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Manny Diaz reportedly on shaky ground at Miami

The report also identified an obvious target if The U does move on from Diaz.

The Miami Herald's Barry Jackson took the temperature on the Miami football program with a number of Hurricane football stakeholders, and the result was not a pretty picture for third-year head coach Manny Diaz. 

From the report:

There are some trustees who want to move on from Manny Diaz, but a UM official said there is not a significant groundswell toward firing Diaz now, though he cautioned that could change with more bad losses.

Two Miami-based trustees said they would expect Diaz — who has 2 ½ years left on his contract — to be given at least the rest of the season, unless there are multiple embarrassingly lopsided losses in the weeks ahead.

Diaz is 15-12 as Miami's head coach and 11-6 in ACC play. After a 6-7 debut, Miami improved to 8-3 last season, finishing No. 22 in both polls, although the end of the season was not pretty. Hosting North Carolina with an Orange Bowl berth on the line in the regular season finale, Miami's defense was demolished in a 62-26 loss. They closed the year with a 37-34 loss to Oklahoma State in the Camping World Bowl.

That finished inspired Diaz to overhaul his defensive staff, with Diaz returning to his roots as a defensive play-caller. That, combined with quarterback D'Eriq King returning to work for coordinator Rhett Lashlee, inspired optimism that 2021 would be a step forward for a program stuck in neutral for more than a decade now.

At the quarter pole of the season, 2021 has instead represented a step backward.

Miami was predictably blown out by No. 1 Alabama in the opener, but the 'Canes performance in the two following games was more concerning than that 31-point loss in Atlanta: a 2-point win over Appalachian State and a 21-point home loss to Michigan State this past Saturday.

Miami ranks 106th in yards per play and 87th in yards per play defense. King is the nation's 87th-most efficient quarterback, throwing for 6.3 yards per attempt with three touchdowns against four interceptions. 

After hosting Central Connecticut this week, the Hurricanes will open an ACC schedule that currently features one ranked opponent, an Oct 16 visit to No. 21 North Carolina. Such a schedule affords Diaz plenty of opportunities to turn the season around and nowhere to hide if he doesn't.

“Football is a tackling and blocking game, and we don’t do either one very well. That’s coaching. It’s such a discouraging thing to watch," one trustee told the Herald.

If Miami does move on from Diaz, those surveyed were in agreement upon two things:

1) Mario Cristobal would be the top target.
2) It's unlikely Miami would get him.

Cristobal is the perfect candidate for Miami. In fact, it's difficult to imagine any candidate more perfectly fitting a hypothetical opening than Cristobal would at Miami. The Miami native won two national titles under Jimmy Johnson and Dennis Erickson and helped Butch Davis build the second iteration of The U's dynasty in the late 1990s. He spent six largely successful seasons as the head coach at FIU. He opened the South Florida pipeline to Tuscaloosa as an Alabama assistant for four seasons.

Now the head coach at Oregon, the 50-year-old Cristobal has built the Ducks into one of the premier line-of-scrimmage teams in the nation, one that is still living in the shine of winning at Ohio State two weeks ago.

Because of all that, prying Cristobal out of Eugene could come with a $50 million price tag with all costs involved -- most pressing, the $9 million buyout at Oregon and Diaz's own $8 million buyout.

“We don’t have that kind of money,” one trustee told the paper.

Miami football is currently caught between its two identities -- The U, a ready-made power with more talent 30 minutes from campus than any school in the nation, and the University of Miami, an academically-focused private school led by a president indifferent to football.

Jackson wrote that he spoke to two Miami trustees. The board seats close to 50 people (former Cane All-American Jonathan Vilma is one of them), so it's unknown if those who spoke to Jackson represent the majority view of their colleagues. But the report also stated AD Blake James holds autonomy over the athletics department, and those who spoke to the paper heavily implied university leadership wouldn't hold it against him if James moved on from Diaz, a coach James hired, if October and November don't go better than September.

Read the full report here.

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