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Wednesday, Dec 27, 2006
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UM chooses Shannon as head football coach


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BY SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN, BARRY JACKSON AND MICHELLE KAUFMAN
sdegnan@MiamiHerald.com
Randy Shannon
Randy Shannon

The University of Miami has a new head football coach.

UM defensive coordinator Randy Shannon accepted the Miami Hurricanes coaching job Thursday, according to several well-placed university sources.

An announcement by UM is scheduled for today.

Shannon, 40, a Miami native, becomes only the sixth black head coach in Division I-A football.

Shannon, also the UM linebackers coach, graduated from Norland High and then from UM in 1989. He was a member of the 1987 Hurricanes national championship team and an 11th-round draft choice of the Dallas Cowboys in 1989. Shannon was a Miami Dolphins defensive assistant in 1998 and 1999 before becoming Dolphins linebackers coach in 2000.

He returned to UM in 2001 as defensive coordinator and became the first UM coach to win the Frank Broyles Award that year as the top assistant in college football.

''This is a great day for sports in Miami and a day that will make history,'' said Wesley Frater, director of the Dade-Broward Nike All-Star Football Game and a mentor for high school athletes. ``I am very proud of my friend and I know a lot of local players are ready to sign at UM now.

``His reputation is impeccable amongst coaches and players alike in our community. I remember him as a student-athlete at Norland and UM and his distinguished rise in college football.''

Shannon is the third head football coach in 31 years to be hired from within the staff. Larry Coker, whom he replaces and is supposed to coach the Hurricanes in the MPC Computers Bowl on Dec. 31 in Boise, Idaho, was the first. In 1975, UM offensive coordinator Carl Selmer was promoted to head coach.

ESPN reported that Shannon was awarded a four-year contract and will earn more than $1 million a year.

Shannon's defenses have been outstanding every season, including this one, in which UM (6-6) is ranked fifth in total defense, fourth in rushing defense and 12th in scoring defense.

It remains unknown whom Shannon will name to his staff, though he is likely to hire a new offensive coordinator. He could not be reached for comment.

Former UM quarterback Bernie Kosar had talked to Shannon about working with him to bring a national title back to UM. Kosar said he wanted to oversee football operations if Shannon were hired.

Shannon was the only candidate mentioned publicly by athletic director Paul Dee. He had two interviews, one with Dee on Tuesday and one Thursday with Dee, university president Donna Shalala and two members of the board of trustees -- Dean Colson and Ed Dauer.

Shannon already had been offered the defensive coordinator's job by the University of Texas, according to a report Thursday in The Houston Chronicle. UM risked losing him to Texas had he not been given the head-coaching job, and more than one person close to UM football said he was a favorite of Shalala's.

Shannon always loved Miami, the city and the program. He didn't want to leave because his son, Xavier, is an offensive lineman for Florida International University.

His friends expect that he will field a tough, disciplined team that will try to establish a strong running game but will not be conservative offensively.

His players know about the ''tough'' part.

Just minutes before The Miami Herald verified Shannon took the job, linebacker Tavares Gooden, who said he still loved Coker -- ''Coker is my dude'' -- told The Herald that Shannon would made a good head coach.

''He's a good disciplinarian,'' Gooden said. ``He would be the type of coach who would only play the hard-working guys. He only likes hard workers. You have to bust your butt for him. That makes people compete.''

A few defensive players, including linebacker Jon Beason, said they were contemplating leaving early for the NFL or transferring if Shannon were not elevated to head coach.

Freshman cornerback Chavez Grant said he was pleased Shannon was promoted.

''That's great,'' Grant said. ``I was kind of hoping somebody in-house got the job.

``I like the fact he's going to be real honest, he knows a lot about the game. He sees a lot I don't see when I watch film. At the same time, he's going to put everybody in the places to make plays. I feel like that's what he brings to the game.

Shannon also is known as a strong recruiter, and supposedly commands respect when he walks into a high school or onto a prep football field. He relates to teenagers in the inner city, as well as those from suburbia. Keeping him in Coral Gables will ensure that UM, known these days as ''The U,'' keeps the ''family'' tradition intact.

Two former Canes who played with Shannon -- fullback Alonzo Highsmith and quarterback Steve Walsh -- likely were thrilled when they heard the news.

''I would support Randy, absolutely,'' Walsh told The Herald earlier Thursday. ``He has been one of the more positive things about that program.''

Said Highsmith, a scout with the Green Bay Packers, on Wednesday night: ``We always knew Randy would be a coach, just by the way he studied the game. Randy Shannon would be a quality coach given the opportunity. He's very smart. He was there with Jimmy Johnson, he's been on the NFL level and back again.

``He's a winner.''

Added Frater: ``You are going to see a lot of former players coming out to help Randy. He is beloved.''

After practice Thursday, UM job candidate Mike Leach, the head coach at Texas Tech, declined to speak with the media. Leach interviewed informally with Dee on Monday. One person close to Leach said he thought Leach might get the job if Shannon agreed to be the assistant head coach and stayed as the defensive coordinator.

Miami Herald sportswriter Manny Navarro contributed to this report.