In what has to be one of the swiftest coach searches in the history of coach searches, the University of Miami has found its next head football coach.
Not even a full 12 hours after Mark Richt announced he would be stepping down as the Canes head coach and would retire, Miami doubled back and plucked former defensive coordinator Manny Diaz from the clutches of another job and hired him to be Miami’s next head football coach Sunday night.
Diaz was set to become the head coach at Temple University, agreeing to a deal with the Philadelphia school on December 13. In the immediate aftermath of Richt’s departure, Diaz was seen on the University of Miami campus as Miami athletic director Blake James held a press conference regarding Richt. While some dismissed it, others – almost comically – hinted at the notion that Miami should attempt to take Diaz back from Temple.
To take Diaz back from Temple, it cost Miami $4 million – paid as a contract buyout – to make him the new head coach. While the exact figures of Diaz’s deal with Miami haven’t been released, it is reported that his contract with the Hurricanes is a 5-year deal.
The son of former city of Miami mayor of the same name and the inventor of Miami’s “Turnover Chain”, Diaz called coaching the Hurricanes his dream job.
“Miami is home. The University of Miami is home. The U has truly been ‘the job’ for me since I first got into coaching,” Diaz said. “Having worked here over the past three years, I came to understand what it means to be part of ‘The U’ and came to appreciate the passion and commitment to excellence of all who proudly call themselves Canes. We will restore the football program to its place among the nation’s elite and we will do it with hard work, dedicated coaches, and outstanding student-athletes. I’m excited about working with Blake and his team to make that happen.”
“As excited as I am about staying home, I hate the way this unfolded with respect to Temple. I was given a tremendous opportunity to lead the Temple program and I was actively engaged in doing just that when I woke up this morning. I never saw this coming, no one did. I do hope that the Temple players, administration and fans appreciate the uniqueness of this situation and the overwhelming pull to stay home.”
Following Richt’s announcement, many names were thrown out for the briefly vacant job. The popular duo of Mario Cristobal (currently at Oregon) and Butch Davis (FIU’s head coach) were screamed by Hurricanes fans. Other names like FAU’s Lane Kiffin, Syracuse’s Dino Babers, Washington State’s Mike Leach, and current ESPN college football analyst Tommy Tuberville – who was an assistant coach with the Hurricanes from 1986 to 1993.
Instead Miami elected to give the reins to the coach who has deep roots in the Miami community and catapulted the Hurricane’s defense to elite status during his three years as the team’s defensive coordinator – including a No. 2 national ranking in total defense in 2018.
“Manny is one of the nation’s elite coaches and the Canes’ Family has already embraced him and his incredible work ethic over the past three years,” athletic director James said. “He is absolutely the passionate and innovative leader that our program needs, and we will work together to build an incredible staff to move our program back into championship contention.”
While James’ statement about Diaz largely rings true in terms of what Diaz brings to the table as a coach, the move is both safe and risky.
Safe because it’s essentially promoting from within – which keeps continuity amongst the staff, on the defensive side of the ball at least. That also helps Miami in the immediate future in terms of recruiting, keeping a familiar face (or faces) in position to calm the incoming recruits as well as others who were already being recruiting by the Canes.
The risk involved comes from the fact the Diaz has never been a head coach before. Handing the keys to one of the country’s most high-profile programs to someone who hasn’t even so much as called the shots of a high school team is chancy.
Granted, Diaz’s resume has plenty of college coaching experience – beginning as a graduate assistant (GA) at Florida State (1998-1999) and NC State (2000-2001) to stops as a defensive coordinator at Middle Tennessee, Mississippi State, Texas, and Louisiana Tech before his three-year stint as the Hurricanes DC.
And Diaz knows how to impact a defense.
Over the course of his career, his defenses have ranked among the country’s best in tackles for loss, points, sacks, and turnovers at different junctures as well as amassing a 13-5 record as a defensive coordinator in 18 bowl game appearances.
Still, Diaz has never had to answer for everything that happens inside – and outside – the walls of an entire football program.
One of Diaz’s first orders of business will be deciding what to do with the rest of the coaching staff.
It’s been widely speculated that the pressure to make wholesale changes to the coaching staff – specifically the offensive staff – played a big part in Richt decision to retire. Not wanting to get rid of his son as the team’s quarterbacks coach, not wanting to part ways with offensive line coach Stacy Searels, and not wanting to give up play-calling duties all seem to line up with Richt’s decision to just step away.
Diaz will very likely keep the defensive staff intact.
When Diaz was set to part with Miami for Temple, the program promoted safeties coach Ephraim Banda and linebackers coach Jonathan Patke to co-defensive coordinator as well as added the title of associate head coach to defensive line coach Jess Simpson.
It’s unclear if how Diaz will dole out the roles among those coaches. It’s also unclear on whether or not he’ll retain cornerbacks coach and former University of Miami defensive back Mike Rumph.
The inevitable moves remain on the offensive side – where the Hurricanes struggled mightily all of 2018. While coaches like receivers coach Ron Dugans, running backs coach Thomas Brown, and tight ends coach Todd Hartley have proved themselves to be solid recruiters as well as on-field coaches, it’s very likely that Diaz will clean house in order to hand a completely clean slate to the new offensive coordinator that he hires.
“I truly believe our best years are ahead of us,” James said. “And I am looking forward to working with Manny to bring our football program into the national spotlight.”