On the final day of the team’s winter quarter pre-spring-break conditioning program, UM coach Manny Diaz took his team to Hard Rock Stadium on Friday.
And then his players ran. And ran some more.
And with an interesting “soundtrack” accompanying it.
According to UM people, last season’s home loss to Duke was playing on the stadium’s video scoreboard, a not-so-subtle reminder of the type of defeat that won’t be tolerated at #TNM (Diaz’s Twitter hastag for The New Miami).
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UM players were left with the impression that these trips back to the stadium after home losses are to be expected, as two close associates of players noted Saturday.
The message, as one UM official said, was simple: “Protect the house.”
That was a reference to UM’s NCAA-record 58-game home winning streak at the Orange Bowl between 1985 and 1994.
UM was 5-1 at home last season, but the 20-12 loss to Duke on Nov. 2 was particularly galling.
UM was 4-2 at home in 2016 and 7-1 at Hard Rock Stadium in 2017, with a loss to Wisconsin in the Orange Bowl Classic.
So in the three seasons that Diaz was defensive coordinator and Mark Richt was the coach, the Canes were 16-4 at Hard Rock. But that’s not good enough in a new era when only greatness will be acceptable.
Friday’s Hard Rock visit was the latest in a series of creative moves since Diaz was named head coach on Dec. 31:
▪ In his first meeting with players, they attacked tackling dummies in a WWE wrestling style atmosphere, with a ring announcer present.
▪ He appointed team leaders, had them draft teams and put them in charge of monitoring players in their groups, with those leaders bearing some accountability if their team members repeatedly mess up.
▪ Though UM is an Adidas school, Diaz set up a suite at a Nike coach’s convention in Orlando and entertained some of those high school coaches with free beer. Some of those coaches stayed in UM’s suite instead of going to listen to FSU coach Willie Taggert and his assistant coaches speak.
Diaz knows there’s a buzz around the program, because of the Canes’ ability to lure several high-profile transfers and his savvy use of social media.
But he knows winning the offseason goes only so far.
“There’s the vibe externally which matters,” Diaz recently told recruiting guru Larry Blustein on Blustein’s WQAM show. “But ultimately that will fail; it’s a house of cards if based off of flash and 15 second Twitter videos and hastags. Because eventually all that gets exposed in the fall.
“The real deal is what’s going on inside the building and the guys in the locker-room on campus. Those guys are going to be our best recruiters. They are going to say the real deal as far as what’s up. You want to make sure what’s happening on campus is authentic. Otherwise, it will be exposed.”
Miami begins spring practice on March 19, after the players return from spring break.
UM continues to await an NCAA decision on whether quarterback Tate Martell will be eligible to play in 2019 instead of being required to wait until 2020.
“I honestly thought we would have been to the finish line by now, but we’re not there,” athletic director Blake James told WQAM’s Joe Rose show on Friday.
“We continue to work through the process. Unfortunately I don’t have a timeline to give; there really is no timeline.”
▪ The UM men’s basketball team, which finished the regular season 13-17 and 5-13 in the ACC, is the 12th seed in the ACC Tournament and will play No. 13 Wake Forest at noon Tuesday on ESPN from Spectrum Center in Charlotte.
The winner plays fifth-seed Virginia Tech at 2 p.m. Wednesday.
The Hurricanes’ season likely will end with their next loss.