-year showdown with Central Michigan in 2019, where the Canes held on for dear life in a 17-12 victory that theoretically should’ve been put away in the first quarter.

When Miami next took the field, that Chippewas hangover was real and the Canes found themselves in a 28-0 late second quarter hole to a Virginia Tech squad that got smoked—in Blacksburg—by Duke the previous weekend, 45-10.

Months prior, Diaz rolled into spring ball with “7-6” on the chest of practice dummies—all too eager to get in the WWE-style player-intended fracas—only to stumble into a losing season and the most-embarrassing loss the program has seen in recent memory; beaten and mocked by a commuter college on the site of the old Orange Bowl.

There was a pattern in 2019 that doomed that 6-7 campaign and is the biggest riddle Diaz needs to prove he has solved year three—the up-and-down nature that came from not having his team ready to go week-after-week.

Survive a year-one slugfest with Virginia after falling to the Hokies—choke in overtime the following week against a one-win Georgia Tech squad that had not only lost to The Citadel, but was in year one without a triple-option offense for the first time in over a decade.

Over-celebrating mediocrity—big-headed over victories against sub-par Pittsburgh, Florida State and Louisville squads—show up flat for regular season-ending road losses to Florida International and Duke, before getting shutout in a third-tier bowl game against Louisiana Tech.


Diaz would love to consider a 52-10 rolling of Florida State a signature win in 2020—but when the Noles are a combined 3-8 in the Mike Norvell era, including getting upset at home by Jacksonville State this past weekend—makes those FSU-inspired victory cigars seem a big egregious and amateurish last fall.

An early October 2019 drubbing at No. 1 Clemson—42-17—or this year’s season-opening loss against Alabama, where Miami players were running prematurely for a Turnover Chain—down 27-0 at the time—or celebrating with Touchdown Rings after finally finding the end zone late third quarter when trailing, 41-3—those are the most-memorable “Manny Moments” to date.

How you match-up against the best in the game—out-played, out-hustled, outclassed and outscored 86-30 by two national championship-caliber program—that is who this program currently is under their third-year head coach.

Diaz also showed his ass a bit after the Canes’ first two games of the 2021 season. In the bowels of Mercedes Benz Stadium, after Alabama absolutely had their way with Miami, Diaz channeled his inner politician and dug into his coach-speak archives for a quote with all the feels, but absolutely zero substance or accountability:

“This team’s story is not even close to being written yet,” the third-year head coach shared. “And we’ve got a lot of guys that have a lot of pride to make sure it goes the way they want it to.”

Honesty question, is hanging on for a two-point win over Appalachian State something to be prideful of—or should it infuriate this underachieving Miami program; especially any players experience déjà vu moments regarding the Central Michigan slugfest of 2019?

The answer probably lies somewhere in their leader’s reaction as the Mountaineers’ last-gasp pass on 4th-and-6 fell incomplete with under a minute remaining— Diaz’s and his assistants arms raised in a “V” like Miami just batted down a potential game-winner in the end zone against Clemson in an ACC Championship game.

Sure, a win is certainly a win and 1-1 is mathematically better than 0-2, but if leaning on past Miami history—or that gut feeling and instinct as a long-time Hurricanes supporter that just endured the past 16 seasons of mediocrity—who really feels like a noticeable step forward is on the verge of taking place?

Wanting to believe, versus truly believing—two very different emotions and sentiments—and right now it feels like many have seen this show play out before—therefore expectations are low while skepticism remains at an all-time high.

The Miami masses expecting and preparing for the worst under Diaz, or pleasantly surprised should he grow into the coach he needs to be, bringing the Canes back along the way.


The University of Miami has legitimately whiffed on three of it’s previous coaching hires in the post-Butch Davis era—giving Larry Coker Coker six years when the writing was on the wall after three, making a cheap hire in a lifer assistant in Randy Shannon and betting on a wrong-fit up-and-comer type in Al Golden.

Mark Richt was the right guy at the wrong time; the Canes needing their alum in his 2006-era prime—not in 2016, when on the brink of retirement but only answering the call because his alma mater rang—Richt paving the way for Diaz, employing him as defensive coordinator for three seasons before stepping down after the 2018 bowl loss.

When looking at these coaching hires in the new millennium, one would be hard-pressed to explain *why* the University of Miami’s board of trustees, president and athletic director chose as they did—other than path of least resistance and the price tag being right.

Outside of Richt—and even Coker, as a short-term stop-gap option based on Davis leaving the cupboard full—Miami’s process in hiring Shannon, Golden and Diaz was bush league, to put it bluntly.

Talk of bringing on an outside search firm in late 2006 and nothing more than a name like Greg Schiano getting kicked around—the entire exercise itself led UM to a former defensive coordinator turned Rutgers head coach, and his replacement—a former player and long time coordinator with an introverted personality and zero head coaching experience, who’d spent the past six years as an assistant at “The U”?

Shannon went 28-22 when leading the Canes—16-16 in ACC play—and since departing Miami has made five different stops, either as a linebackers coach or short-term defensive coordinator, while never again considered head coaching material.

Golden landed the job in early 2010, beating out names like UConn’s Randy Edsall, or Marc Trestman of USFL coaching fame—again, not a quality name to be found, due to incompetence or lack of interest from outside parties.

In a year when Florida State promoted Jimbo Fisher, Notre Dame reeled in Brian Kelly, Southern Cal brought Lane Kiffin home and Louisville hired Charlie Strong—the University of Miami went all-in on a former Penn State tight end and off-brand disciple of both Joe Paterno and Al Groh—who believed in a 3-4 defense and a style of football that couldn’t have been less on-brand for South Florida’s best athletes.

Golden was Shannon-esque with a 32-25 record—17-18 in conference; landing in the ACC losing column by way of a 58-0 ass-kicking at home in late October 2015 and fired the next morning. The former tie-wearing, empty-suit has spent the past half decade coaching tight ends or linebackers with the Detroit Lions, before taking a linebackers coach job with the Cincinnati Bengals last season.

Richt was at least an attempt at Miami to get it right; paying the long-time Georgia head coach a respectable $4M annual salary—a first for the notoriously cheap private university—but again, a 56-year hold head coach that just spent 15 seasons in an SEC pressure cooker, coming up short helping the Bulldogs win their first national championship since 1980; hardly the 41-year old who trekked to Athens in 2001, fresh off of a dominant run as Florida State’s offensive coordinator under Bobby Bowden.

The untimeliness of Richt’s departure—fueled at the time by rumblings that the long-timae head coach didn’t want to remove his son from the staff, nor change his offensive scheme. UM skipped anything resembling a search this go-around—panicking at their fork in the road, as Diaz took the vacant head coaching job at Temple less than three weeks prior—meeting-up with the Canes in Brooklyn for a Pinstripe Bowl farewell; ending with a 35-3 thud against the Badgers for a second straight year.


Realistically speaking—and based on recent history—it would take a massive collapse out of Diaz this year for Miami to even contemplate pulling the plug after year three. Shannon got four years and Golden was fired late in his fifth season.

Still, more should be expected out of Diaz this year than a few of his predecessors in their year three—especially Golden, who was in the throes of the Nevin Shapiro scandal—while Shannon at least topped Florida State and No. 8 Oklahoma year three, but stumbled at Virginia Tech, against Clemson and at North Carolina, en route to a 9-3 regular season.

Diaz has a a veteran quarterback, a seasoned offensive line, young talent challenging upperclassmen at receiver, a stable of running backs (the loss of Don Chaney Jr. can’t become a scapegoat), proven talent on the defensive line, untapped talent at linebacker and a secondary with some older skilled players—as well as a key cornerback transfer—not to mention stability with special teams, which has been detrimental in years passed.

Outside of Alabama, this schedule is hardly Murderer’s Row for Miami—though it doesn’t bode well that Appalachian State was theoretically one of the easier match-ups and the Hurricanes had their hands full.

Based on Miami’s recent struggles with Wisconsin and Big Ten-style football—Michigan State won’t be a pushover; even with that noontime kickoff to maximize that South Florida head and humidity. As well as Diaz is known for robbing the portal, Spartans head coach Mel Tucker reeled in 20 new transfers this off-season—opening up competition and employing a best-man-wins attitude with his second-year approach.

Michigan State—an odd-looking 2-5 in last year’s COVID-defined season—topped Northwestern for a second straight season; up 28-7 early in the fourth quarter, before topping the Wildcats, 38-21. Last weekend, a convincing 42-14 over Youngstown State—the type of game many expected Miami to give Appalachian State, but didn’t.

Still, the most-relevant Big Ten story this new season has nothing to do with a new-look Sparty and everything to do with Ohio State losing their first regular season home game since Baker Mayfield planted an Oklahoma flag midfield in early 2017, as the Sooners rolled, 31-16.


This time around, a Mario Cristobal-led Oregon squad rolled into town and pushed the Buckeyes around the way the Hurricanes used to treat Big Ten opponents back in the day. While Miami fans try to make sense of their third year head coach’s on-paper “process”, another native son—and two-time national champion—is watching his play out to perfection.

Not only did the Ducks beat the Buckeyes for the first time in school history, Cristobal did it short-handed—defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux and all-world freshman linebacker Justin Flowe sidelined—in what the fourth-year head coach called “a testament to the process”.

“We’ve been building toward this for a while now, but we’re not there yet,” Cristobal shared, post-game. “I don’t want to in any way shape or form give that impression. We’re not, and our guys know that too, but we’ve taken massive steps, and I think even more importantly, we’ve taken massive psychological steps, understanding how important that is going to be on Saturdays. … All those things, they just come into play and they just further strengthen the culture and the direction of the program.”

Cristobal went on to praise his assistants, but stated that his players’ heart, toughness and a discipline that “executed a high level against a great football team” was the difference-maker at The Horseshoe. Conversely, Buckeyes head coach Ryan Day—who lost his first regular season game since taking over at Ohio State—lamented his team never being in control and playing catch-up all day as Cristobal’s Ducks set the tone.

Comparing and contrasting pre-game chatter or post-game sense-making—probably a futile exercise—but throwing out any hyperbole or clichés, Cristobal—who has also choked away a few big game moments in his time at Oregon—still comes off sounding like someone who not only played at Miami during the program’s hey day, but also spent time in Saban’s system in Tuscaloosa, cutting his teeth as an assistant; total pro ready for the challenge and not in over his head.

“I think identity showed up,” Cristobal said. “I think resilience showed up. All the things that you hammer home—why we practice like we practice—it’s validated when you come out here and you do something like this. That locker room right now is spent, they’re exhausted, but they’re also realizing that we can be a really good football team, and we’ve just got to continue along the lines of that practice-preparation to make it a real thing on game day.”

Cristobal had his personal growth and face-plant moment when taking the head coaching job at Florida International from 2007 to 2012—starting out 1-11, finishing 3-9 and slightly above mediocre those years in between—doing his best at Miami’s commuter college working to field a football program.

When Diaz took the Temple gig for a few weeks in December 2018, a hope from many that he would take his rookie licks in Philadelphia—and if proving head coach-worthy—would’ve found his way back to his dream job at Coral Gables in due time.

Instead, Miami’s flawed hiring process reportedly had UM writing a $4M check to their former Big East punching bag—buying back the rights to an inexperienced coach no one else was clamoring for—which seemed egregious at the time, but feels even more maladroit when charting Cristobal’s path to Eugene and the Ducks backing into what appears to be a perfect-fit hire.

Cristobal joined the Willie Taggart-led staff in January 2017—comical consider how Taggart’s stock plummeted after a 9-12 run at Florida State the next two seasons.

The one-time Alabama offensive line coach who assumed the same position at Oregon, was now interim head coach upon Taggart’s departure—going 9-4 in 2018 and earning Pac-12 Coach of the Year honors in 2019, after an 12-2 run and Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin. A mismanaged, season-opening loss to Auburn and collapse in Tempe against Arizona State cost the Ducks a spot in the College Football Playoffs, but the season was a success nonetheless.

COVID did a bigger number on the Pac-12 than most other conferences—the season not kicking off until the first week of November—a 4-2 “regular” season ending with a lopsided Fiesta Bowl loss to Iowa State, but it’s all in the rearview after a 2-0 start to 2021 and a colossal upset of No. 3 Ohio State last weekend.

Attempting to predict the rest of the season in mid-September is always funky, but outside of showing up flat for road games at Stanford of UCLA next month, Oregon has a pretty clean path to a conference title game and a potential playoff berth.

Conversely, Miami’s road with Diaz looks pothole-filled, with cause for some white-knuckling, based on the muscle memory that’s embedded in this program’s modern-day DNA.


Should the Canes upend the Spartans, a 4-1 is a shoo-in with Central Connecticut on the horizon. From there, a Thursday night home game against Virginia—the Cavaliers a bad late week match-up for the Canes in years passed—before a road trip to Chapel Hill, where Miami is 3-5 since joining the ACC in 2004.

North Carolina at Hard Rock, a road game at Pittsburgh and a home showdown against Georgia Tech are all crapshoots based on which Miami chooses to show up for these mid-season conference battles—followed by a mid-November road trip to Tallahassee, before hosting a feisty Virginia Tech squad for a home finale, prior-to a final regular season game at Duke.

The sentiment may be unspoken by the media or the masses, but it really is “Coastal-Or-Bust” for Diaz this season—sixth-year senior D’Eriq King under center, the highly-vaunted Tar Heels brought down to earth by the Hokies, as well as Miami getting Virginia Tech at home.

Anything less than taking the ACC’s much-weaker division year three—Diaz’s leash is shorter than his predecessors, as he will fairly, or unfairly pay a price for Miami’s repeated lack of success and years of irrelevance.

Based on recent history, 9-4—a number both Shannon and Golden hit a few years in—will probably be “good enough” to the top brass, though it won’t win the division. It’d probably take 7-6 with a bowl loss to put this one out to pasture—and unless things turn around quickly, five more losses sadly isn’t out of reach.

Seems Miami’s only logical coaching answer is currently making his name out in the pacific northwest. Curious to see how things play out between now and when. Until then, all eyes are on Sparty and Diaz avoiding a knockout blow three weeks into his third season—staving off execution for a couple of weeks, at least.

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.