CFB: Stoutland says Miami has ‘bittersweet’ opportunity
AP Sports Writer
CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) – Jeff Stoutland has a new boss at Miami.
Still, for one more game, the majority of Stoutland’s thoughts will be with his former one.
When Miami arrives in El Paso, Texas on Sunday to begin final preparations for the Sun Bowl on New Year’s Eve against Notre Dame, Randy Shannon won’t be with the Hurricanes. Fired nearly a month ago, Shannon is gone after four seasons- but to Stoutland and many Miami players, he’s not forgotten.
The way the Hurricanes see it, in many respects, this one’s for Shannon.
“This is an important game and I’ll tell you why it’s an important game,” Stoutland told The Associated Press after a recent practice. “Randy Shannon set the foundation here. He’s the one that brought us all together. He’s the one that brought us all here. When we kick this game off, without even having to say it to any of the players, we’re all playing this game to win it and he’s part of that.”
A confusing time has finally provided Stoutland with some clarity. Miami’s offensive line coach for the past four years, he took over as interim head coach the morning after Shannon’s firing. At that time, he and the rest of the Miami staff all agreed to remain with the team for the bowl game – even though all faced very uncertain futures.
Stoutland, linebackers coach Micheal Barrow and wide receivers coach Aubrey Hill now know they’ll be retained by new coach Al Golden for 2011. Defensive coordinator John Lovett, defensive backs coach Wesley McGriff and defensive line coach Rick Petri have since learned that the Sun Bowl will end their tenures at Miami.
The fates of other assistants, most notably offensive coordinator Mark Whipple and special teams coordinator Joe Pannunzio, have not been revealed, although Golden has hired Brennan Carroll to coach tight ends going forward – a job Pannunzio held this season. Carroll, the son of Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, also will lead national recruiting efforts.
Whipple and Pannunzio want to stay, but like the rest of the staff, neither has let their own futures cloud the task of getting the Hurricanes ready for Notre Dame.
“We’re going to coach the same way,” Whipple said. “We told them, ‘We’re going to try to get you better.’ That’s what the whole thing is about as a coach, improving their lives. That’s been the focus. Everybody wants to win and you want to be successful, but from the beginning of the year here, our motto has been ‘Finish.’ That’s what we’re trying to do.”
In some circles, there were suspicions that many of the assistants on Shannon’s staff would leave immediately after he got fired.
In actuality, the thought never truly crossed their minds.
“I’ve got to tell you, at the end of each day, I shake my head,” Stoutland said. “There’s so much pride with the coaches I’ve been around. There’s nobody that has splintered from this operation. That’s the big story, to me. That’s what says a lot about these people. We’ve all stayed together.”
There were plenty of reasons for each to stay. Whipple’s son Spencer is on the team and they’re cherishing the time together. Pannunzio said he wanted to remain loyal to both the players and to Stoutland. Barrow is a former Hurricane who couldn’t fathom quitting on current Hurricanes. Hill has close ties with recruits that he’d like to see at Miami in 2011.
“But the biggest thing is, we’re not done here yet,” Stoutland said.
Shannon has remained low-profile since packing up his office at Miami. He expects to take a new job sometime in January, and has options he’s mulling. He has remained in contact with several members of his now-former staff, and even reached out to each player with personalized letters days after his dismissal.
“That’s his character,” cornerback Ryan Hill said. “That’s what he would have expected from us.”
That being said, it is a new era now. Golden has remained largely silent during the bowl preparations, while he assembles his staff and focuses on recruiting. The 2011 team will be his; closing out 2010 is Stoutland’s job.
As much as there’s the clear sense of playing for Shannon, the Hurricanes will play the Sun Bowl to get 2011 off right as well.
“We’re talking about the future of the program, the future of these players’ careers,” Stoutland said. “It’s really crucial. This isn’t ‘Let’s go play a game.’ This is a very serious deal and we’re taking it that way as coaches. The players and the coaches and all the support staff have done an unbelievable job. Everybody has stayed together. Really, that was the only chance we had.”