National Columnist

AD Hocutt cutting up Miami's chances at quality coaches


Hate Mail: C'mon -- is he a coward or not?

Kirby Hocutt doesn't know what he's doing, and I'm going to prove it. Hell, proving it is the simple part. I have the easy job. You're the one who has it rough, especially if you're a Miami football fan. Because you're the one who has to look past your heart, which bleeds green and orange, and analyze with your brain the case I'm about to lay out for you.

And when you do that, you'll be scared. Because you'll know. You'll know I'm right, and more to the point, you'll know Kirby Hocutt is wrong.

He's the wrong man to be entrusted with the most important hire the University of Miami will make for years.

Before we go there, let me go here. Let me state, up front, that I wasn't happy about the firing of Miami's previous football coach, Randy Shannon. Maybe you know that. I wrote it a few days ago, wondering how the Miami administration could overthrow Shannon after four years where he has taken the Hurricanes to three consecutive bowl games -- and unprecedented achievement in the classroom and community.

With each miscalculation, Kirby Hocutt lessens the odds Miami will find a good coach. (AP)  
With each miscalculation, Kirby Hocutt lessens the odds Miami will find a good coach. (AP)  
Apparently I have it in for Kirby Hocutt. I'm not going to sit here and tell you I don't. What I will tell you, honestly and embarrassingly, is this: Until Sunday, I'd never heard of Kirby Hocutt. The AD at Miami since 2008? News to me. He'd done nothing to distinguish himself, to get onto my radar.

Until he fired Shannon.

And now, this coach search. This embarrassment. Kirby Hocutt is on my radar, all right, after this monsoon of missteps. He has no idea what he's doing, and again, I'm not just saying it. I'm going to prove it.

First, let's retrace Hocutt's steps as they pertain to this coaching position. His first step was six months ago, when -- after spending two football seasons as Randy Shannon's boss -- he extended Shannon's contract by four years and gave him a 25-percent raise to $1.5 million annually. The buyout was said to be about $1.5 million.

That was six months ago. An extension, a raise and a seven-figure buyout. And then a dismissal.

Hocutt was just getting started.

For his next move, after firing Shannon, he hired a search firm led by a single headhunter. And not just any headhunter, but the headhunter who advised Miami in 2007 to hire -- wait for it -- Randy Shannon.

It can't get any better, but it does. See, Hocutt was repaying an old favor. The headhunter? Chuck Neinas.

Hocutt's first boss out of college, in 1995 at the College Football Association? Chuck Neinas.

The good ol' boy network, alive and well at Miami. Neinas scratched Hocutt's back in '95, so Hocutt scratched Neinas' back last week, giving his former boss $50,000 to do a job Neinas obviously did, in 2007, to Hocutt's current dissatisfaction.

There's more. Lots more. Typically I like to limit my columns to about 1,000 words, but I'm not sure I can do that here, because I'm not sure the incompetence of Kirby Hocutt can be so limited. But I'll try, so here we go:

Hocutt's next trick was getting played by his lead candidate while scaring off his second choice, thereby compromising the rest of his search as a quest for someone, anyone, who'll take the damn job.

Hocutt's lead candidate was Jon Gruden, and here I pause to ask the following question: Why? Why was Jon Gruden the lead candidate? Jon Gruden hasn't coached in college since 1991, and he has spent just three seasons as a college coach. I'm not questioning Gruden's coaching acumen -- I'm questioning his college coaching acumen.

Running a college program, with all the recruiting and the insane mixture of teenagers and their parents and the money-drunk boosters, is nothing like coaching in the all-football, all-the-time, NFL. The only coach who made the NFL-to-NCAA transition successfully, Pete Carroll, spent more than a decade in college earlier in his career. He was the defensive coordinator at North Carolina State. He was the secondary coordinator at Ohio State. Carroll knew what it took to coach in the NCAA.

More on Miami

Gruden? He has no idea. He was a position coach at Southeast Missouri State, and Pacific, and then at Pittsburgh for the 1991 season, a year that scared him away from college and into a nebulous "quality control" role with the Green Bay Packers. Basically, Gruden left college coaching to fetch coffee for Mike Holmgren. That's how motivated he was to get the hell out of college coaching.

And this was the guy Kirby Hocutt wanted to lead Miami football back to greatness. Well, it was a package deal. Jon Gruden would have brought his brother, Jay, as offensive coordinator. Guess how many years Jay Gruden has spent as a college coach, at any level, in any role?


Jon Gruden apparently isn't interested, which means Miami dodged a bullet it never saw coming. But Hocutt tried his best to dive onto that bullet, even as he sabotaged negotiations with Gruden by letting it leak that the school was willing to pay Gruden more than $3 million annually -- and that Gruden had initiated the dialogue about the coaching job in the first place.

Pushed into a corner for a job he never wanted, Gruden announced Sunday he was happy at ESPN -- an announcement a TV person doesn't have to make. But he made it. Why? Because he wasn't interested in Miami. Undeterred, Hocutt insisted on a meeting Wednesday with Gruden in Tampa, a meeting so promising that -- before it even began -- reporters at Fox and ESPN were tweeting that sources close to Gruden said Miami's chance of landing Gruden was "zero percent."

Hocutt went anyway, wasting precious time and further assuring that whoever gets the Miami job will be getting it only because Jon Gruden didn't want it. And at a salary less than the $3 million Miami had in mind for its top choice.

Meantime, Hocutt scared off one of his most promising candidates, Georgia coach (and Miami alumnus) Mark Richt, whose name was leaked to the South Florida media within hours of Shannon's firing on Saturday. On Sunday, Richt issued a statement that he was staying at Georgia, leaving himself no wiggle room.

"Georgia is my home," Richt said, "and it's where I want to finish my career."

So who's left? Dan Mullen is left. Miami could hire the close friend of the coach at state rival Florida. Mullen is Urban Meyer's former offensive coordinator, and he has all of two years' head coaching experience at Mississippi State. Or, Mike Stoops is left. Miami could hire the younger brother of Bob Stoops, who is part of Hocutt's good ol' boy network when he worked at Oklahoma. All Stoops needed was five years to post a winning record at Arizona.

The best candidate out there is Jim Harbaugh of Stanford. He would be the best hire possible for Miami, but I don't trust Kirby Hocutt to outmaneuver the NFL or Michigan, should that job come open.

I wouldn't trust Kirby Hocutt to hire a tennis coach.

But after watching the Miami AD in action, it wouldn't surprise me if Bjorn Borg is coaching the UM football team in August.

Gregg Doyel is a columnist for He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.

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