Greg Cote

Greg Cote: UM search committee must find great recruiter who will keep talent home

Former UM player and FIU coach Mario Cristobal, now offensive coordinator at Alabama, has proven adept at mining South Florida talent.
Former UM player and FIU coach Mario Cristobal, now offensive coordinator at Alabama, has proven adept at mining South Florida talent. El Nuevo Herald

The University of Miami on Monday announced it has hired a search firm and appointed a search advisory committee to help it find and hire the right football coach.

I can save everybody a lot of time. There is one ideal, available person who is experienced, charismatic, a proven winner and with strong Hurricanes ties.

One possible stumbling block: Good luck hauling Jimmy Johnson out of coaching retirement, out of the upper Florida Keys and off his beloved fishing boat, the Three Rings. He’d also be too costly, probably at least 5 million a year, by which I don’t mean dollars; I mean bottles of Heineken Light.

Wait. Possible solution: UM allows Johnson to run practices and coach games via Skype while simultaneously reeling in a 54-inch wahoo.

There will be no shortage of actual candidates for the Miami opening when Los Angeles-based Korn Ferry, the world’s largest executive search firm, begins searching and vetting for possibilities to replace fired Al Golden and interim replacement Larry Scott.

UM hired Korn Ferry on Monday and also announced a six-person advisory committee, including Board of Trustees members Hilarie Bass, David Epstein and Steve Saiontz; deputy athletics director Jennifer Strawley; and former Hurricanes players Vinny Testaverde and Jonathan Vilma.

Athletics director Blake James called the search already “well underway” and noted “a tremendous amount of interest in The U.” James also said he’ll be “reaching out to a number of UM constituencies to engage in dialogue and to hear their thoughts and vision.”

By including former players on the advisory committee and “reaching out” for other input, Blake obviously wants to make a hire that will be popular with fans and alumni or at least leave them convinced all options were considered.

A word of advice to Mr. James:

Hire the best candidate, regardless of whether he has any UM ties, and do so with zero concern whether the hire will be popular with Warren Sapp, fans who rent flyover banners, or callers to local sports-rant radio. If the hire happens to have those Coral Gables ties, great, but that ought not be a priority, let alone a prerequisite.

Former Hurricanes players have come to adopt too much entitlement when it comes to their say in the program. Get real, fellas. The fact you played a couple of seasons 20 years ago doesn’t make you any smarter in terms of who the next coach should be.

ESPN college football analyst Paul Finebaum recently called UM “a dumpster fire,” a job no coach would want. He could not be more ludicrously wrong, of course. The Canes are a five-time national champion program and following an unpopular coach seen to have underachieved will put the next coach in a position to be play savior and hero fast.

We’ll see what search firm Korn Ferry shakes out, but, for me, the favorite at the outset of UM’s search might well be Mario Cristobal, the former Canes player and FIU head coach currently working under Nick Saban as Alabama’s offensive line coach.

“Strong recruiter” should be the priority in the next hire, and Cristobal last year was national recruiter of the year — and is especially adept at mining South Florida talent. UM must earn claiming rights to its own backyard again. Getting back to national stature begins there.

I don’t get the fascination among many fans with Butch Davis, Miami’s head coach from 1995-2000. Davis clearly wants the job, but turns 64 on Tuesday and hasn’t coached for five years. I also doubt UM, a school just past an NCAA scandal, wants to hire a coach fired by North Carolina amid its own NCAA scandal, although was not directly implicated.

Miami’s next coach might well be a man currently employed elsewhere but soon to be forcibly unemployed.

What if Texas parts ways with Charlie Strong?

I like Mark Richt as a strong candidate if he and Georgia separate.

Might Rich Rodriguez leave Arizona?

You hear so many other names also being tossed around, including Rob Chudzinski, Dana Holgorsen, Doc Holliday, Lane Kiffin, Winston Moss, Chuck Pagano, Greg Schiano, Mike Shula and Mark Stoops.

There also is an intriguing sub-category of young, rising, inexpensive coaches to whom Miami would be a dream job, a promotion. They include Memphis’ Justin Fuente, Houston’s Tom Herman and Toledo’s Matt Campbell.

The timing of Miami’s search will be interesting. UM must be patient and see if Richt or other big names become available after the regular season ends in a few weeks. But UM also must be mindful of a particularly competitive market, because Southern Cal, Illinois, South Carolina, UCF, Maryland, Missouri and Virginia Tech are among other schools that also will be coach hunting.

Miami will be fine as long as its clear emphasis is an accomplished coach whose priority is making UM a champion again and whose strength is recruiting — a man able to win back South Florida for The U.

It’d be nice if the next guy happens also to have a great Hurricanes past, but far better still if a great Hurricanes future is what matters more.

Read Greg’s Random Evidence blog daily at MiamiHerald.com and follow on Twitter @gregcote.

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