Forum Spin Doctor
CORAL GABLES, Fla. - Larry Coker's difficult and final year at Miami will end on the blue turf of Boise.
The Hurricanes accepted an invitation Wednesday to the MPC Computers Bowl, where they'll meet Nevada (8-4) of the Western Athletic Conference on Dec. 31 in Idaho's capital city. It'll be the first meeting between the programs, plus Miami's first appearance in that bowl.
It will also be Coker's 75th and final game at Miami; he was fired last week after a 6-6 regular season, one that dropped his six-year record with the Hurricanes to 59-15 with one national championship. The school retained him for the bowl game, while it conducts a search for his replacement.
"We have a lot of young players, and I think a bowl experience will be very good for them," said Coker, whose team will resume practice in mid-December after finals.
The Hurricanes haven't formally revealed a complete list of who's under consideration to replace Coker, but athletic director Paul Dee confirmed Wednesday that defensive coordinator Randy Shannon - who is thought to have the support of Hurricane players - is a candidate.
"We have strong interest in Randy Shannon," Dee said, adding that no one has interviewed yet for the job.
Other speculation has centered around Rutgers coach Greg Schiano, a former Miami assistant; former Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez, who has a close relationship with Miami president Donna Shalala; South Florida's Jim Leavitt and, of late, former Alabama coach Mike Shula - son of Miami Dolphins coaching legend Don Shula.
"I think we all were upset when we heard about coach Coker," defensive end Calais Campbell said. "I'm just glad we've got one more game together."
Miami became bowl-eligible with a 17-14 win over Boston College on Thanksgiving night, and its postseason berth was guaranteed when Virginia lost to Virginia Tech two days later. The Atlantic Coast Conference has affiliations with eight bowl games; Virginia's loss meant the ACC had only eight eligible teams for those spots.
The come-from-behind victory against Boston College was a rare bright spot in a trying year for the Hurricanes, who were involved in a sideline-clearing brawl with Florida International in October, then were devastated on Nov. 7 when senior defensive lineman Bryan Pata was shot and killed outside his apartment. Police have made no arrests related to the Pata shooting.
"We pretty much said we were not going to give up," senior safety Brandon Meriweather said. "Everybody in the world expected us to give up. We decided as a unit, as a defense, as a team, not to give up - not to give America what they want. It's easy being America's most loved, but it's hard being America's most hated."
Boise State's Bronco Stadium is famed for its blue turf, something the Hurricanes have never seen, but their biggest shock on game night may be the climate. The average high in Boise on New Year's Eve is around 35, with a low of 22 - figures about 40 degrees less than the norms in South Florida on the same date.
"It really doesn't matter," center Anthony Wollschlager said. "What matters is we've got another game to play."