Larry Coker

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The last time the Miami Hurricanes won the national championship…

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A year after having the BCS formula go against them, the 2001 Miami Hurricanes were on a mission to leave no doubt who the best team in college football was early in the 21st century. Arguably one of the most dominant teams in college football history, Miami set the tone for a season of dominance right from the start of the season and was barely given a fight all season long en route to the BCS national championship. It would be the last national title for the Miami program before some significant changes took place for the program and the sport as a whole.

Butch Davis had capitalized on Miami’s 11-1 season the year before by accepting a job offer from the NFL’s Cleveland Browns. Staying behind to guide the ship in Miami was Larry Coker, who had been promoted from offensive coordinator to head coach. Defensive coordinator Greg Schiano also left the Hurricanes to take over as head coach at Rutgers. Randy Shannon took over as defensive coordinator for the Hurricanes, with Rob Chudzinski taking on the role of offensive coordinator. It didn’t matter how many changes were made on the staff, because the roster was loaded with NFL-quality talent with players like Ed Reed, Clinton Portis, Jeremy Shockey, and Jonathan Vilma. The talent Miami had on the roster was unmatched, and the motivation after feeling burned by the BCS computers the year before was a recipe for mayhem.

Miami opened the season with a dominating victory at Penn State to hand the Nittany Lions their worst home loss under Joe Paterno, and Miami kept on rolling against Big East opponents Rutgers and Pittsburgh before handling Troy State at home. Miami then scored a lopsided victory in Tallahassee against No. 13 Florida State. Although Miami topped top-ranked FSU the previous season, it was Florida State that went on to play for the national title (and lose to Oklahoma). Miami kept their foot on the ga son offense and defense the rest of the year with blowout victories over Big East foes like West Virginia, Boston College and No. 15 Syracuse. A late November romp of No. 11 Washington put Miami one victory away from delivering on the mission of an undefeated season. They got it done with a regular season finale at No. 14 Virginia Tech, with the Hokies giving Miami its closest game all season long, a 26-24 victory for the Canes.

The Rose Bowl was the scene for the BCS National Championship Game, where Miami was opposed by Nebraska and Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch. But the Huskers were not up to the challenge, which had been feared after the BCS computers managed to find room for Nebraska in the championship game despite losing their final game of the regular season to Colorado by a score of 62-36 (Colorado went on to play for and won the Big 12 championship game. Colorado also faced the No. 2 team in the AP and coaches poll, Oregon). The reality is it may not have mattered if Miami played Nebraska, Colorado, AND Oregon all at once because this Canes team probably would have won anyway.

But this was Miami’s last national championship victory, and the quest for another national title in Miami continues with the dawn of a new era under Manny Diaz. Let’s look back to see what else was going on in 2001.

Last National Championship Season: 2001 (18 years and counting)

Who was President?

George W. Bush was in his first year in the White House after coming out on top of the 2000 election. It just so happened his father, George H. W. Bush, was in his first year as president the previous time Miami had been a national champion in 1989 (or 1991 if you want to count the AP national title; Washington won the coaches poll).

The current president, Donald J. Trump, was officially a Democrat after switching from the Reform party in 2001. The construction of Trump World Tower was completed that same year.

What was on TV?

America was in love with “Friends,” which was taking the top spot of the TV ratings in its eighth season on NBC. This was the season when Rachel had a baby and is regarded by some as the best season in the series. The year of television was also highlighted by Regis Philbin getting a new co-host on “Live!”, which ended up being Kelly Ripa, who still hosts the morning talk show to this day.

The world becomes familiar with C.T.U. agent Jack Bauer, played by Kieffer Sutherland, in the debut season of “24.” And for the first time ever, HBO took viewers behind the scenes of an NFL training camp with the debut of Hard Knocks.” The Baltimore Ravens, fresh off their Super Bowl victory from the season before, were the featured team with a quarterback battle between Randall Cunningham and Elvis Grbac among the storylines worth following.

What movies were hot?

The first Harry Potter movie made its debut on the big screen in 2001 with Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone leading the way at the box office. The first film adaptation of the Harry Potter series of books blocked another film adaptation of a fantasy novel series from the top spot by keeping The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring at No. 2. Animated monsters of different varieties were also raking in ticket sales with the release of Monsters, Inc., and Shrek.

Another long-standing film franchise made its debut as well with Vin Diesel and Paul Walker starring in The Fast and the Furious. The meaning of family was never the same again, and little did anyone know what a smash success the franchise would become.

The award-winning A Beautiful Mind included an award-winning performance from Russell Crowe and led to awards for director Ron Howard.

Who was on the cover of NCAA Football?

As fate would have it, it was a player from a bitter Miami rival that appeared on the cover of the NCAA Football franchise in 2001. Former Florida State quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke was featured on the cover of the game, which brought the video game franchise to the Sony PlayStation 2 for the first time.

Weinke and the Seminoles played for the national championship the previous season and lost to Oklahoma in the national championship game (which is currently Oklahoma’s most recent national title). This, of course, is part of the Miami storyline for the 2001 season.

It is also worth mentioning there was actually another NCAA football video game option in 2001. SEGA’s NCAA College Football 2k2: Road to the Rose Bowl was exclusive to the SEGA Dreamcast. It featured former Purdue quarterback Drew Brees on the cover.

What else happened in 2001?

On September 11, 2001, terrorists attacked the United States by hijacking airline jets and crashing them into the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington D.C. A fourth jet was brought down in Pennsylvania. The entire sports world hit pause that week as both Major League Baseball and the NFL closed their leagues for a week in the aftermath of the biggest terrorist attack on American soil.

College football schedules were also put on hold for the most part as games were wiped off the Week 2 schedule and rescheduled for later in the season as much as possible.

A backup quarterback takes over the job for an injured Drew Bledsoe with the New England Patriots and leads the team to its first Super Bowl championship. That man is former Michigan seventh-round draft pick Tom Brady. Brady wins his first game as a starting quarterback that season after an 0-2 start to the year by topping Peyton Manning and the Colts. They would go on to have a storied rivalry in the years to come.

The Arizona Diamondbacks win their first World Series by defeating the New York Yankees in an epic seven-game series. Ichiro Suzuki made his MLB debut after coming over from Japan. He wins both the AL Rookie of the Year and the AL MVP.

Allen Iverson stepped over Tyron Lue in an overtime series-opening win against the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals, but Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal win their second straight NBA title with a 4-1 series victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.

While there may be some at NBC who wish I didn’t remind them about this, the XFL was a thing that existed.

Tiger Woods became the first golfer to hold four major championship titles at the same time after adding the Masters to his collection.

The Associated Press named Barry Bonds Male Athlete of the Year. Wonder if they’d like a do-over on that one.

Current Miami head coach Manny Diaz was a graduate assistant at NC State. Nick Saban was in his second season at LSU, and Dabo Swinney was sitting out the 2001 season while receiving contractual payments from his previous employer, Alabama, after the school fired the entire coaching staff under former Tide head coach Mike DuBose.

Miami Heat legend (and recently retired) Dwayne Wade had yet to be drafted by the Heat. That would happen two years later.

When will The U actually be back?

After winning it all in 2001, Miami played two more seasons in the Big East. The conference was about to lose its biggest names as confe3rence realignment started to tremble. Miami and Virginia Tech left for the ACC after the 2003 season. Boston College followed a year later. Years later the ACC would welcome Louisville, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse and the Big East lost West Virginia (Big 12) and Rutgers (Big Ten). But Miami was thought to bring some football balance to the conference after years of domination by Florida State. Little did anyone know that it would not be until the 2017 season when Miami would finally get a chance to play in the ACC Championship Game.

The Mark Richt era was thought early on to be what would help get Miami back to being a national title contender given his previous success at Georgia (without ever playing for a national title), and for one brief season, it appeared to be on track for that. But an abrupt retirement by Richt after a disappointing season leaves Miami still trying to figure out a way to being back to being a national title contender on a regular basis. Time will tell if Manny Diaz can bring the glory days back to the Hurricanes.

Larry Coker getting a $650,000 settlement from UTSA

AP Photo/Michael Thomas
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Former UTSA head coach Larry Coker has reached a settlement with his former employer for his resignation. UTSA will pay Coker $650,000 according to documents cited by The San Antonio Express-Times.

The settlement fee negotiated between UTSA and Coker will save the university nearly $1 million. The terms of Coker’s contract outlined he could have received up to $1.56 million in his buyout. That total would have been paid to Coker over time. Instead, Coker accepted a lump-sum payment of $550,000 that will be paid to him next month. An additional $100,000 will be paid to Coker by UTSA  in October to complete the reduced buyout process.

Coker was the first head coach in the history of the young UTSA football program. Brought on board years before taking the field, UTSA hired Coker out of retirement following a stint with Miami that started with a national championship victory in his first season. Coker was hired to help establish the program’s foundation and prepare for competing on the field in 2009. The Roadrunners played their first game in 2011 as an FCS independent. Coker led the program to the WAC in 2012 as the conference scrambled to find some slight stability during realignment changes. UTSA went 8-4 in their first season in the FBS in 2012 and pulled in a second straight winning season in 2013 after joining Conference USA. Following two straight losing seasons in 2014 and 2015 UTSA opting to go in a new direction from Coker.

In January, UTSA hired LSU running backs coach Frank Wilson to be the next head coach of the football program.

Larry Coker no longer head coach at UTSA

AP Photo/Eric Gay
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Oh, you thought the coaching carousel had come to a full and complete stop. Well, guess again! We’re back and open for business on the annual coaching carousel with news out of San Antonio on Tuesday afternoon.

Larry Coker, the first and only head coach in UTSA program history, will no longer be the head coach of the Road Runners according to CFT contributor Zach Barnett over on Football Scoop. The timing of the coaching change is peculiar, but the result is not exactly shocking. Coker had long been thought to be on his last legs with the program after initially helping to establish the program years before playing a single game.

What makes the timing of the coaching change odd is it feels late in the game for a coaching change. With national signing day now just a month away and many of the coaching vacancies already filled around college football, and the carousel focus shifting to the NFL as college assistant jobs, UTSA going on the market opens up an interesting position. Odds are probably pretty good UTSA will not fill the head coaching vacancy with an existing head coach from another FBS program, but a younger assistant on the rise looking for an opportunity to get a chance to be the head coach of a program. The future of the UTSA program has some potential to build a contending program in Conference USA based on its location, although the Texas football soil is as competitive as they can be.

Coker was 22-26 at UTSA from 2012 through the end of the 2015 season, but the win totals decreased each season under Coker’s watch as the scheduling difficulty increased each season. But remember that this was a brand new college football program, so losses were to be expected, especially when the program made the jump to the FBS perhaps earlier than initially scheduled due to conference realignment leaving the WAC (and later Conference USA) in need of filling spots to keep a conference together. UTSA and Texas State each made the jump up in competition at the same time, although the two have gone separate ways since making the transition.

Coker won a national championship at Miami in 2001, his first season as a head coach after taking over for Butch Davis. Miami played for the national championship the following season, only to lose to Ohio State. Coker won two more bowl games at Miami before being let go at the end of the 2006 season.

UTSA and Texas State could be in line for the coaching carousel

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It was a wild day on the coaching carousel the past 72 hours with coaching changes at North Texas, Maryland, USC and South Carolina. In all we have seen five coaching changes this fall, including Illinois before the first kickoff of the season. There will be many more to come as the year progresses, and two more coaching changes could be likely at Texas State and UTSA.

According to a report from Gridiron Now, both Texas State and UTSA could be thinking about their respective long-term futures. That would make sense given the ages of their current head coaches. Texas State head coach Dennis Franchione is 64 years of age and UTSA head coach Larry Coker is 67. Both coaches carry some solid backgrounds in the coaching game of course, which is why they were solid hires for each school as they each prepared to make the jump into FBS football. Having coaches who had been at that level provided a sense of confidence and organization for each. Their time as head coaches though, was always relatively limited and now that those transitions to the FBS have been completed (UTSA in Conference USA and Texas State in the Sun Belt now), it is not a bad idea to start thinking about the next coaches that can continue to grow within the program for the next stages of the programs.

Coker took on the job at UTSA in 2009 when the school started up its football program from scratch. It did not play a game until 2011 as a FCS independent, and the jump into the FBS took place in 2012, perhaps earlier than scheduled due to the seismic shifts in conference realignment leading the WAC to add members as quickly as it could. That also allowed Texas State to make the jump at the same time. As the WAC fell apart, UTSA found solace in Conference USA and Texas State landed in the Sun Belt Conference. Franchione was hired by Texas State in 2011 to a five-year contract. He had previously coached at Texas State, as well as stints at New Mexico, TCU, Alabama and Texas A&M. Texas State is coming off back-to-back seasons of .500 or better since moving into the FBS.

When the time does come for these programs to make new coaching hires, the direction of the ideal candidate will likely be younger. Both should be able to attract some good young assistant coaches looking to begin their head-coaching careers. Neither program will one day rival the Longhorns or Aggies, but success on the level of a program like Houston may not be too unrealistic over time.

Navy’s Niumatalolo joins noteworthy coaching group

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Navy’s 13th straight victory over Army in the annual Army-Navy Game made Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo the all-time winningest coach in Navy football history. That also put Niumatalolo in a pretty unique group of coaches.

Niumatalolo is the 12th active head coach at the FBS level to be the all-time winningest coach at his respective program. He joins coaches like Bill Snyder of Kansas State, Frank Beamer of Virginia Tech, Pat Fitzgerald of Northwestern as well as Bob Stoops of Oklahoma. Steve Spurrier is also included in that list at South Carolina.

This full list of all-time winningest FBS coaches at their current programs was passed along by Navy athletics;

  • Kansas State- Bill Snyder
  • Missouri- Gary Pinkel
  • Navy-Ken Niumatalolo
  • Northwestern- Pat Fitzgerald
  • Oklahoma- Bob Stoops
  • Oklahoma State- Mike Gundy
  • Old Dominion- Bobby Wilder
  • South Alabama- Joey Jones
  • South Carolina- Steve Spurrier
  • TCU- Gary Patterson
  • Texas-San Antonio-Larry Coker
  • Virginia Tech- Frank Beamer