When you think of college football over the last quarter century, you think of the Miami Hurricanes. And when you think of the Miami Hurricanes, you think of Randy Shannon.
Going into his third season at the helm of his alma mater's program in 2009, Shannon is coming off a season where he guided the Hurricanes to the program's 34th overall bowl appearance at the 2008 Emerald Bowl. Miami finished the 2008 season 7-6 and 4-4 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, which was just one game out of first place in the league.
In 2008, Shannon's squad had a five-game winning streak, which was the longest for the Hurricanes since 2005. Freshman linebacker Sean Spence was named the ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year and kicker Matt Bosher was a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award given to the nation's best kicker. Four freshmen - LB Sean Spence, DT Marcus Forston, DE Marcus Robinson, PR/KR Travis Benjamin - earned freshman All-America honors. Miami also ranked No. 7 nationally in pass defense, 25th in tackles for loss and 28th overall in total defense yielding 317.56 yards per game. The 2008 Hurricanes also were among top teams in the ACC in punt returns (first), pass defense (second), scoring offense (third), net punting (fourth) and tackles for loss (fourth).
Off the field, the team again posted one of the best NCAA Academic Progress Rates (APR) nationally. UM had an APR of 977, which was the 7th-highest rate in the country out of 119 Bowl-Subdivision football programs. It also was the second highest in the Atlantic Coast Conference and highest among all schools in Florida. Shannon was named head football coach of the University of Miami on December 8, 2006, following six seasons serving as the team's defensive coordinator. He coached top 10 defenses in five of those six seasons.
A native of Miami, a former Hurricanes player and a graduate of the University, Shannon played on or was a coach for three of the school's five national championship teams. He played for the Hurricanes from 1985 through 1988 and had been an assistant coach for 13 seasons before being named the 20th head coach in school history.
Shannon coached Miami to a 31-3 win over Marshall in his head coaching debut on Sept 1, 2007. The Hurricanes went on to finish 5-7 and 2-6 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. His Hurricanes showed promise for the future of the program. Shannon's 2007 team upheld UM's academic success off the field. The UM football team achieved a NCAA Academic Progress Rate (APR) of 969, which was the 8th-highest rate in the country out of 119 Bowl-Subdivision football programs.
Miami's 2008 signing class ranked as the top class in the country by ESPN.com. The 2009 signing class ranked in the top 10 nationally as Miami signed six players ranked in the ESPN.com Top 150.
"Randy Shannon is Miami - tough, disciplined, smart, caring, passionate, enthusiastic, and no-nonsense," said University of Miami President Donna E. Shalala. "He has been preparing himself for a head coaching position his whole life and I am very happy that the opportunity came at the University of Miami, his alma mater."
In his six seasons as defensive coordinator, the Hurricanes had seven All-America players (and he tutored eight other All-Americans as a position coach). As a head coach and defensive coordinator, he's coached 14 defensive players who were selected in the first round of the NFL draft. As a player, Shannon was a member of five teams that went to bowl games (including one as a redshirt freshman). He has coached in 12 bowl games.
"This is my dream job. It always has been," Shannon said. "This program is not at a standstill. The program is not on a downslide. We are on an upward movement. As a coach, you want a challenge. I want somebody to say that I can't do it. If I hear `I can't,' I'm going to prove you wrong. Nobody can ever tell you that you cannot achieve what you want. That's what I believe in. "I want to make sure everyone understands that we will get it done at the University of Miami," Shannon continued. "We're not a program that's going to stand still. You never stay the same in life. You always go up and down. You try to get better every year, every day, every week, every second."
Shannon attended Miami's Norland High School and earned all-state and honorable mention All-America recognition from Street & Smith's as a senior linebacker at Norland. He also lettered in basketball, averaging 19 points a game, and he competed in the triple jump on the track and field team.
As a player at Miami, Shannon was a four-year letterman at linebacker and the starter on the 1987 national championship team. He received the Christopher Plumer Award for most inspirational player as a senior in 1988. He was described by his coaches as "a coach on the field." Shannon concluded his career in 1988 when he ranked fourth on the team in tackles, sacks and tackles for loss, while leading the team in passes broken up and forced fumbles.
An 11th-round draft choice of the Dallas Cowboys in 1989, he became the first rookie to start at outside linebacker for Dallas since 1963 and was also a standout on special teams. Shannon played for the Cowboys for two seasons before going into coaching.
He was a graduate assistant in 1991 when the Hurricanes won their fourth national championship. In 1992 he became a full-time assistant coach working with the defensive line, and from 1993-97 he coached the team's linebackers. He was a defensive assistant with the Miami Dolphins in 1998 and 1999 before assuming the role of linebackers coach in 2000.
Shannon returned to his alma mater in 2001 as defensive coordinator. That year, the Miami Hurricanes won their fifth national championship and he became the first UM coach to be named the winner of the Frank Broyles Award, presented annually to the nation's top assistant coach.
Shannon has produced defenses that rank among the best in the history of the program. Despite a 7-6 record in 2006, the defense ranked seventh in the country in total defense (allowing only 255.5 yards per game), fourth in rushing defense (a team-record 67.9 yards a game) and 13th in scoring defense (15.5).
In 2005, Shannon's aggressive 4-3 scheme led the nation most of the season in nearly every category and finished No. 1 in pass defense (152.17 ypg) and pass efficiency (89.48 rating), fourth in total defense (270.08 ypg) and scoring defense (14.25 points), and 23rd in run defense (117.92). He was named Defensive Coordinator of the Year by Rivals.com.
In 2004, Shannon's defense ranked ninth in the country in pass defense despite having three new starters in the secondary. The UM defenses in 2002 and 2003 led the nation in fewest passing yards allowed, and the 2003 unit was fourth nationally in pass efficiency defense (96.16 rating), while finishing second in the nation in total defense (257.5 ypg). The 2003 Hurricanes also ranked among the national leaders in scoring defense (fourth, 15.1 ppg).
His 2002 unit led the nation in passing yards allowed (119.7 ypg) and in pass efficiency defense (83.91 rating), while finishing seventh in the nation in total defense (285.0 ypg), all of which was accomplished with an entirely new starting unit in the defensive secondary.
In 2001, Miami led the nation in turnover margin by forcing a school-record 27 interceptions and 45 turnovers. Miami defenders allowed a national-best 9.4 points per game, led the nation in pass efficiency defense (75.60 rating), ranked second in pass defense (138.2 ypg) and was sixth in total defense (270.9 ypg). The 2001 Hurricanes allowed just 12 touchdowns (seven rushing, five passing) and scored seven touchdowns of their own. Shannon's defenses have been ranked in the top 10 in turnover margin twice and led the nation in 2001.
It's no wonder Shannon has been successful as a coach. As a linebacker during the late 1980s, he was a film room guru, studying hours and hours of tape to learn the offensive tendencies of the opponents he faced each Saturday on the football field. His commitment to being a student of the game often paid huge dividends, such as on Sept. 5, 1987, in the Orange Bowl, when he returned an interception 41 yards for a touchdown in the Hurricanes' 31-4 romp over the Florida Gators. But his studious approach to game preparation wasn't limited solely to the gridiron. Shannon was a true student-athlete, graduating with a degree in liberal arts. "It was about more than just the X's and O's," Shannon said. "I wanted to grow intellectually, and I knew that academics were a key to success."
Many of Shannon's players have gone on to star in the NFL. But it is not the superstar success his players have achieved as professional athletes of which Shannon is most proud. "I'm excited for them because they've earned their college degrees," he says. "Football is your life when you're playing, but when it's over and you sit down and realize that there are no more cheers from the crowds, you realize how special academics really are."
The University of Miami, Shannon says, "is not a football factory. We're an academic institution that does a tremendous job in educating student-athletes and preparing them for life after sports." Shannon is known for his quiet yet strong demeanor. He works with great intensity and dedication. His pride in his alma mater is always paramount. "Once you're a part of the University of Miami, you'll always bleed orange and green. You never forget those experiences as a player or coach, because they'll always be a part of your life," Shannon says.
Shannon brims with confidence that is supported by a lifetime of success. "We're going to do a lot of great things here for the community, for the school, and for the football program," he says. "We're going to have accountability, discipline, and a lot of emotion to do the right things. Being at Miami, the expectations are always high. Players come to Miami because they know they will always have an opportunity to win the national championship. If you settle for less, you're going to become less. We're going to have a lot of fun. And we're going to win."