Sports Outside the Beltway

Miami Fires Larry Coker

As expected, the University of Miami has fired head football coach Larry Coker after a mediocre season.

Miami fired football coach Larry Coker on Friday, a day after the Hurricanes beat No. 18 Boston College 17-14 to salvage a 6-6 season to become eligible to play in a postseason bowl game. Coker was informed of the decision by athletics director Paul Dee early Friday. Coker has three years remaining on a contract that pays him nearly $2 million annually, and the school will owe him between $2.4 million and $3 million in a buyout. “The university has made a decision to change head coaches for our football program,” Dee said at a news conference.

If Miami is invited to a bowl game, Coker will coach the team. “I’d like to certainly end on a positive note,” Coker said.

Coker, 58, won more games in his first six seasons than any other Hurricanes coach except Dennis Erickson, and he has won more games since 2001 than all but five Division I-A coaches. Coker had a 59-15 record, a winning percentage of nearly 80 percent, and won a national championship in 2001 and played for another title the following season.

“There were a lot of issues, but certainly the direction the program was going was certainly one,” Dee said. “I wouldn’t say that was totally it, but if you want to look in that direction, that was one. There were disappointments. There were opportunities, I think, to play better and we didn’t. It all comes to the head coach.”

There are plenty of potential candidates to replace Coker, including former Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez, who is close with Miami president Donna Shalala; Rutgers coach and former Miami assistant Greg Schiano; and Tulsa coach Steve Kragthorpe.

Miami is a dream job. It’s the winningest program of the last quarter century and sits on the most fertile recruiting ground in the land. Still, it’s probably the most demanding job in college ball as well, with a national title the only acceptable outcome to a rabid fanbase spoiled by the program’s recent success.

Ironically, the University of Alabama’s Mike Shula finds himself in the hotseat for an identical 6-6 record. While the Tide hasn’t been as successful of late as Miami, it has many more championships over its history. Fans of such programs are not patient, nor do they fully understand that competing for a title every year is very difficult in the modern age of limited scholarships, closer NCAA scrutiny, and comparative parity.

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