Jon Gruden and the Miami Hurricanes: Why It's Not a Great Fit
Jon Gruden can't seriously be thinking about becoming the next head coach of the Miami Hurricanes, can he?
Take a deep breath and consider the facts, the atmosphere and what has become of the once powerful University of Miami football program.
The Hurricanes had themselves a bargain in Randy Shannon. He was one of their own, a player from the glory days of the "U." He helped the Hurricanes win national championships as a player, graduate assistant and defensive coordinator.
Shannon was making $1.2 million a year. What kind of money do you think Gruden will command in the open NFL marketplace?
Gruden was in the $6 million neighborhood with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and is still on the payroll. He's probably making double at ESPN what Shannon made at Miami. Not many schools have the ability to fork out that kind of money to a football coach, and Miami is not one of them.
If you haven't checked them lately, the football facilities at the University of Miami simply don't cut it. You're telling us Gruden, who was used to the palatial surroundings of One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, is going to hunker down in Coral Gables?
Miami simply doesn't have the kind of money it will take to lure Gruden to college football. That's the first stumbling block.
Now consider Gruden's reputation as an NFL coach. He's a man who wanted veteran players on his roster and lots of them. The knock on Gruden in Tampa and the reason he's no longer there was his inability to draft and develop young talent.
College football is about coaching and developing very young talent, talent fresh out of high school.
Which brings us to the next problem, the problem already mentioned: money.
A guy like Jon Gruden would need a top-notch recruiter, and they don't come cheap. Check and see what the best recruiters at schools like Auburn, Alabama, Florida, any elite school are paid. Big money.
Gruden would want a high-salaried staff; he NEEDS a high-salaried staff. His old defensive coordinator, Monte Kiffin, was the highest-paid coordinator in college football at Tennessee, making more than $1 million, same now at Southern Cal, and Monte's not leaving L.A. to reunite with Chucky in South Florida.
Which now brings us to the atmosphere of South Florida itself. When the "U" was a football powerhouse, the Miami Heat was a fledgling franchise, not much interest in that bunch. South Beach wasn't a phenomenon. Things were different in South Florida.
Today, the Heat are having problems drawing crowds with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on the roster. The Hurricanes had less than 25,000 in the stands when they lost 23-20 to the University of South Florida in overtime last Saturday, the game that cost Shannon his job.
"South Beach is like Hollywood. Movie stars hang out there, celebrities, that's what everyone's paying attention to down there, not college football," said a former member of the USF football staff.
Then there's the problem that no one talks about. It's virtually impossible to have walk-ons at Miami. Why? It's a private school. The tuition and other related student expenses are out of sight. "Try $40,000-$50,000 a year," a former Miami parent told us.
All these things considered, it's hard to see why Gruden would even consider looking at Miami, but we're not done yet.
Please pull back the curtains of control at Miami and let's see who is behind them.
Kirby Hocutt and Donna Shalala.
That's Kirby Hocutt, as in 'Canes athletic director, and her majesty Donna Shalala, former Secretary of Health and Human Services during the Clinton administrations, president at the "U" since 2001.
These folks fired Randy Shannon for doing what they ordered him to do—clean up the football program, get rid of the "thug" image restore discipline and graduate players. He did exactly that and graduated more players than any other head coach in the program. And they fired him for it.
Shannon didn't have a lot of control over staff. It's common knowledge to those around the program that Hocutt forced Shannon to hire Mark Whipple as offensive coordinator, and Miami's offense was a dud this season. Shannon wanted to get rid of Whipple.
Not in anyone's wildest dreams could Jon Gruden work for Donna Shalala and Kirby Hocutt. The main and glaring reason Gruden was canned in Tampa is that he got into a heated discussion with ownership, the goodly, hands-off Glazer boys, over the future and direction of the Buccaneers and basically told them to stick it where the sun doesn't shine. Goodbye Chucky.
So now Gruden's going to play patty-cake with Hocutt and Shalala? In what parallel universe?
And can you envision Gruden sitting at a kitchen table in Liberty City begging some hotshot recruit and his parents to come and play for him?
Can you envision Gruden talking to players about their grades?
It is simply not what Jon Gruden does best.
Then there's the fact that Gruden loves the spotlight. He's small in stature but has a massive ego. He needs the limelight. If it were college, he'd need Notre Dame or the SEC or some other elite program where the attention is as massive as his ego.
So add everything up:
Lack of money, substandard facilities, competition for the sports dollar, non-sports-oriented president, a program with no luster, no bling, and it's not the type of bait that Gruden's going to seriously bite.
Gruden knows his value in the marketplace.
He knows there are NFL owners who want to win, no matter what it costs.
Can you say Jerry Jones?
So ask yourself that question.
Jerry Jones or Donna Shalala?
Jon Gruden has options, a whole lot of them.
Even the booth on Monday Night Football is a better fit than the Miami football program.
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