January 21, 2015

Coach L kicks players out of practice

Most interesting nuggets out of Wednesday afternoon presser with Coach L and Sheldon McClellan:

1. Coach L did not like the energy of some players at yesterday's practice, so he made them run and then he kicked the entire team out of the gym and told them to go home. "He was pretty angry,'' McClellan said. "Rarely have I seen him like that. It wasn't the first time he was mad at us, but it was the first time we've been sent home.'' They plan to show up hungrier today because "We don't want to make coach mad.''

2. Coach L said fans should expect to see more of 6-10 Spaniard Ivan Cruz Uceda against NC State Thursday night than they saw of him vs. Notre Dame. The Wolfpack pack some heavy players in the paint, so Jekiri, Uceda, Sherman and Thomas will play a big role.

3. The Canes have had trouble guarding the perimeter, and they will be tested big time against NC State guards Trevor Lacey (17.1 ppg) and Ralston Turner (13.7), whom Coach L called a "Ray Allen kind of player'' who looks for a moment of daylight and launches threes.

4. Coach L said NC State (which beat Duke, as did UM) is "Maybe the most talented, athletic team in the league. Their backcourt is as hard to guard as any in the country.''

5. Coach L on Angel Rodriguez's 1-for-10 shooting against the Irish: "Some nights you have the juice, sometimes you don't.''

BY Michelle Kaufman

Former Hurricane Calais Campbell provides UM with $1.6 million gift, largest ever by former player

Former Hurricane Calais Campbell, NFL Pro Bowler with the Arizona Cardinals and founder of the CRC Foundation, made a gift of $1.6 million to the University of Miami's athletic department Wednesday to fund The Calais Campbell Football Defensive Lineman Endowed Scholarship.

The endowment marks the largest gift from a former UM student athlete ever, a little more than the recent $1.5 million gift from former running back Ken Hunt the school announced. 

“Calais’ generosity will create opportunities for young men for years to come and on behalf of the University, I want to express our gratitude for his commitment to Miami,” UM athletic director Blake James said in a statement released by the school. “Calais is an incredible man and along with his family, understands the importance of education and the impact a positive environment can have on a student-athlete.  We are excited by the benchmarks set by Ken Hunt and now Calais, which will serve as catalysts for former student-athlete giving in the future.”

The Calais Campbell Football Defensive Lineman Endowment will fund a full scholarship annually, in perpetuity, to a defensive lineman on the Hurricanes football team. In recognition for this historic gift, the defensive linemen meeting room in the Hecht Athletic Center will be renamed The Calais Campbell Defensive Line Meeting Room.

An all-ACC defensive end, Campbell recorded the ninth best single-season sack total in Hurricanes history with 10.5, on his way to being named the Hurricanes’ 2006 team MVP. Campbell was a four-year letter winner, and graduated in 2008 with a degree in advertising and marketing.

“While running through the smoke as a Miami Hurricane will always be one of the great honors of my life, I am equally as proud of the education I received while a Hurricane student-athlete” Calais Campbell said in a statement released by UM. “Through my parents, I learned the value of earning a degree and through the University of Miami I was able to achieve it. The University of Miami continues to strive for the best in both academics and athletics, and it’s my honor to be a small part of that effort.”

Campbell was himself the named recipient of an endowed scholarship from Robert and Connie McGee, longtime supporters of UM athletics. 

“The McGees were very inspirational in my life and I’m honored to now stand beside them as a fellow donor to Hurricane Athletics,” Campbell said. “I hope that through this gift I can inspire others to think about how they can continue to positively impact the lives of Hurricane student-athletes, just as the McGee family has done for many years.”

Campbell and the McGees formed a strong bond during his time at UM, and they remain close today.

“Our family has enjoyed attending University of Miami football games for many years. When we lost our son, Shane, at age 13, we created an endowed football scholarship in his memory,” Bob and Connie McGee said in a statement released by UM.  “Our first recipient was Calais Campbell. It was a wonderful experience to meet Calais as an incoming freshman and to watch him grow as a player and a man.

"Our relationship with Calais has helped us both understand the impact that a scholarship can have on a young person’s life. Calais is an exceptional young man. We are so pleased that he has decided to carry on the tradition of investing in the young men who will play football at University of Miami by giving an endowed football scholarship. We feel that our family’s scholarship has come full circle,” they added.

In 2008, Campbell was selected 50th overall in the second round of the NFL draft by the Arizona Cardinals, and has continued to excel in the NFL, becoming a Cardinals team leader and being named to his first Pro Bowl. Campbell has twice won the Cardinals “Man of the Year” award for his work in the Arizona community through his CRC Foundation.

With Campbell's gift, the school announced it has surpassed $106 million toward its fundraising campaign known as Momentum2: The Breakthrough Campaign for the University of Miami.

January 20, 2015

Canes 'definitely' in it for Booker T. star receiver Antonio Callaway after official visit

Booker T. Washington receiver Antonio Callaway, a four-star prospect who was one of 17 official visitors at the University of Miami last weekend, said Tuesday the Hurricanes are among the three finalists he will chose from on National Signing Day.

"I narrowed my list down to Alabama, Miami and West Virginia," Callaway said Tuesday afternoon after he visited the Miami Herald office to pose for his All-Dade First Team selection photo. "Sometimes my heart tells me Miami. Sometimes it tells me Alabama. And sometimes it tells me West Virginia. Wherever I feel comfortable that's where I'm going to go. But right now, I'm totally undecided."

Callaway (5-11, 185) said he'll visit West Virginia this coming weekend and then Alabama on the weekend of the 30th. The Florida Gators, once thought to be the front-runner for Callaway, have dropped out of the picture he says.

Callaway, who grew up a Gators fan because his favorite player was Percy Harvin, said he had a great relationship with former UF assistant Travaris Robinson. But since Robinson left for Auburn, Callaway said, his relationship with Florida hasn't been the same.

"I barely hear from them," Callaway said. "From the new staff, I haven’t even heard from them at all. Coach [Jim] McElwain will send me a picture of their old players. That’s the most I hear from them. I write them back and won’t get a response."

At this point, Callaway said, the Hurricanes "definitely" have a shot at signing him.

"Even though I was injured and missed eight games they didn’t slack off recruiting me or nothing," Callaway said of UM's coaches. "They recruited me the whole time the same way."

What did Callaway think of his official visit to UM last weekend? "I loved it," he said.

"I hung out with Tyree Brady, got a chance to kick it with him. We were friends from down south [in Homestead]. I got to meet Brad Kaaya, some of the other players. He was telling me it was a good program, just come in and work, be humble and stuff is going to go in your favor."

What are UM's coaches telling Callaway? "The same thing [as Alabama and West Virginia]. They said I could come in and play as a true freshman."

Callaway said playing time is important to him. He wants to have a role.

What else matters to him? "Family," he said. "What is it going to feel like outside of football?"

Callaway said he liked the atmosphere at Miami and the camraderie between players.

Now, he'll head to Morgantown and Tuscaloosa the next two weekends to see if it feels the same or even better there.

"I don’t really know much about Alabama, but I know from the looks of it, it will be a good fit for me," Callaway said. "I know Coach Lane Kiffin is a great coach."

Callaway said Alabama assistants Mario Cristobal and Billy Napier have been telling him they envision his role a lot like Amari Cooper's down the road. Cooper, a Miami Northwestern star, passed on the Hurricanes three years ago and became a star at Alabama and is expected to be one of the top receivers taken in the NFL Draft this coming May.

How is West Virginia assistant coach Jajuan Seider selling the Mountaineers to Callaway? "He tells me that they don’t really have what they need on the outside," Callaway said. "He said if I come in and work hard I can start because they need an outside receiver."

Callaway said whichever school he ends up signing with will get a hungry player looking to leave behind his mark. He did that this season at Booker T. Washington before tearing his meniscus and missing the final seven games of the season. In seven games, he finished with 31 catches for 818 yards and seven touchdowns. 

The oldest of five siblings raised by a single mother, Callaway said he looks up to his cousin, Arizona Cardinals rookie receiver John Brown, who worked his way into being a third round pick after being a three-time All-American at Division II Pittsburg State.

"My cousin John Brown, his story is almost like mine," Callaway said. "His brother got killed. He used that as motivation to go on. We come from the same type of struggle down in Homestead."

Callaway said he's looking forward to a bright future in college next season.

"A new beginning," Callaway said of what his decision on National Signing Day will mark. "That’s really the start of changing around my life and where I want to go."

Miami Hurricanes baseball season approaching, with UM quarterback Malik Rosier officially on roster

Baseball season is closing in, and I, for one, am happy about that. 

Great kids, and the heart of the Hurricanes' batting lineup -- ACC Rookie of the Year Zack Collins in the 3 spot, David Thompson at cleanup and sophomore outfielder Willie Abreu the likely No. 5 hitter -- appears to be a terror for opponents. 

The Canes open the season Friday night, Feb. 13, at home against Rutgers, with a double-header on Feb. 14 and the series finale on Sunday afternoon, Feb. 15.

Collins was recently named to the Perfect Game Preseason All-America first team, with reliever Bryan Garcia a third-team selection. They also were recognized by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper.

On Tuesday, UM made its debut in Perfect Game's top 25 at No. 10.

According to the UM release we just received, the ranking was Miami’s third top 15 mark of the preseason; Collegiate Baseball Newspaper slotted Miami at No. 14 in its preseason poll released in December, while D1Baseball rated Miami No. 15 in its rankings released Monday.

Miami, which finished 44-19 in 2014 and earned one of 16 NCAA postseason Regional host sites, ended the season atop the ACC with a 24-6 record in conference play. Head coach Jim Morris' team also took home their second ACC Regular Season Championship in program history en route to a top seed at the ACC Baseball Championship in Greensboro, N.C. 

The Hurricanes, who in 2014 extended their postseason streak to a college baseball-record 42 consecutive years, return a number of key contributors from last season both on the mound and in the field.

Collins was named 2014 Baseball America National Freshman of the Year, left-handed pitcher Andy Suarez was the highest drafted college player (second round, Washington Nationals) in the nation to return to school, while Garcia earned NCBWA All-America honors after delivering a dominant season as the team's closer.

 Also note that quarterback Malik Rosier, a rising redshirt freshman in football, is now officially on the baseball roster as an outfielder and will wear No. 28. He's listed as 6-1 and 208 pounds .Word is that Rosier, who will continue to play football, has been impressive so far in early practices. He's fast, too.

Malik rosier

UM's recruiting class was ranked No. 2 nationally by Perfect Game, highlighted by speedy freshman outfielder Carl Chester, junior college transfer George Iskenderian (likely the opening-night third baseman) and outfielder Justin Smith.

The Hurricanes will open the season with the First Pitch Banquet on Feb at the Marriott Miami Dadeland. The Canes will host FanFest and its annual Alumni Game at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field at 4 p.m. Feb. 7. Admission to FanFest is free.

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

January 15, 2015

On second thought, Elder and Jones stick to football

UM basketball coach Jim Larranaga, tickled to see a crowded interview room after the Canes' huge road upset over No. 4 Duke, opened by announcing that, upon further review, football players Corn Elder and D'Mauri Jones decided to stick to football and not play for the basketball team.

"Despite how excited myself and my staff were about having Corn Elder and D’Mauri Jones join us, those guys realized the amount of work they have to do academically and still with football, and the time commitment was just going to be way too much, so neither will be with us any further. Corn was with us two practices, D’Mauri just watched, and realized, `Well, maybe I need to just concentrate on the football.'’’

(My translation: Perhaps they realized just how serious college basketball is, how skilled the players are, how hard the practicees are, and it would be hard to just dabble in it. It requires a bigger commitment than they have time or energy to give)

--Michelle Kaufman

January 14, 2015

Scarlett still committed to the Canes, but going into final three visits with an open mind

St. Thomas Aquinas running back Jordan Scarlett can see the recruiting finish line and the truth is he can't wait to get there.

Committed to the Hurricanes since July, the U.S. Army-All American and consensus four-star recruit opened some eyes late last month when he told reporters in San Antonio his commitment to UM was "85 percent."

Wednesday afternoon, I caught up with Scarlett at Aquinas after he posed for his Miami Herald All-Broward County First Team photo and asked him where he stands with UM with only three recruiting weekends left before National Signing Day on Feb. 4.

This weekend, Scarlett said he's going to visit Coral Gables. Then, he'll be off to official visits in Gainesville and Tallahassee the following two weekends. 

I asked Scarlett what he's looking for on the visits. His response: "I'm just hoping to see how the lifestyle is at all those schools, and see what's going on."

What made Scarlett go from a 100 percent Canes commitment to 85 percent? 

"How their season went," Scarlett said. "It wasn't the best season out of all my options of the schools. And I just feel like I don't want to miss on an opportunity of taking visits and seeing what's out there."

Booker T. Washington star Mark Walton, UM's other elite running back in its 2015 signing class, has developed a friendship with Scarlett this season. Last week, Walton told me the comments made by Duke Johnson's mother shortly after the bowl game (regarding how half the team would transfer out if not for NCAA rules) rattled a few recruits. Did it do the same to Scarlett?

"That didn't really rattle me at all because that's just the parents' point of view," Scarlett said.

Scarlett said he and Walton have talked often throughout the recruiting process. What has Walton's message been to Scarlett? 

"We just talk about how it's going to be there, how we're going to be a good 1-2 punch, how things are going to be great," Scarlett said. "Hopefully it all works out."

I asked Scarlett if he worries at all about coaching changes at UM? Does possible coaching changes after the 2015 season (assuming Golden and his staff fail) enter is decision-making process at all?

"No. Not really," he said. "The coaches don't really make a factor in the school for me. I'm going to play football and get my education. The coaches are great people, but I wouldn't make my choice on that."

What did Scarlett like about UM to begin with? "It's a home school, they have a great education, and they run the ball. So it's a great opportunity for me," Scarlett said. 

What has been UM's message to Scarlett throughout the recruiting process? "That's it's the place to be," he said. "That I should stay home and bring Miami back."

Is that something that still entices Scarlett? "Yes," he said. "That's why [I'm still committed to them]."

So are these trips basically to see if things might be better at UF and FSU? "Yeah," Scarlett answered.

What does Scarlett like about Florida and Florida State? "Florida is a good school. I feel like it's going to be a great school coming up because it has new coaches. I want to see what the coaches and the school is like," he said. "Florida State has just been a school of mine, part of the recruiting process since the beginning. They're a great school."

Scarlett said former Hurricanes coach Randy Shannon is his new recruiter for the Gators. 

"I didn't know him before this," Scarlett said. "He's just saying he's the new guy and he just wants to show me how much of a good opportunity it is up there and to give Florida a chance."

So is Scarlett still "85 percent committed" to Miami? "Yeah," he said. 

Scarlett said he's not planning anything special for Signing Day or some big announcement before hand. He said he's going to sign his National Letter of Intent on Signing Day and be done with the whole process.

So whoever gets Scarlett's fax is where he's going, I asked him. "Pretty much," he said. 

Miami Trustee Bob Mann gives $1 million bucks, says he's also disappointed in football, but wants to "help build the program up''

   As I said in my last post, Bob Mann is a very generous person.

   I spoke with him today about being that generous when so many understandably disgruntled football fans are saying they won’t renew their season tickets or give any more money to Hurricanes athletics until changes are made in the football program, which finished 6-7 this past season.

  If you hadn’t heard, Mann, 68, a UM alum and Trustee, gave $1 million to establish the Robert A. Mann Endowed Fund for the Department of Athletics.

 The gift will support UM football, basketball, baseball and emergency needs for all student-athletes as determined by the athletic director and is “in support of Momentum2: The Breakthrough Campaign for the University of Miami.’’

UM said Mann’s gift means as of now, the athletics department has raised more than $104 million toward its Momentum2 goal of $125 million.

 Mann has been very generous financially and otherwise over the years to support Hurricanes athletics – and other areas of UM as well. He said he chooses to keep giving, despite being upset about football’s downward trend.

“The contribution is to help build the program up,’’ he said. “There are so many needs. I continue to give every year anyway. A lot of people do. We’re really happy with the basketball program and some of the other programs are doing well and we’re all looking for the football program to turn around again.

  “Everything in football seems to go in cycles, whether it’s Ohio State or Alabama or Oklahoma. All these schools have up or down periods . I just know that everybody in the university is committed to winning. And I’m sure the resources will be there at the university to do it. So much has gone into athletics in the last decade.

   “Over the last year we put $2.5 million worth of high definition scoreboards in the BankUnitedCenter and that was to increase the fans’ experience.”

  Mann, an avid football fan who attends all the games, including the Duck Commander Independence Bowl, said he believes it’s a misconception that the administration does not care about football.

   “I think the person who wants to win more than anyone else is Donna Shalala. She’s a very competitive person. We all want to win. Losing is not fun.

   “I think fans will be very happy with what they see in the future. There will be a commitment by the administration to athletics and things will only get better.’’

    SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN  

Robert Mann endows Miami Hurricanes athletics fund with $1 million gift

  

Bob Mann is generous, and willing to support the Hurricanes through rain or shine. He has given plenty of money to his alma mater, and in particular, athletics. On Wednesday, UM announced that he has gifted $1 million to create an athletics fund to support football, basketball, baseball and "emergency needs for all student-athletes as determined by the Director of Athletics.'' 

Here’s the release from UM:

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – The University of Miami Athletics Department announced today a gift of $1 million from UM Trustee and alumnus Robert Mann to create the Robert A. Mann Endowed Fund for the Department of Athletics.

This endowment gift, which will support Hurricanes Football, Basketball, Baseball and emergency needs for all student-athletes as determined by the Director of Athletics, is in support of Momentum2: The Breakthrough Campaign for the University of Miami. With this gift, the Department of Athletics has raised over $104 million towards its Momentum2 goal of $125 million.

“Thank you to Bob Mann for his longstanding generosity, commitment and leadership to University of Miami Athletics,” said UM Director of Athletics Blake James. “Bob is a trusted friend to our program and we are grateful that our dedicated student athletes will forever benefit from Bob’s generosity and leadership.”

A Cleveland native and longtime Golden Cane, Mann has generously supported scholarships and facilities in both Athletics and at the School of Communication. Mann, B.A. ’70, serves on the University’s Board of Trustees’ Athletics Advisory Committee and is the Chair of the Visiting Committee of the School of Communication. Bob’s past contributions to Athletics include supporting the construction of Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field, the Robert A. Mann Auditorium in the Schwartz Center for Athletics Excellence and many years of generous discretionary support for UM Athletics.

Recognized for his unwavering commitment to his alma mater, Mann was named Henry King Stanford Alumnus of the Year in 2008.

Blake James explains why 'Fire Al Golden' and 'Bring Back Butch' posters taken from UM students last week; plus other nuggets on Marlins Park, indoor practice facility

In case you missed it, a frustrated Hurricanes fan holding a poster board with a 'Fire Al Golden' message made his way into the view of ESPN cameras Monday afternoon in Dallas, site of this year's national championship game.

Fire Al Golden poster boardScreen shots of the 'Fire Al Golden' poster -- when it was visible on TV during afternoon shows like The Herd with Colin Cowherd (you can spot it just over Tim Tebow's right shoulder in the photo here) -- made its way around social media rather quickly before the game. 

Some UM students like Willy Herrera, a 22-year old senior studying accounting and finance in Coral Gables, are saying they wish they could express themselves in a similar way on campus, but claim they aren't being allowed to. Twice last week during men's basketball games (against Virginia first and then Boston College), Herrera said he and friends had 'Fire Al Golden' and 'Bring Back Butch' signs snatched away from them by UM staffers Jesse Marks (Associate Athletic Director for Development) and Alfonso Restrepo (Assistant director of Development).

I reached out to Herrera after the Virginia game (after a prominent former UM player reached out to me privately to let me know what happened to Willy and others) to get the details. Then I asked athletic director Blake James last Thursday (shortly after the press conference to announce UM's new deal with Adidas) if he thought the school was impeding on freedom of speech rights of Hurricanes fans and students displeased with Golden.

"It's a policy at the stadium that there aren't any signs [allowed in]," James responded. "So it wasn't that it was 'Bring Back Butch' or 'Fire Al' or anything like that. The policy at the BankUnited Center is that there isn't any signs allowed in. And that's for a variety of reasons.

"Obviously if you're sitting behind someone and they're holding up a sign the whole game you can't see the game. And so the environment we create is to allow the fans to enjoy the game. Like most facilities, rarely do you allow things that are going to hamper the experience of others around them."

During Donna Shalala's tenure the school has conveyed to students through various messages the administration supports their rights to freedom of speech and other civil liberties. James was adamant last Thursday the actions taken by UM staffers wasn't censorship.

"Obviously we want to recognize the freedom to express your opinions and it wasn't something that was done on that front," he said. "It's our policy that signs aren't allowed in that facility. Again, I'm not sure how they got by the security. If they had it hidden or how it was done. But, that is something that is a policy there at that facility."

James said UM doesn't make the policy at Sun Life Stadium, but the rules at the BUC are the same as the ones for Canes baseball games on campus.

"I'm pretty sure they don't allow signs or umbrellas in Sun Life Stadium," James said. "Again, most stadiums aren't going to allow you to bring things in that are going to hamper the viewing enjoyment of others around you."

Obviously there are quite a few others who enjoy the Fire Al Golden posters like Herrera, who grew up a Canes fan and graduated from Miami Columbus High before coming to UM.

"It's not the act of [my poster board] being taken away," Herrera said of why he's upset. "We're not allowed to say anything, and at the end of the day it is a school and it's for the student first. We also pay our athletic fee every year. A lot of us could argue what we pay for isn't what we expected when we decided to go and pay our athletic fee. A lot of these people who make these big decisions are in politics and are used to listening to constituents. It's just frustrating that we're trying every way of being heard and no one listens to us. Athletics is a big part of student life, a huge part of athletic experiences. Why can't we express ourselves?"

MORE QUESTIONS FOR BLAKE JAMES

I spoke to James for 10 minutes one-on-one about a variety of other issues last Thursday. Here is a short Q&A of the topics covered:

Q: It feels like there's been overwhelming constant negativity from fans regarding Al Golden being the football coach. What's your message to the fan when there is a level of vitriol we haven't seen before?

"We all want the same thing. We all want to see the program win and I'm confident -- and you spoke to Al -- Al wants to win. I know there's some out there that question if he's the right one out there to do it and if he can do it, and I still feel that he is the guy that can get it done. The only thing I would say is 'Hey that's what we all want.' We all want to see this program winning ACC championships because if you're doing that you're going to have a chance to win the national championship.' And we all know that's the end goal. Let's get an ACC championship and then let's have an opportunity at the national championship. So, it's really just to try to give -- as with any one of our programs -- give them the support they need and give them the resources to be successful.

"That's part of this [Adidas] deal. It's going to give me greater ability to give them resources they need to be successful. Whether it's the facilities we've done over the last couple years -- the student athlete training table, practice fields. We're going to put lights up out here within the next few months. It's putting all those things in place to allow us to have success. I understand people are unhappy about us being 6-7. But Al's not happy about being 6-7. I'm not happy about being 6-7. I think we just have different views on how do we get back to the top. And mine let's support and invest. Obviously others have different thoughts."

Q: Have you spoken to Al about changing his assistant coaches?

"Al and I talked about those sorts of things. But that's something I trust him to make the judgement on. We brought that conversation up and that's something that he constantly has to do. He has to do that every year. Obviously in a year that you're 6-7 it becomes a much more targeted area I think. As is the head coaching position when you go 6-7. I recognize that's what people are going to want to talk about right now. It goes into his evaluation every year. Whether you're winning a national championship or going 6-7 there's things you're going to need to change for next year. Because if you sit in the same spot everybody is going to pass you by. So it's Al's job to constantly evaluate his program and make sure we're doing the things we need to do to progress. Because you always need to make progress regardless of what you're record is. So those are things that I leave to him. But my challenge to him was evaluate everything and make the changes you need to make and then tell me what you need on resources so I can get us to where we need to be. We need to be winning the Coastal. We need to be going to the ACC championship, and again we need to be back on the national stage. And we're on the same page with that. And that's my commitment to him to get him back to that spot."

Q: I've had a couple Golden Canes boosters reach out to me and they've said the you and administration have told them there will be changes after Signing Day. What's been your message to them? What have you tried to convey to them?

"My message is the same to everyone whether it's a Golden Cane or anyone else is. I want to give them their resources. Any one of our programs. Obviously, football is the one that's the big one and football is the one that's been talked about the most. For me, it's just continuing push them to evaluate, push them to make sure I'm giving them the resources they need, and then continuing to look at our facilities and our infrastructure to see what we can do better. We need to get lights on our practice field. We need an indoor practice facility and I'm excited about what the Dolphins are doing with Dolphins Stadium. I think that will enhance some things too and should help create a better gameday environment for us."

Q: What can you tell us about the new gameday experience for Canes fans might be like with all the changes being done at Sun Life?

"The Dolphins are going to have a press conference on that. I'd rather just comment after that press conference just not to say anything."

Q: But it's going to be a better experience?

"Yeah. I would say with everything they've shared with me I'm confident our fans will feel it's a much better game day experience."

Q: Where are you in terms of season tickets sold for 2015?

"We still haven't even started because we're still waiting for the Dolphins to finalize everything. Once they finalize everything then we'll send out our renewal notices. We haven't sent out our renewal notices, which is again off schedule for us. Normally we would have already sent those out. Given this construction project it looks like it's probably going to be February when we send stuff out that normally would have been out by now."

Q: In terms of an indoor practice facility at UM how close is that to becoming a reality?

"We're working on it. It's hard for me to say how close we are. We're working on identifying the right spot for it. I think once we find the right spot the institution and our supporters, are in-line and recognize the need for it that we're going to be able to make it a reality. Right now, it's finding the right spot. Then it will be lining up the funding for it. But I'm confident we're going to make that happen."

Q: Marlins Park hosted its first bowl game. Any chance you might play a game there at some point? Maybe against FIU?

"I think it would be hard. We signed a deal with FIU and [athletic director] Pete [Garcia] had mentioned maybe we could look at doing something like that. Sun Life Stadium is our home filed and to go play somewhere else in our own market -- if it's not on a permanent basis -- I don't think it would make sense for us. But I'll continue to monitor what they're doing at Marlins Park. And if there's something we ever felt would be a fit for us we'd investigate the possibilities."

January 12, 2015

Q&A with UM basketball coach Jim Larranaga on Hurricanes football players Corn Elder & D'Mauri Jones

Here’s the full Q and A between Miami Herald UM basketball writer Michelle Kaufman (first two questions) and Hurricanes coach Jim Larranaga, and me and Larranaga (final question) during today’s Atlantic Coast Conference men’s basketball teleconference, as the Canes prepare to play at Duke on Tuesday night.

Please read the previous Eye On the U blog entry for more information about former Tennessee high school star point guard/ current UM cornerback Corn Elder, and UM receiver D’Mauri Jones. Both attend UM on football scholarships.

Jones has one catch in his career, this past season against FAMU, for 13 yards. Elder played extensively in football, and is expected to have an even bigger role next season. Both are rising juniors.

 Q: Two football players are coming over to help. Do you see them being practice players or contributing on the court and how good are they at basketball? Have you watched them play?

 Coach Larranaga: “I’ve really not watched them play. Corn Elder was an outstanding high school basketball player in the state of Tennessee. He was going to play last year and got injured, had surgery, so he didn’t. D’Mauri Jones I’ve never seen play at all.

   “Right now, game preparation is so important and we want to have as much depth as we possibly can, so we’d like to have a scout team that can just be the opponent, so that these young guys – especially our freshmen – can just focus on being Miami and don’t have to bounce back and forth between what we call our white team and green team. So we’ve added a group called our black team, and they’re the ones that become the opponent, so the white and green team can really prepare for our next game.”

Cornelder

 Q: When can they start practicing?

 Coach Larranaga:  Corn Elder was able to start yesterday [Sunday], but D’Mauri Jones is still waiting for NCAA clearance. He’ll either be ready today or Wednesday. They will not be traveling to Duke.”

D'Mauri Jones

 Q: Is there a possibility that either or both could play this season. For that to happen -- if they should play – would that have to be cleared by Al Golden?

 Coach Larranaga: “Before Corn and D’Mauri ever came to my office to talk to me, which was yesterday, I called Al and told him that those kids had expressed interest. And Al was very, very cooperative and said it was fine with him. He felt it was good for them to stay very, very active. As far as my relationship with Al Golden, it’s terrific. He’s been wonderful and very supportive of our basketball program and he said if these guys can help them practice for games, you know, go for it.

   “As far as playing in a game is concerned, our first thought is we are going to put them on the scout team and have them help us prepare for games. Beyond that I can’t tell you because honestly I haven’t seen them play. But we already have a very strong starting unit and five guys off the bench who are very capable of helping us. So, it’ll be very, very challenging and it would take some unusual circumstances before either one of them would actually get into a game. They would have to work their way onto the green team.”

 SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

"Money Mot'' named Natl Player of Week

UM guard Adrienne Motley, nicknamed "Money Mot'', was definitely on the money last week, and it didn't go unnoticed. She was named ESPN-W National Player of the Week after scoring a career-high 32 points against No. 4 Notre Dame and 22 against Virginia Tech. She shot 68 percent against the Irish and had eight rebounds against the Hokies.

The Canes are 13-3, 3-0 ACC, and surely will break into the Top 25 today. Now, if only they could get more fans -- and students -- to show up at their games.

--Michelle Kaufman

January 11, 2015

Jim Larranaga: UM football players Corn Elder & D'Mauri Jones walking on to Hurricanes basketball

Hurricanes cornerback Corn Elder of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, starred in football and basketball at The Ensworth School in Nashville -- leading Ensworth to three state titles in each sport.

Elder, 20, a rising junior whose scholarship is with the football team, had a goal of playing both sports when he came to UM as a true freshman in 2013. But he tore the meniscus of his right knee against Virginia in November 2013, underwent surgery, and had to temporarily let the basketball dream linger while he rehabilitated and got stronger for football.

Now, fully healed with a complete 2014 football season behind him (in addition to 10 games in 2013), Elder is, indeed, in the process of walking on to the Miami men's basketball team, as confirmed Sunday night by basketball coach Jim Larranaga.

Also in the process of joining the team as a walk-on is 6-4, 196-pound rising junior receiver D'Mauri Jones of Leesburg, Fla. Like Elder, Jones goes to UM on a football scholarship.

A UM spokesman said both players are not yet on the basketball roster, nor will they  will travel to Duke on Tuesday. 

"One of the keys to our success is game preparation,'' Larranaga told our Michelle Kaufman tonight. "Corn Elder and D'Mauri Jones can really help us in that category. They are two terrific young men and great athletes. We greatly appreciate Al Golden and his staff for allowing them to join us at this time.'' 

Cornelder

Elder, a former star point guard, recently told The Tennessean while he was home for winter break: "I'm not sure at this point [about joining the basketball team]. "I'll see how I feel once I get back. I want to sit down with Coach, kind of take it from there.''

 Elder also said in the story: "It's a lot tougher playing both sports because the football season is so much longer in college than it is in high school. It's just something I'm going to have to really think hard about.''      

  The UM hoops team is now 11-4 overall and 1-1 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. It travels to Durham, North Carolina, to face the Blue Devils at 9 p.m. Tuesday (ESPN2).

    Elder told the paper he's "looking forward to next season'' in football. This year he finished with 34 tackles, three tackles for loss, a sack, two fumble recoveries and four pass breakups.

   "I had a pretty good football season, but I feel like I could have played better,'' he said.

  When I interviewed Elder this past season, he told me he "loves'' both sports, "but I think I have a higher ceiling in football. ...Right now I'm just focusing on all football.''

  Elder was obviously undersized in football, at "about 175 pounds'' on his 5-10 frame last August (the UM bio said 182 then and now says 188). He was clocked last summer with a 4.46-second average after running two 40-yard dashes -- the fastest time for a UM defensive back. He was a star running back in high school.

   "He has good athleticism, he can flip his hips and has good body control and is very fast,'' UM defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio told me about Elder. "And the thing that was surprising in the beginning was he was also very willing to be physical having really not played defense before."

 SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

    

 

  

January 09, 2015

Booker T. Washington star running back Mark Walton looking forward to becoming a Hurricane

Mark Walton said he's always been a diehard Hurricanes fan. So becoming a Cane soon will be easy.

"No matter what record we had, what record we finished with, I was always a University of Miami fan," the 17-year-old Booker T. Washington running back said on Wednesday. "Edgerrin James was my favorite player."

Walton got a chance to meet James at the Florida State game back on Nov. 15. 

"He didn't know I was committed and he asked me what position I played," Walton said. "I told him running back. He started telling me, 'This is a great place for you. You've got the ability to change your family's life.' I said, 'Did you regret going to the University of Miami?' He said, 'Not at all, that's a decision he made and it was the best decision he made his whole life, and it helped change his whole life."

Walton is looking forward to following in James' footsteps soon. A UM commitment since Sept. 29, 2013 (he's the second-longest commitment in the 2015 class), Walton said this week that barring any major coaching changes in Coral Gables (and even that might not be enough) he plans to sign with the Hurricanes on Feb. 4. 

Miami has been his dream school since he was little. Walton said he does have visits lined up to go to Louisville, West Virginia and Georgia after visiting UM this weekend. But he says that's really just in case he has to turn to Plan B.

"The reason I'm going to the University of Miami is because I feel like me, coach Ice, coach Golden and [offensive coordinator James] Coley have a great relationship," Walton said. "Being around them, I love their energy. I think we have a great relationship more than any coach that is recruiting me."

One of six children, Walton said he's been raised by his mother Kimberly Rogers for most of his life. Walton said his father, Mark Walton Sr., was murdered when he was about seven or eight years old -- after his parents were already separated. 

"He was stabbed in the heart by his girlfriend," Walton said. "It affected me big time. I knew he wanted me to do the right things in life and keep my head focused. That's my motivation in life, make my mom happy, the way she treats me. She broke her back for me. I want to make her happy at the end of the day."

Listed at 5-10, 179 pounds, Walton ran for 1,470 yards and 22 touchdowns this season on 203 carries and also caught 24 passes for 282 yards and four touchdowns. His high school career numbers (2,769 yards rushing, 45 touchdowns; 36 catches, 462 yards, 7 TDs) would have continued to go up next season had Walton not worked hard to rejoin the 2015 class.

After being held back in the third grade, Walton said he made it his goal when he got to high school to rejoin his class and graduate on time. So he said he did a lot of virtual school over the summer to catch up. He went from starting the school year as a junior in the Class of 2016 to being moved up to a senior and the class of 2015 once his virtual school credits went into effect. 

Coach Tim Harris Jr., a University of Miami grad and the son of UM running backs coach Ice Harris, said the Tornadoes are definitely going to miss Walton's leadership next year. 

Teammate Devante Davis, a Texas commitment and star cornerback also visiting UM this weekend, said Walton was the player everyone rallied around this season when times got tough because he "brought the swag to the team."

"I see a little bit of Duke [Johnson] in him," Harris Jr. said of Walton. "But in all honesty without the track speed Duke has. I also see a little Clinton Portis with the patience, the running, the vision. Then you see the explosiveness of Willis [McGahee] when he was there." 

Harris Jr. said Walton also adds another valuable dimension to the Canes -- superior pass catching ability out of the backfield.

"Being in our system he had an opportunity to add to his game as a receiver," Harris Jr. said. "That dynamic of him taking it to that offense down there can help them open up even more. For us, there were many times he lined up at receiver in one-on-one situations. He's confident he can be an outside threat while also being a running back."

As a runner, Harris Jr. said Walton can handle all phases: "he can run outside, he can pound you and he run it inside."

"At the end of the day, Mark is a playmaker who wants it on his back when things get tough," Harris Jr. said. "You can't coach that in kids.

"The big games we had this year, Mark was that calming factor not only for the players, but even us, the guys on the coaching staff. There were some games he would come to me and say 'Coach, don't worry about it. We're in tough situations, give it to me, I've got it.' I would tell him, 'They're stacking the box. You're not going to be able to do too much.' He would say, 'Coach I got it, I'll figure out how to run against them.' That happened in two of our tough games at the end of the season. Our trusting him and believing in him with his growth over the years, he's made sure to make those things pay off."

One thing Walton wants on his back when he arrives in Coral Gables is helping change the culture around UM. He's not big into losing. After all, he's won three state titles at Booker T. Washington in three high school seasons. So he has no idea what it's like to walk off the field a loser at the end of a season.

"From my conversations with Brad Kaaya I know he wants to change it around," Walton said. "I just want to go in, bring the team together as a family and just let these guys know we've got to win. It's time for the University of Miami to be back. Let's bring more energy. Let's start winning, get all the negativity out, make our fans happy. Do it the right way, win."

Catching up with Coach L...

It’s always fun to attend Coach Jim Larranaga’s press conferences because he is loquacious, has great perspective, loves to teach basketball to anyone who cares to listen, and often goes off on interesting tangents.

Here are some snippets from Friday’s media gathering, as the Canes (10-4), coming off a heartbreaking double overtime loss to Virginia, prepare to face Boston College (7-6) at 4 p.m. on Saturday.

On the starting lineup for Saturday’s game: “We’ll change the lineup.’’ For 13 games, the starters were Angel Rodriguez, Manu Lecomte, Sheldon McClellan, Joe Thomas and Tonye Jekiri. Against Providence, Omar Sherman started instead of Thomas. Coach L mentioned that during the Virginia game, he liked the lineup of Rodriguez, McClellan, Jekiri, DeAndre Burnett and Omar Sherman. Will he go with those 5? Stay tuned.

On Katie Meier, whose UM women’s team stunned No. 4 Notre Dame 78-63 Thursday night, the first time in 62 games the Irish lost to an unranked team: “Katie Meier was the second person I spoke to at UM when I took the job. (Athletic director) Shawn Eichorst was the first. I said I’d like to speak to Katie Meier. She was National Coach of the Year, already led UM to an ACC title. She has a great understanding of what a coach has to do in every category from relationship-building on campus to relationships with high school and AAU coaches, basketball strategy, recruiting, public relations. She is very, very well-thought of. Everybody that is familiar with the women’s side of the game is familiar with Katie Meier and the incredible job she has done here.’’

Asked to switch gears to his team, he broke into a smile and joked:  “Can’t we stay on the women’s team?’’

On overcoming the Virginia loss: “It was very painful after the game Saturday night. It was painful all day Sunday. By the time we practiced on Monday, the pain had changed to anger. I was angry, not at our players, not at my coaches or myself, just angry we lost. I wanted to use that angriness to fuel myself and my team.’’

On the new partnership between UM and Adidas: “It creates some excitement coaches are sharing with the players. (Kids asked how they will benefit) Instead of just white, green, orange, black uniforms, we’re gonna have retro uniforms, gray uniforms. We’re gonna outfit you, more travel outfits…because players, just like all of us, like gear.

“My wife has 500 pairs of shoes, not as many as my players have in sneakers.

On how the Adidas deal affects recruiting: “How do we take that announcement and put that to good use and create an advantage for ourselves in the recruiting process? One thing I’ve shared with our point guard recruits is take a look at the NBA, who’s wearing Adidas, three of the best -- Damian Lillard, Derrick Rose and John Wall. They’re in Adidas. We’ve had Shane (Larkin), Angel (Rodriguez) and now Sheldon (McClellan), great guards. If Adidas is good enough for them, there’s no reason you can’t come to UM and have that same kind of success.’’

On when the obsession with sports branding began: “It started around 1967. Almost every college basketball team was in canvas Converse. First school I can remember not wearing canvas Converse was UCLA, and they were winning national championships wearing Adidas. Those shoes became very popular and kids started buying them. Shoes of champions. Nike took that idea and said, `Hey’ let’s get some college kids in our Nikes. They created an advisory board of college coaches and paid them and provided their universities with product. Free shoes. The AD was benefiting, coach was hugely benefiting, lining his pockets with cash, players were benefiting with free multiple shoes.

“When I was in college, you bought your canvas Converse. No one gave them to you. You had one pair all season. Now kids wear a pair for a week.''

By Michelle Kaufman

How the Hurricanes lost a couple of recruiting battles at Miami Central this season

Last year the University of Miami was able to snag two of the three elite prospects from Miami Central High School -- running back Joseph Yearby and offensive tackle Trevor Darling. 

And they lost a tough one to national champion Florida State, which snagged Mr. Florida Football Dalvin Cook.

This year, the Hurricanes weren't able to get commitments from either of the two players it really wanted at Central, which won its fourth state championship in five seasons and third in a row in Class 6A.

Receiver Da'Vante Phillips, an Under Armour All-American, opted to follow his close friend Cook to Florida State and is already enrolled in Tallahassee. And running back/receiver Anthony Jones stuck with his commitment to FIU over a late offer from the Hurricanes.

Wednesday, I caught up with Rockets coach Roland Smith, a former Hurricane himself, to find out why in his opinion his alma mater wasn't able to win the recruiting war for either player and why the Canes weren't necessarily interested in a few other players at Central.

"My kids are still intrigued by the University of Miami, but I knew it was going to be hard for the kid they were trying to get in Phillips because of the strong ties he had with Dalvin Cook," Smith said. "When Dalvin was committed to Florida a couple years ago, Da'Vante committed to Florida. When Dalvin decommitted, Da'Vante decommitted. Then, even though Da'Vante was intrigued by Miami, I think the temptation and friendship he had with Cook is why he went to FSU. Da'Vante knew he probably had a better opportunity to go in and contribute right away at Miami, but I think the relationship with Cook, plus the opportunity to play for FSU played a big part in it too.

"When you're winning, kids are very impressionable you know. That plays a big part of it too. When you're winning everybody wants to be a part of a winning program. And right now FSU has been winning and getting the fruit of their labor for winning. Miami is just going after kids they think can help their program out."

Right now, the Canes have commitments from just two of the 16 players from Dade and Broward who played in the three major All-American games: St. Thomas Aquinas running back Jordan Scarlett (U.S. Army All-American) and Miami Killian safety Jaquan Johnson (U.S. Army All-American, already enrolled).

"That number is real low. It should be higher," Smith said. "But it is what it is. I work for Miami Central, not the University of Miami. In order for Miami to get back to where we were we've got to keep these local kids home. They've tried. It's not for a lack of effort. From the staff on down, the head coach, coordinators, assistant coaches, they're doing a hell of a job trying. But to get over the hump you've got to win those big games. This year we weren't able to pull off the big ones like Florida State, Nebraska. Kids these days are more impressionable. It seemed like to me like when we were coming up, when Melvin Bratton, Alonzo Highsmith decided to go to UM, Miami wasn't dominant either, but those guys wanted to turn the program around and put it on the map. Nowadays it seems like the kids look forward to going to programs that are winning, already established, not trying to build something. And that's kind of surprising to me."

Running back Anthony Jones, the MVP of this year's state championship game, was offered late by the Hurricanes. 

"I think he stuck with FIU because he has a chance to do a lot more things that he probably wouldn't be able to do at Miami," Smith said. "FIU is giving him an opportunity, putting a package in for him where he could be a running back, receiver, wildcat, do things on special teams. Plus, an opportunity to help change the program around too and be the man too. That's the only reason he stayed with them because he liked the opportunity at Miami. They were intrigued by his playmaking ability and said he could have been a special kid that helped them out at slot receiver or running back. Brennan Carroll, James Coley, Ice [Harris], they all made a strong push. It was late, but they made a strong push to try and get him. It's just he had a better chance to be in more packages at FIU than any other program."

Did it surprise Smith FIU beat out UM for Jones?

"Well, Cincinnati was saying the same thing," he said. "They would have rather lost the kid to Miami rather than lose him to FIU. I've had kids pick Division I-AA schools over Division I schools. I had a coach one time fussing with me because a kid picked Howard over Eastern Michigan. I said, coach that's the kid's decision. Sometimes guys think because of the schools they're from that will win the kid over, but it's the relationship the kid develops and the opportunity they have to play somewhere. A lot of people asked him are you sure this is what you want to do? It was tough for Anthony. He was going back and forth on which way he was going to go. But at the end he had to sit down and pray on it. He felt it was the best opportunity for him to go there to FIU."

Central had plenty of other stars on the team including three others already enrolled in college: U.S. Army All-American safety Calvin Brewton (Florida State), defensive end Fermin Silva (FIU) and linebacker Marquis Couch (Marshall). Why didn't the Hurricanes show more interest in any of those guys? 

"Miami was recruiting Fermin [Silva], but they never offered him," Smith said. "They wanted to see him stand up a little bit more. He was a kid that was very intrigued by Miami. If they would have offered him he would have gone. 

"With Bretwon, they felt like they had some other guys at safety that they liked a little bit more. Calvin was always intrigued by FSU. His friend Bobo Wilson, who he played with before is at FSU. He had some other schools that came after him that I thought would be a better fit. But like I told him, in the end you have to be happy where you go. It's your decision."

January 07, 2015

Golden talks Dallas trip, making changes for 2015, the new Testaverde and more

The goal for every college football team back in August was to make it to Dallas in January.

Turns out, Al Golden made it to Dallas in January after all.

The Miami Hurricanes' head coach -- along with offensive coordinator James Coley -- have spent the past couple days studying how the Dallas Cowboys run their organization from practices to meetings to drills.

The idea: learn how a successful NFL team does it, come home with fresh ideas to implement here for the future, and plot a new course that includes putting a disappointing 6-7 season behind them for good.

"Really since the day we got back from the bowl game the message that I wanted to convey to the team was improving," Golden said by phone Wednesday night. "Not just change for change sake, but to really identify the things we needed to improve and start to plot that course from the head coach's perspective."

Before arriving in Dallas Monday, Golden said he spent every day following the bowl loss to South Carolina in his office in Coral Gables looking at every facet of how things are done at UM. Everything, he said, could end up on the cutting room floor once he's done with his evaluations.

"It's fair to say I'm evaluating every aspect, every part of the program whether that's personnel or staff or off-season programs or how we run summer camp, spring ball, right down to our systems," he said. "I want to make sure we're doing things right. 2014 was unacceptable."

Does that include changing defensive scheme? "Oh sure," Golden said.

Golden already has many changes in mind, but he said he's not sharing any of them with the public until the team hears it first. That will happen when everyone gets back together on Sunday night.

> One new thing Golden is bringing back from Texas that he is willing to talk about: quarterback Vincent Testaverde, a transfer from Texas Tech.

The son of UM's former Heisman-winner will be eligible to play immediately at UM because he was a nonrecruited walk-on for the Red Raiders this past season. Testaverde played in one game as a freshman, throwing for 116 yards on 15-of-26 passing with an interception in a game against Texas.

He'll wear No. 14 -- his father's old number -- for the Hurricanes. His addition fills the need for another backup quarterback after UM lost a commitment from its only quarterback recruit in the 2015 class. Testaverde figures to backup ACC Freshman of the Year Brad Kaaya and provide depth along with returning redshirt freshman Malik Rosier.

"I'm excited about him joining our program," Golden said. "Just to hear Vinny Sr. and the pride he has in his voice to have Vincent come to The U, it's awesome."

> Three new arrivals were already posing for selfies at UM on Wednesday: former Miami Killian safety Jaquan Johnson, defensive lineman Scott Patchan and tight end Jerome Washington. Linebacker Charles Perry is expected to enroll on Monday along with junior college offensive lineman Jahair Johnson.

Golden said he's excited defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad, suspended for the 2014 season, and safety Rayshawn Jenkins, injured for the 2014 season, are already back with the team.

> Two guys who won't be around for spring football because they have to recover from injuries: offensive tackles Kc McDermott and Taylor Gadbois.

"Everybody else should be good to go," Golden said. "[Receiver] Herb [Waters] is going to be cleared here soon. [Kicker Matt] Goudis will be ready by spring ball. [Offensive lineman] Hunter Knighton is making a lot of progress in his rehab, we're hopeful to have him return sometime this spring."

> Freshman cornerback Ray Lewis III transferred to Coastal Carolina on Tuesday. Golden said he doesn't expect anybody else on UM’s roster to leave. "But at this time of year,” he cautioned. “if kids are going to leave they do leave. We're just not anticipating it."

> With a month to go before National Signing Day, UM has 20 new recruits either committed or signed. Golden said UM won't sign a full 25 this year because his goal is to exhaust the nine scholarships the program was docked by the NCAA for the Nevin Shapiro mess so it doesn’t affect the class of 2016.

> Golden declined to discuss comments attributed to Duke Johnson's mother late last month. Cassandra Prophet Mitchell created a stir on Facebook by saying "the majority of the team wouldn't be there" if players could transfer without sitting out a year and that "kids [are] tired of this crap."

A source at UM claims Mitchell reached out to Golden to say her comments "were misrepresented" and "the issue has been put to rest.”

"There was disappointment, but there was no finger pointing, no fighting, no dissension," Golden said of how 2014 ended. "Nobody is discouraged. The United campaign [on Instagram and Twitter] isn't a campaign from us the coaches or the administration. That's a grassroots thing from the players. Those are the guys calling, texting, spreading that. Talk to our kids. They can't wait to get going in 2015."

Open letter to Canes fans: Mountain of negativity only making things worse

Al Golden can’t win.

I don’t mean that in the literal sense, like the Hurricanes have yet to beat a high-end opponent under Golden's leadership.

I mean it in the sense of there’s nothing Golden can say at this point to overcome the mountain of negativity on top of him and this football program.

Al needs to phone a friend. And he needs you -- the Miami Hurricanes football fan –- to answer even if you don't want to.

I’ll admit it. I was a little angry late Monday night. About 10 days after a fourth consecutive loss to end the season, Golden’s first words weren’t delivered in a season-ending press conference (the way things are normally done) but through a one-on-one interview with Gary Ferman at Canesport. As a reporter, you get a little ticked off when you aren’t given equal opportunity.

Then, I read the Canesport interview and didn’t feel so bad. Golden's responses were what we expected. In the end, it hit me why Golden is going one-on-one with select reporters versus facing a firing squad at a press conference (there will be more one-on-ones by the way). He can control the message. He can keep tough questions private. We won't get to see him bristle.

That's smart from a public relations perspective. In the end, what is Al going to say publicly that’s really going to make anything better anyway? Will blaming himself put an end to the fire Golden chants? No.

Truth is, only actions will do at this point. And after 10 days of inaction, does it really look like coaching changes are going to be made –- forcefully by the administration, anyway? It would have happened already.

Which brings me back to my point: that mountain of negativity.

Al Golden can bunker himself in, ignore the noise and plead with his players and assistants to do the same. But the rest of us? We do live in that world. That includes recruits, parents, influential coaches, street agents, girlfriends, Ray-Ray on the corner, the woman who does Susan Miller Degnan's hair and a bunch of loud people on the radio and internet. And that’s where all this irreparable public relations damage is being done.

That’s where the University of Miami – the program you are supposed to be supporting – is losing a much bigger war.

It might look like a one man job, one man’s sole responsibility to clean up after himself, after Randy Shannon and Larry Coker. After all, Al's got the fat paycheck, those pillars and that orange tie. But this isn’t a one-man job. It’s on fans too. Even if it's a smaller role, you play one on Saturdays and all the days inbetween.

In case you didn’t know (I’ll put in capital letters to make it clear Canes Fam): WE’VE HEARD YOUR CRIES FOR CHANGE. We saw those banners fly over the stadium over and over again. We’ve read Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, seen the red cups form the phrase FIRE AL GOLDEN on the Palmetto Expressway overhang. We get it: You are not happy with the job Al Golden has done.  We know you not only wanted Mark D’Onofrio gone before Christ was born, but you wanted him to legally change his name to Mark Onofrio too.

This voicemail box is full, people.

Now, it’s time to stop digging the hole even deeper for UM. You’ve got to lend the Canes a hand even if Golden can’t fix this mess himself; even if in the end he doesn't turn out to be the right man for the job. It’s time to give up on the dream of creating such a loud chorus of boos that it will result in Golden's firing, bringing Butch back or ending D'Onofrio's reign of terror.

Athletic director Blake James is not going to fire Golden anytime soon. He’s said it over and over again. James isn’t even forcing Golden to fire anyone on his staff. They are going to see this through – at least through 2015 in my opinion – whether you show up to No Life Stadium or not (and not that many of you were doing that before this 6-7 mess anyway).

Status quo is the message Golden Canes, the donors, have been receiving for weeks when they’ve voiced complaints and concerns or threatened to pull funds if changes aren’t made. One Golden Cane told me James and others have told them "to keep holding on, nothing will happen until Signing Day.”

So, there. Something might happen after Signing Day. There's a ray of sunshine, a glimmer of hope. But that's all it is for now. 

That aura of negativity permeating 24 hours a day? That's not doing anyone any favors. Nobody in their right mind, who could be part of fixing the future at Miami, is looking at UM and saying ‘Man that place is sexy. Look at all the support that school gets. Those fans are the best.’

And I don’t mean coaches. You can throw money at any coach and they'll lie through their teeth about anything. They are mercenaries paid to put their heart into something. 

I’m talking about kids -- from seniors on down to Pee Wee football players. I’m talking about the future. I’m talking about all those people who don’t live in Al Golden’s world. I’m talking about the people who can see, smell, taste, hear and feel the negativity and have it push them away. And right now on the nasty scale, that storm is a Category 5.

Blake James, the aforementioned athletic director who took over after Golden had already received his contract extension through 2019, tried to wish fans a Happy New Year on Twitter a few days ago. The Rated-R responses to James were sickening. These were some of the PG-responses:

I can't imagine what the response would have been had Golden or D'Onofrio tweeted something.

Wait, I can.

Brad Kaaya’s mother, Angela Means, has tried to stem this tide of negativity on Twitter and Facebook, urging fans to stick by the side of the players and the team. So has UM. Somehow, they've come up with another clever marketing campaign sure to win folks over.

The public relations machine in Coral Gables has been on overdrive promoting positivity and unity left and right. It’s obviously a direct rebuttal to what Duke Johnson’s mother and Clive Walford were putting out there in the aftermath of the bowl loss –- that there was a division among players and that players would transfer out if they didn’t have to sit out a year per NCAA rules. You know, all the kind of stuff that makes recruits feel warm and fuzzy this time of year.

In the end, though, it’s clear UM is fighting a huge uphill battle. A really, really, really big one. And one they likely won't win on Signing Day either. Recruiting wars for 2015 have already been lost long ago. More could be on the way in more decommitments.

Golden and his staff deserve a lot of that blame. Did you know Miami-Dade and Broward County produced 16 seniors this season that played in the three major All-American games? Do you know how many are headed to UM? Two: St. Thomas Aquinas running back Jordan Scarlett and Miami Booker T. Washington running back Mark Walton.

Not all of that failure can be traced solely to Golden or the results on the field. Some of it can be traced to the black cloud of negativity surrounding the program, the one fans have helped create.

Michael Irvin, the face of The U, the man who supports Miami through thick and thin, Mr. Positive, Mr. It’s going to get better -- even he couldn’t blame his nephew, Miami Westminster Christian All-American safety Tim Irvin, for skipping out on UM to head to Texas.

Pinning blame on fans for the program’s current state of affairs isn't the idea here. The players and coaches deserve all that blame –- Golden the biggest chunk of that.

You can’t have fewer wins over FBS schools (5) in 2014 than potential NFL Draft picks in 2015. You can’t keep pointing to an NCAA cloud that “devastated the program” when the basketball team won an ACC title while said cloud was hanging over its head too. And you just can’t keep harping on a convenient argument (we improved from 90th in 2013 to 15th in total defense in 2014) to show signs of improvement.

Nobody cares. Nobody wants to hear it because they’ve heard it all before. Fans want action. They want results. And if not, they want blood.

But in this case, there doesn’t look like there will be blood. No matter how loud the chorus gets, Blake James doesn’t look like he’s changing his mind or his coach.

So, my advice, take a step back and put your energy toward something you can help change. And that’s making the cloud over Coral Gables -- the real one -- a little smaller each day. Turn down the noise a little. Al Golden can pretend he doesn't hear it. It's what he does. But just remember everyone else in this world can hear it loud and clear.

January 06, 2015

Ray Lewis III transferring to Coastal Carolina per his Instagram account

Ray Lewis III, the son of former Hurricane and Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis, is leaving UM for Coastal Carolina according to his Instagram account.

"Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity," Lewis III wrote as the caption to a cartoon of Coastal Carolina's mascot holding a football. "If opportunity doesn't knock... build a door! #Round2"

Lewis III, a redshirt freshman cornerback, never played a down for the Hurricanes in his two seasons in Coral Gables and dealt with some off the field issues. He was suspended for the bowl game his freshman year.

Lewis was a three-star recruit and Semper Fidelis All-American as a two-way star at Lake Mary Prep, a small private school near Orlando.

-- MANNY NAVARRO

January 05, 2015

Multiple sources: UM switches from Nike to Adidas: long-term deal to be announced Thursday.

Those smoke uniforms the University of Miami unveiled this season?

Collectors' items or trash-heap material. You decide.

Multiple sources told the Miami Herald on Sunday and Monday morning that the Hurricanes have switched apparel providers from Nike to Adidas.

UM will announce the deal on Thursday.

Adidas has already been canvassing athletic department personnel to find out what type of shoes and apparel are needed to suit each sport's needs. Almost all are pleased with the situation, though the Herald reported previously that some basketball recruits might be hesitant because they are associated with Nike shoes and uniforms.

"Significant,'' is the word one source associated with the situation used to describe the financial boost that the school will receive with Adidas compared to Nike.

The UM sports team budgets for apparel will be much, much larger.

One source told the Herald the contract is in the 10-year range. UM is a private university and does not have to disclose its financial dealings.

Arizona State recently switched from Nike to Adidas as well, and signed an eight-year contract that starts in July 2015 and is worth $33.8 million or $4,225,000 annually, according to the Arizona Rebublic.

Miami has been contracted with Nike since 1987, but between the extra millions UM will make and the more apparel and better attention it believes it will get with Adidas made the deal impossible to refuse, sources said.

The Hurricanes will begin using the new apparel going into next football season.

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

 

December 29, 2014

Flowers declares for NFL Draft, could become UM's first 1st rounder since 2008

Hurricanes left tackle Ereck Flowers, a man of few words, reached out to local recruiting guru Larry Blustein on Tuesday to get out a message. Like star running back Duke Johnson, he too is foregoing his senior season at the University of Miami to enter the NFL Draft.

"I have done everything that I can in college as a football player and now it's time to take that next step," Flowers told Blustein. "I believe this is the best for my family and myself. They had told me I had a second round grade, but I will really look to raise that bar over the next few months."

The news of Flowers departure -- still unannounced by school officials at UM -- comes as little surprise. Scouts have said Flowers has the potential to be a first round pick since November and ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay projected the 6-6, 324-pound junior as the 12th overall pick in May's draft. The Hurricanes haven't had a first round pick since safety Kenny Phillips was taken by the New York Giants 31st overall in 2008.

"We sat down and looked at everything and felt that this was the best thing for Ereck and our family," his father Everald told Blustein. "After being injured early in the year, he came back and worked harder than ever to get himself back on the field.

"Right now, we cannot listen to where people are  projecting Ereck to go. We have to continue putting ourselves in a position and work hard to get to that next level."

Flowers had minor surgery to repair a torn meniscus after the Virginia Tech game. He missed the following game, but returned and had a stellar performance against Florida State. He's started 29 games in his career at Miami including 25 of the last 26 at left tackle.

Said Flowers: "I am very excited about this next challenge in my life and career."