Tuesday, Susan Miller Degnan and I had a chance to eat lunch with coach Randy Shannon at Dan Marino's restaurant at Sunset Place in Miami. We covered many topics including how the death of Sean Taylor may have affected recruiting, how he and the school are dealing with possible image issues, how he plans to handle who stays and leaves the program issues and much more.
I've spent three hours transcribing our 2-hour interview with him. And while in the coming days, Shannon will speak and meet with other media outlets, I figured I'd share what we gathered. To hear the audio interview, follow the link on our UM homepage to Audio.
UPDATE: I realize some of our readers have sent emails regarding a portion of this interview that was deleted this morning by my editors. Personally, I do not practice the habit of going back and taking back anything that was said in a Q&A. But coach Shannon's comments about former Florida Gator Walter Odom being shot and killed on campus at the University of Florida were incorrect. He also made several comments about crime at other schools, including Ohio State. Since, he was generalizing and not necessarily being accurate with his quote, The Herald has decided to take that portion of the interview down too. We pride ourselves on being an accurate and reliable source for news and insight. And we're not going to publish false or unsubstantiated statements. We apologize for not making the necessary changes sooner. There will be a correction.
Q: Can you talk about the incident with Sean Taylor and maybe the way it affects your recruiting?
A: What they’re dealing with has been very hard for the NFL. The incident that happened with Sean didn’t happen at the University of Miami. Sean left the University of Miami in good graces. He did everything well. It has nothing to do with Miami and I think that’s the thing people have to understand, he may have played for the University of Miami but it's not Miami. I don’t know if you guys know this after and check your stats. Three out of the last four games, there’s always something that happens after the game between Florida State and Florida. Are Florida State and Florida is that bad game to go to? Is that a bad place to go to. But I’m just saying, you can’t say Virginia Tech is a bad place. Those things happen in less than 6 months. Two incidents. Does that mean Virginia Tech is not a good school to go to? No. Not at all.
Q: So you are saying this isn’t a reflection on the University of Miami, especially for parents?
A: No. Because the thing that makes parents [believe] it is because everybody says it's only Miami. That’s the first thing everybody says. Oh, you live in Miami. But it is not Miami.
Q: Do you have to do damage control?
A: No, because I think what we’re doing is, we’re letting parents know up front that UM is in another part of Dade County. Coral Gables is a different part of Dade County. It is not Old Cutler Road. Kendall is different than Liberty City. I think that’s the problem we’re having. Everybody wants to say it's Miami. Instead of them saying what it really is.
Q: So you don’t have to call parents?
A: No. I think the thing happens when the media put it's out like that, you guys create more problems when there shouldn’t be problems. But you create problems because you designate it as Miami. And Miami is huge. Let’s face it. Miami is a big county.
Q: But when [The Herald] puts out a big box like we did today [listing UM tragedies], it probably doesn't help…
A: The problem is your putting out things about all these deaths, but what deaths have really occurred on Miami campus besides one? Think about that? How many deaths have occurred on Virginia Tech campus? How many deaths have occurred on Arizona State campus? How many deaths have occurred on Florida or Florida State’s campus? But you guys put it like it happened on campus and your not giving the university a fair chance because you put it as campus and not something that happened off and I think that’s the biggest problem.
Q: So what do you do? Do you show parents a map?
A: I do all of those things. The more I can show them and tell them it's Coral Gables and I don’t hide anything. I tell them, this is where Liberty City is at. But they say, well coach we got bad parts in our area. So everybody has bad parts, but I think what is getting us and I’m not saying it's wrong, the more you guys keep putting in, this right here, this right here, I’m going to say this and I shouldn’t, but Chris Campbell’s accident occurred off campus. Bryan Pata was off campus. Kevin Gibbs off campus. Only one thing ever happened on the University of Miami campus - that’s Marlin Barnes.
Q: Is it just the image, people always look at it as Thug U.
A: Exactly. But when I was in school here, besides the fatigues what else happened? Besides the fatigues and Michael Irvin running over somebody’s foot, what else happened at the University of Miami? Could you recall anything? Let’s do this, if you want to be honest… [Randy knocks on the wooden table]… we had no arrests this season. Nothing really bad happened. It’s been a long time correct? So, it's been a long time. How many different things happened at Florida and Florida State, during the course of the year? A lot right. Well, nobody wants to say how much we’ve changed. They still want to call us Thug U. So, like, no matter how much better we get off the field and we’re going to continue to get better off the field, what are we going to be called? ThugU.
It’s always going to be that way. Some coaches have some players that do some bad things with police officers and they’re still playing. But this happens all across the country. My job is making sure these kids are held accountable for everything they do. If I wasn’t doing that, I wouldn’t be doing right by the kids and right by the parents. I’m not going to sacrifice a win because I think a kid can help us win a game. If he’s wrong, he’s wrong. And that’s my job in educating. And when other players see that’s how we win games, we’re building that foundation. But like I say, until people stop thinking we’re ThugU or whatever and start looking at us for what we have done, I don’t know how much more to improve the image. Because no matter what I think and what I do, the image is always going to be there until people start writing positive things about the school and I’m not sure it's going to happen. I mean, have we had players that shoot another player? That happened at another college. Have we had players that walk around campus with an AK-47 and then are allowed back on the team? That’s happened at maybe 10 schools I know right now. But we’re the bad school. I don’t get upset about it. [The gun rule] is a good rule because it helps keep the kids out of trouble.
Q: How do you guys check on students to make sure they don't have guns?
A: We don’t. All I know is don’t get caught with one. I don’t care if it's in your truck. I don’t care if it’s in your mom’s house. I don’t care if it's your house or your friends house. If you have it and the police find you or arrest you with it, that’s it. You’re done. You’re done with the team. You can’t come back. And it's more of a safety valve for me because a lot of players on the team have kids and if you have a kid walk around or whatever and the kid picks up the gun, you know what happens - bad things happen.
Q: So, after this newest incident with Sean Taylor, you don’t have to reassure parents, even local parents?
A: Nope. But now, somebody will write a story on it and it say that. Everybody in the country says we got bad in kids Miami right. If they’re such bad kids in Miami and Miami is not a safe place, then why are you coming down to recruit these kids to help your program out? If we have such bad kids and that’s the first thing I’ll say. But that’s the first thing they’ll do./
Q: Let's change the topic a little. Do you think your cutthroat approach to competition in practice affected some of the players this season who might not have been used to it?
A: No. I think what happened is… I look at Derrick Morse and Rochford. Every week they lined up and played and competed. I look at Javarris James and Cooper and those guys. Every week they lined up and played. That’s why I say I don’t think we got bad kids. I’m not saying we got good players. But their mentality is not like mine because I’m a guy that always believed that when you line up, your going to have fun in practice. But you make the next guy across from you suffer. I didn’t mole around in practice and say, I’m going to do it on gameday. And I’ve seen great players like Michael Irvin, Steve Walshes, the Ginos, the Lamars, all of the great players that have been here, Winslow, they were always competitors. Every day in practice, they’d play to embarrass you in front of your peers. And I think by me being hard, all I wanted guys to do is give me their best. I’m not going to sit back and say, That’s ok, run that route the way it is. I’d say, ‘Next time, sprint to the right three yards instead of the end zone.’
Q: Do you feel that was the mentality beforehand and that guys were just sort of clapped along?
A: Yeah. They weren’t able to adjust. Now, did Dedrick Epps adjust to it? He came a long ways.
Q: So would you consider this year a try out, as in, who could develop that mentality?
Q: We’re players scared to go all out for fear they were going to lose their job?
A: No. Here’s the thing, I never ever [pause], here’s the thing about me. Everybody makes mistakes. Everybody is going to make mistakes in football. You realize you don’t bench people for mistakes because everybody is going to make them. If you get on people it's for lack of effort. So, if a guy is not giving you the effort, you going to keep playing him? You got to move forward. I’m looking for effort more than anything. I keep telling you 1 plus 1 is 2 and you tell me 1 plus 1 is 4, after about the eighth or ninth time, am I going to keep it going or am I going to look for someone else to get it done? And that’s what you got to do. Ain’t nobody scared. It's like this, if I say to you all, this guy was nervous, that guy was nervous, this guy couldn’t play. Why? They can’t hear me on the football field. Do you realize none of those guys can hear me on the football field? They look at me like, I think he’s talking to me. I’m not sure. Don’t you realize that when somebody makes a mistake, they always go back into the game? Have you ever really seen us take somebody out who has really screwed up. So, when everybody said that guy might have been scared. If your going to be real good, you better demand what you want.
Q: You could Derrick Morse a true Hurricane. How many True Hurricanes did you have on this team?
A: There was a lot. I can’t give you the numbers. The biggest thing you have to look at from this team is we had some deficiencies. And what I mean by that is, who taught Lance Leggett and Darnell Jenkins how to be real Hurricanes? Nobody. Well, Santana [Moss] and Reggie [Wayne] taught Andre [Johnson] and Kevin Beard. I’ll go all the way back. Bernie taught Vinny. Vinny taught Steve. Steve taught Craig. Craig taught Gino and then there was a dropoff. And it just keeps going. One guy teaches the next guy teaches the next guy to be a Hurricane. We had a big separation at receiver. You realize we had a big separation at quarterback? Because Dorsey didn’t have backup. His backup was Ethnic Sands. So, now, who was going to teach the next quarterback when we had nobody? Now, you bring in a Kyle and Kirby and you bring in a Brock Berlin whose a transfer. So, he didn’t understand what to do. So, those are things I’m saying, you have to have people to set the trend, set the standards.
Q: By that rationale, doesn't that mean there is going to be a huge disconnect next season?
A: And that’s why you start now and you start the trend. The trend has been set. What Kyle has done and what Kirby has done last year, Marve has been in every meeting. He’s been in every quarterback meeting. He’s been watching film with them. He’s been learning. And Kyle and Kirby have done some things to help Marve out. Hey, don’t do what I did. Blah, blah, blah. And that’s what I mean helping him through the process and the trend.
Q: Is Robert Marve going to need any further surgery?
A: No. Not that I know of.
Q: Is Kirby going to be back?
A: I talked to Kirby yesterday and he says he’s coming back. Me and coach Nix talked to him yesterday.
Q: Well, you know why we’re asking…
A: Oh, you should ask that question.
Q: What’s his role, assuming you guys want to go with the young guys?
A: He knows his role and he’s going to be supportive of whatever decisions we make. This is what I mean by a True Cane. No matter what knows the only way we’re going to be successful is if everybody knows what we’re trying to do. Not just him. So, he knows he has to help the younger guys out to be more successful.
Q: Will he play or do we just expect him not to play?
A: No. You never expect the unexpected. Don’t do that. What I’m saying is, no matter what, if Kirby is helping the young guys… let’s say for example, we start the season and Kirby is the starter. If Kirby never helps those young guys and Kirby gets nicked, where are we going to be at? And that’s what I mean by true Hurricanes, we always help each other out to get the next guy to that level. Glenn Cook, prime example. He’s an all-time best guy I’ve ever seen at Miami. He wasn’t a starter but knew the defense when he was young. So, he helped the other guys. He played all three positions, but he always kept helping people because he knows if I get nicked, somebody has to step up. And when he’s out, he’s still trying to help and that’s why you need that kind of I mean, Hurricane mentality. Like D-Mo, no matter what happens, he’s going to stay on Orlando Franklin and Joel Figueroa, he was going to do that because if something happens, they have to step in and play.
Q: Will Kirby Freeman really compete for the job?
A: Yeah. All of them will. Everybody will. If Calais Campbell comes back, he knows he has to compete. It won’t be given to him. It’s all about competition. Kenny will be the same way. See people know who I am. They know I want the best for them and I’m not going to let a guy come in and just go through the motions at a program and say that they have it because most injuries come when you go half speed.
Q: Is Glenn Cook going to play next year or coach?
A: No. He’s probably going to get a medical [redshirt]. He’s got a sixth year medical. He didn’t play in any games and he was hurt his freshman year.
Q: Are you expecting anybody to not come back?
A: There will be some players that don’t come back.
Q: Is that your doing or their doing?
A: I never get rid of nobody.
Q: But you tell them how it is? You tell them they might not play?
A: I’ll be up front and honest with them. I’m not going to sit up here and say ok, your on the football team. You’ve been here for four years and I’m expecting big things out of you and then when the season starts, you don’t get a rep. I’m going to say, this is what you got to expect. We’ve got some young players that are really good and are better than you at this point, don’t expect to get any reps. Don’t expect to play a lot. This is what your role is going to be and if you accept it, fine.
Q: What could someone like that have their role be?
A: Anything. Their role may be to not even play this year. They might be a scout team player.
Q: But isn’t that in effect the same thing?
A: No. One thing I do is I’m honest. I’m not going to tell a kid something to keep him around and make him feel good. I’m going to be up front and honest.
Q: But what if they works hard, will you ever know it, give them a chance?
A: I'll know. But he’s got to understand the things that are going to happen. I’m not going to sit up here and say that you in great competition. If we think we got people who are better in this point in time, than the older guys, I mean like anything, if those guys got talent and are doing the same things as the older guy but better, you got to go with the better football player. Not age, but the better football player. We’ll never get rid of nobody. I’m not going to sit up here and say I’m going to take your scholarship, I’m going to be up front and honest with them. Now, whatever they want to do, if they want to continue to be on the football team. If not, they can go somewhere else. I’m not going to hold anybody back. I’m not going to hold Charlie Jones back.
Q: Has anybody told you they are leaving yet?
A: Nobody yet. I can’t say this right now, but there are some guys looking at other places and I’ll let you know when those guys are going to go. I’ll actually let you guys know that. I’ll release a statement.