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November 14, 2008

Shannon looks like the right fit for Miami

MORE: Miami holds on to defeat Virginia Tech, 16-14

The recent study released by the Black Coaches and Administrators has been a hot topic this week. More minorities are being interviewed for head coaching positions, but those interviews are not translating into hires.

With Washington's Tyrone Willingham and Kansas State's Ron Prince being relieved of their head coaching duties at the end of this season, it leaves only six minority head football coaches in the Football Bowl Subdivision (i.e., Division I-A).

While I have always been a proponent of having the coaching ranks be more representative of the players playing the game, it is just as important for a university to hire the right guy. To hire a coach based on the color of his skin is exactly what the BCA is trying to overcome.

Thursday night I had a chance to watch one of the few African-American head coaches at work. Randy Shannon's University of Miami Hurricanes hosted Virginia Tech in an ACC matchup that had major postseason implications for both programs.

When Shannon was hired after the 2006 season, it was lauded as a great hire. Shannon grew up in Miami, was a star player at "The U," and had been their stellar defensive coordinator for several years. He knew all the high school coaches in arguably the most fertile recruiting ground in the country, Miami-Dade County, and the players loved him and respected him.

Then the 2007 season started, and so did the questions.

The once invincible 'Canes finished 5-7, including a horrific 48-0 loss to Virginia in their last game in the Orange Bowl. Maybe Coach Shannon was just a great defensive coordinator, great recruiter and great motivator, but not a great head coach.

Miami entered the 2008 season with one of the top recruiting class in the country (Rivals.com No. 5), and Shannon wasn't afraid to play those freshmen. With new defensive coordinator Bill Young in the booth, it seems that Coach Shannon has started to find his groove as a head coach.

The Hurricanes were 6-3 heading into Thursday night's game, already bowl eligible. The old Miami "swagger" may not be back, but I can definitely see the light at the end of the tunnel. It was Senior Night in Dolphin Stadium, and the Hurricanes also added five more players to their Ring of Honor − Gino Torretta, Jim Kelly, Jim Otto, Cortez Kennedy and Edgerrin James. Four out of those five were in attendance, and I'm sure Edgerrin was watching from Arizona and was mighty proud to watch his cousin Javarris James score the only Miami touchdown.

Miami has a long tradition of having their former players (too many NFL'ers to count) come back to the program to mentor the current players. There can't be a better recruiting tool than that. Imagine being a freshman wide receiver and having Michael Irvin stop by to lift weights with you?

The game was tied at 7-7 at the half, after Miami's defense came up with its second sack of the game to force an unsuccessful 51-yard field-goal attempt for Virginia Tech. In the second half, Miami's kicker, Matt Bosher, added three field goals to make the score 16-7. That ended up being just enough to beat the Hokies, who scored a late touchdown to close the gap to 16-14. Miami's offense could not make a first down to ice the game, and Virginia Tech got the ball back one more time with almost three minutes left. But, with flashes of the great Miami defenses from the 1980s and '90s, they held the Hokies, forcing a sack on fourth-and-3.

Miami is still in the running to get to the ACC Championship Game the 'Canes must win their remaining games at Georgia Tech and N.C. State, and they need a loss from their old coach Butch Davis' North Carolina Tar Heels. That scenario may not be probable, but at least it's possible.

This win over Virginia Tech, which had beaten Miami four out of the last five times, was a good step in the right direction for this storied program. With so many young players, the progress that we are seeing from week to week in many areas of Miami's team, it may be a lot sooner than later that we see the Hurricanes back in the national spotlight.

It is looking more and more like Randy Shannon is surely the right guy for this job. And it has nothing to do with the color of his skin.

Terry Bowden is Rivals.com college football analyst. For more information about Terry, visit his official web site. Click here to view previous articles. To send Terry a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.

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