Miami fires Manny Diaz, awaits Mario Cristobal decision

NCAA Football

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP)Manny Diaz was fired as Miami’s football coach Monday, after a 7-5 regular season and with the school in deep negotiations to bring Oregon coach Mario Cristobal back to his alma mater to take over.

Diaz went 21-15 in three seasons at Miami. His job security had been in question for some time, and speculation ramped up three weeks ago when the Hurricanes dismissed athletic director Blake James – one of the people who hired Diaz in 2018.

But Diaz kept working, even in recent days while the school was trying to pry Cristobal out of Oregon. There was no immediate announcement on Cristobal’s status with the Ducks. A person with direct knowledge of those negotiations said Cristobal spent the weekend weighing the pros and cons of coming back to the Hurricanes. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the talks were ongoing.

Firing Diaz, though, suggests Miami is secure in the belief that Cristobal is coming. ”An announcement regarding new leadership for the football program will be forthcoming,” the university said in the news release where it revealed that school president Julio Frenk had fired Diaz.

Miami will play Washington State in the Sun Bowl later this month. It’s unknown who will be the interim coach for that game.

Diaz was criticized by an impatient Miami fan base for some bad losses, such as a 2019 defeat to FIU and the bowl loss later that season to Louisiana Tech. The Hurricanes started 2-4 this season, one of those defeats coming to Virginia when Miami missed a short field goal that would have won the game as time expired.

But Diaz’s fate may have been sealed with a 31-28 loss to Florida State last month, a game where the Hurricanes let the Seminoles take the lead in the final seconds on a drive where they couldn’t get a stop on a fourth-and-14 play.

”We are grateful to Coach Diaz for his many contributions to our campus community and to his native South Florida, and for the strong leadership and exemplary character he exhibited during his tenure at the University,” Frenk said. ”We wish him and his family the very best as they move forward.”

Miami went 5-1 in Diaz’s final six games. And with the exception of Notre Dame’s one-year appearance as a conference member, Diaz guided Miami to the second-best record in Atlantic Coast Conference games in his three seasons. The Hurricanes were 16-9 against league opponents in that span, behind only Clemson.

Diaz never got Miami to an ACC title game, one of the factors in the administration’s thinking. The Hurricanes also had some terrible losses – a 30-24 defeat against crosstown rival FIU in 2019 that served as both a local and national embarrassment, a 62-26 home loss to North Carolina last season that cost Miami a shot at playing in the Orange Bowl and the defeat to Florida State this year in a game where the Hurricanes allowed the Seminoles to convert a fourth-and-14 in the final seconds on the way to the winning touchdown.

There were also arguments to keep him. The recruits he landed in the last two years proved to be among Miami’s very best players in 2021. Miami was the lone ACC team to beat conference champion Pitt this season and after the regular-season finale, many players took to social media to post support for Diaz.

Diaz’s firing continues what is now an 18-year cycle of impatience at Miami, starting with the season in which the Hurricanes joined the ACC. That was 2004, and the Hurricanes are still waiting for their first conference championship.

Larry Coker – the last coach to bring the Hurricanes a national title in 2001 – was fired despite going 53-9 in his first five seasons, then managing only a 6-6 mark in his sixth and final regular season with the Hurricanes.

Randy Shannon was 28-22 in the next four seasons. Al Golden – who didn’t know he was inheriting a program that was about to get hammered by NCAA sanctions thanks in large part to the actions of rogue former booster who went to prison for masterminding a Ponzi scheme – went 32-25. Mark Richt went 26-13 in three seasons, then retired with five years left on his contract amid constant complaints from fans that his son Jon shouldn’t have been coaching Miami’s quarterbacks.

And now Diaz joins that list.

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