Ex-Miami coach Manny Diaz deserved better treatment from Hurricanes

December 7, 2021
Miami head coach Manny Diaz watches the action during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Duke, Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021, in Durham, N.C. (AP Photo/Chris Seward)
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The University of Miami got its man. But at what cost to its reputation?

Everyone involved from the school’s end, including president Julio Frenk, and those members of his staff and the board of trustees he entrusted to run a coaching and athletic director search, should be ashamed of how this situation has been handled.

Miami’s football program has been far from elite for more than a decade. This is not the brand that at one time ruled college football. But what went down the last two weeks shows a dysfunction off the field that rivals the ineptness we’ve seen on the field the last 17 years.

And the blame does not stop with the university. How must new coach Mario Cristobal, who will be introduced Tuesday morning, feel about negotiating a contract and pursuing a job in which the coach remained under contract and was left twisting in the wind.

The only person who showed class throughout this entire ordeal is the man no longer with the program, former coach Manny Diaz.

Diaz should not have held back in the statement he posted on social media Monday, hours after the university got in one last twist of that knife and mercifully let him go as Cristobal was putting his signature on his new $8 million per year contract.

But Diaz is too classy to treat people at the university he loves the way that university had treated him.

“I am disappointed in the University’s decision and the manner in which they played out over the last few weeks,” he wrote. “The uncertainty impacted our team, our staff and their families – these are real people that gave everything to this program. For that, for them, I hurt.”

Diaz gave everything he had to Miami for the last six years, three as a defensive coordinator and three as a head coach. And right up until the end, he continued to recruit for the program as he was being hung out to dry for more than a week as Miami conducted its search to replace him.

Diaz’s firing was announced in an e-mail at 11 a.m. Monday with a statement from Frenk that was as genuine as Brian Kelly’s Southern accent.

“We are grateful to Coach Diaz for his many contributions to our campus community and to his native South Florida, and for the strong leadership and exemplary character he exhibited during his tenure at the University,” he wrote.

“Exemplary character” is not the phrase to use about the inmates who have been running the asylum. More like “lack of integrity.”

That first e-mail was followed by another three hours later welcoming home Cristobal, like Diaz a Miami native, who played a significant part in this charade by negotiating for a position that had yet to become open.

College coaches will bristle at questions about rumors or reports directed at them about possibly being a candidate for a job the current coach still holds.

Pursue that job through intense negotiations? That’s OK. But sure as hell do not ask them about it.

Diaz is well liked by his players, as evidenced by the outpouring of support he has received. Dolphins rookie Jaelen Phillips thanked Diaz for taking a chance on a player who believed his career was over because of injuries, and bringing him to Miami.

“He had faith in me when not a lot of people did, and for that I will forever be grateful for him,” Phillips posted. “He’s a great coach, but an even better man, I know that he will be successful anywhere he goes.” 

Diaz made sure his players were the focus of his farewell post, citing their resiliency, and a confidence they will “re-group and move forward with class, toughness and unity.” He reminded us how through adversity his team never quit.

“The 2021 season presented unique challenges early and often but the team repeatedly responded,” he wrote. And the stage is set “for a breakout 2022 season.”

Challenges like former AD Blake James throwing his coach under a pile of 300-pound defensive linemen when he refused to give him a vote of confidence. That was the day before Miami started its second half run with a victory over No. 18 NC State.

James was fired less than a month later.

Diaz went on to thank his staff and supporters and, most importantly, those players.

“With the foundation in place, and the new resources being introduced, I have no doubt that the future is bright for this program.”

Diaz may have made his mistakes. But when the university signs off on hiring someone who had never been a head coach (with the exception of about two weeks at Temple), those mistakes are expected.

Diaz inherited a bickering locker room that got worse as a difficult first season progressed. He turned it around with an 8-3 second season and after a 2-4 start this season watched his team continue to grow and play hard, finishing 5-1. All the while developing a solid group of young talent.

A testament to Diaz and the culture he was building.

Miami had the second-best record in the ACC during Diaz’s three seasons. And Diaz is the only ACC coach this season who can say he beat the conference champions, Pitt. And on the road.

Those are facts. If the university determined it was not good enough and decided to move on, that’s its prerogative.

But the way Miami went about it, the way it treated Manny Diaz, was embarrassing.

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