Randy Shannon became the head coach at the University of Miami in 2007. Three years later, he’s unemployed. His record at the school was 28-22 and this season was especially disappointing as they were expected to contend for the BCS National Championship. But there’s one thing that the wins and losses don’t tell you: Randy Shannon had the highest graduation rate of any school that was not a military academy. Let me say that again, Randy Shannon at The University of Miami had the highest graduation rate of any school that was not Army or Navy. Not Notre Dame, not Stanford not any of those other institutions that brags about how their players must achieve academically but the University of Miami. Let that sink in for a moment.
The University of Miami football team is not known for its academic prowess. This team is typically filled with players from the roughest parts of Florida. They were known for putting the “nasty” in “dynasty” during their heyday of the 80s and 90s. This is a team that had its own 30 for 30 special on ESPN and the same team that once counted Luther Campbell as one of its boosters. An academic powerhouse it is not.
No one knew that reputation better than Randy Shannon. Shannon is from the inner city of Miami, excelling in football at Miami Norland High School. His father was killed when he was 3 and he watched his older siblings become addicted to crack and later mourned as they both succumbed to AIDS. Shannon played for the University of Miami under Coach Jimmy Johnson during those golden years, graduating in 1988. He returned as a graduate assistant in 1991 and remained on the staff until his firing in November. He was one of the top defensive coordinators in the nation from 2001 – 2006, winning an award for it in 2001. So why is he jobless?
He’s jobless because no matter how much the NCAA and universities try to say they are students first, the emphasis is on winning. In some schools, a record like Shannon’s would be applauded. But at the University of Miami they know what it feels like to be crowned National Champion and anyone that doesn’t bring that is expendable. It doesn’t matter that he’s actually living up to the “student-athlete” mantra that puts students first. Upon hearing of his firing one of his players was quoted as saying, “I thought Coach Shannon did a heck of a job. I felt he was the best man for the job. He knows us best. He recruited us. He’s a great guy in all aspects of the word — from football coach to father figure to best friend.”
On the recruiting trail, coaches go into the homes and promise the parents that their children will receive an education. Randy Shannon was actually making good on those promises. For all his hard work, he ends up unemployed. The University of Miami had an opportunity to build another legacy; a legacy of young men who represent the student as well as the athlete. Instead, they’d rather be like everyone else.