Miami Hurricanes AD Blake James discusses football program evaluation

CORAL GABLES, FL - JANUARY 02: (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
CORAL GABLES, FL - JANUARY 02: (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

In separate interviews with ESPN and the Miami Herald, Hurricanes athletic director Blake James discussed the state of the football program and the job security for head coach Manny Diaz. James, Diaz and university President Julio Frenk have come under increasing scrutiny from the Miami Hurricanes fan base during a 2-4 season.

After finishing 6-7 during the first season under Diaz in 2019, Miami sprinted to an 8-1 record in 2020. The only loss Miami suffered in its first nine games last season was to Clemson who won its sixth straight ACC Championship last season. After losing its last two games of 2020, the heat on Diaz and James increased.

The Miami Hurricanes lost 62-26 to North Carolina in the 2020 regular-season finale and 37-34 to Oklahoma State in the Cheez-It Bowl last season. All four of the 2020 Miami wins have been to Power Five programs and the two wins have been against Appalachian State of the Sun Belt and FCS Central Connecticut State.

A six-game losing streak against Power Five programs is concerning. Miami has not defeated a Power Five program outside of the ACC since a 41-8 victory over Notre Dame in November 2017. That streak is five games including bowl game losses to Wisconsin in 2017 and 2018 and Oklahoma State last season.

"“There’s a lot of things that go into evaluating, where are we with the team, the development, the growth, what are we seeing from the young people in the program, what are we doing in recruiting? There’s a laundry list of things that’s part of the evaluation. Winning’s right at the top.And that’s something that’s always going to be something that we have to evaluate in our programs here at the University of Miami and right now, we’re not winning enough…We’re committed to winning as an institution.So whatever that means it’s going to take, I have full confidence that’s the step our institution is going to take.Whether that’s from a financial decision on coaching salaries to financial decisions on what we need to do operate as a program again, the institution is very committed to seeing this athletics program succeed at the highest level, and they’re committed to doing what it takes to compete with the very best."

Andrea Adelson of ESPN quoted James above. Diaz has committed to playing younger players who can produce better than veterans who were previously starting. Wide receivers Mark Pope and Dee Wiggins who had 30 career starts between them lost their starting jobs and are expected to enter the transfer portal.

Second-year freshmen WRs Xavier Restrepo and Keyshawn Smith have shown promise this season. True freshmen safeties Kamren Kinchens and James Williams have passed former starter Gurvan Hall in the rotation. Miami has recruited well in the first two full classes under Diaz. Miami signed the 11th ranked class in 2021.

The Hurricanes signed the 17th ranked class in 2020 in the first full signing class under Diaz. Amidst a 2-4 season, Miami has dropped to the 60th ranked class in 2022. Miami simply has to start winning. When the losses pile up, the fans respond loudly and frequently result in personal attacks on coaches and administrators.

Miami has faced mediocrity for over 15 years in football. Several University athletic directors, coaches and head coaches with the football program have been hired in Coral Gables during that time. The problems with the football program are bigger than any AD, head coach or president Miai has had in the last 15 years.

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The question going forward for Miami Hurricanes is how can they set a foundation to at the least be a perennial contender in the ACC. Miami has the 13th most talented roster in college football according to the 247 Sports composite rankings. Most years the talent the Miami football program has is not matching its production.