Ephraim Banda on Manny Diaz: ‘He’s going to be the best head coach ... in the country”
The past week for the University of Miami football program has been wild enough to fill a full-length movie and have theatergoers refilling their popcorn as they await the sequel. We even could rate it R — children under 17 require an accompanying parent or adult guardian — as nudity and a sex scene were part of the buildup.
A little more than an hour before the clock struck midnight on Sunday, the university announced it had named former UM defensive coordinator Manny Diaz the new head football coach of the Miami Hurricanes, just 10 hours after coach Mark Richt unexpectedly announced his retirement. Diaz, who has a five-year UM contract, had already become the head coach at Temple University on Dec. 13. He returned to coach the Hurricanes in the Pinstripe Bowl, the game that Canes fans everywhere would like to forget.
So, how did this all happen in such a short amount of time? What might have we forgotten in the midst of such disarray? Here’s a general timeline for those shaking their heads and wondering how we got to where we are:
▪ Wednesday, Dec. 26, the day before the Pinstripe Bowl against Wisconsin at Yankee Stadium:
Bowl officials have their official pregame head coaches’ news conference for Miami’s Richt and Wisconsin’s Paul Chryst.
Chryst is asked football-specific questions. Richt is asked about who will start at quarterback, if N’Kosi Perry was suspended for a video he posted on the social media platform Snapchat of two people having sex, and if freshman quarterback Jarren Williams will get his first playing time since the second game of the season.
After saying senior Malik Rosier will start in place of Perry, Richt says Perry has not been suspended for the video, just “educated’’ on the danger of social media.
▪ Thursday, Dec. 27, game day for the Pinstripe at Yankee Stadium.
Perry is dressed in uniform and warming up with the others, to the surprise of some who believed he actually was suspended and wouldn’t play.
Rosier throws three interceptions and Perry adds another as the Canes put on a dismal performance in the 35-3 Badgers victory.
Williams never gets in the game.
A pale, sullen Richt looks crushed after the loss, taking responsibility for the defeat. “Starts with me, for sure,’’ he said. “Really, that’s where the buck stops. Head football coach, play-caller, the whole bit. Just a poor job by me.’’
Players on offense and defense concede there are internal issues and some dissension in the locker room after a trying season.
An hour and a half after the game, UM athletic director Blake James posts on Twitter: “Our football team’s performance tonight— and at other times this season — is simply unacceptable to all of us who love the U.’’ James says in tweet that he is “committed to getting UM Football back to national prominence and that process is underway...I know that Coach Richt is alongside me in that commitment to excellence.’’
▪ Friday, Dec. 28, the day after loss.
Social media is on fire with fans slamming Richt and the players, many calling for his firing and some suggesting it’s time for him to retire.
A college football recruiting site posts on a message board that quarterback Williams is close to transferring after not being put in the bowl.
▪ Saturday, Dec. 29, game day at the Capital One Orange Bowl.
No. 1 Alabama defeats No. 4 Oklahoma in the College Football Playoff Semifinal on the Hurricanes’ home field at Hard Rock Stadium. It’s all quiet on the Canes’ front — the calm before the storm.
▪ Sunday, Dec. 30, a day of supposed rest before New Year’s Eve.
Richt, 58, announces his retirement at 12:45 p.m. in a heartfelt letter to the UM community.
“The University of Miami has been a part of my life for more than three decades,’’ Richt wrote. “It shaped me as a young man and provided me with the coaching opportunity of a lifetime. My love for The U is simply great. My true desire is for our football program to return to greatness, and while terribly difficult, I feel that stepping down is in the best interests of the program.
“I want to express my sincere appreciation to the entire Hurricane Family for welcoming me back home and for supporting the outstanding young men in our program. I only wish that we could have achieved greater things in return.
“Katharyn and I will be cheering on the Canes in the years to come, and The U will never leave our hearts.’’
At 1:21 p.m, the mother of UM junior star running back Travis Homer posts on Twitter that he has signed with an agent and will enter the NFL Draft.
At 2:30 p.m., the Miami Herald notices Diaz walking outside of the Hecht Athletic Center, where AD James’ office is located.
At 3:30 p.m, James has a news conference regarding Richt’s departure and the coaching vacancy. When asked about Diaz being spotted at the Hecht, James says “Manny Diaz? I don’t have any comment on Manny. I guess Manny is on his own schedule.’’
At 10:57 p.m, Diaz, 44, one of the top defensive coaches in the nation, is announced in a press release as Miami football’s new head coach. Diaz, who grew up in Miami, said in the release that “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.’’
At 11:11 p.m., Temple athletic director Dr. Patrick Kraft posts on social media: “This evening, head football coach Manny Diaz called to inform me that he has accepted the new head coaching position back at the University of Miami. We are disappointed that he is leaving, but wish him the best as he returns home. We have already launched a national search for a new head football coach...’’
Monday, Dec. 31, New Year’s Eve.
Diaz makes his first live public statements on WQAM radio, the flagship station of the Hurricanes, at 8 a.m.
“What did I miss?’’ Diaz jokes. “It’s just been wild. There’s no other way to explain it. ...It’s something where you wake up a day later and you’re like, ‘Did that really happen?’ You almost have to turn on the computer and check the Internet to make sure it was real.’’
Diaz is asked at the end of the interview if he has thought about the 2019 UM opener in Orlando against the Florida Gators, who are coached by Dan Mullen, Diaz’s former boss at Mississippi State.
His answer: “243 days away.’’
At 4:25 p.m., UM tight end Michael Irvin II posts this on Twitter: “Im hurt bro ... somebody gotta feel this.’’
The Miami Herald soon learns through multiple sources that the entire Hurricanes offensive coaching staff has been fired by Diaz: tight ends/special teams coach Todd Hartley, receivers coach Ron Dugans, offensive coordinator/running backs coach Thomas Brown, offensive line coach Stacy Searels and quarterbacks coach Jon Richt. Also dismissed by Diaz: director of strength and conditioning Gus Felder.
The Herald also learns that redshirt junior receiver Lawrence Cager is transferring.
Finally, a bit later on New Year’s Eve, gifted outside linebacker Michael Pinckney, a junior, announces on social media that he will return to UM instead of entering the NFL Draft. “Under the new leadership of Manny Diaz,’’ Pinckney wrote, I look forward to trying to bring the team a national championship. I’m excited for another year with my brothers! Much love to Canes nation.’'
Miami Herald sportswriters David Wilson and Jordan McPherson contributed to this report.