Manny Diaz strikes back, strongly defends Miami football after Herbstreit’s criticism

·7 min read

University of Miami football coach Manny Diaz spent nearly the first six minutes of his weekly Zoom videoconference with reporters Monday adamantly defending the football program and administration that “ESPN College GameDay” host Kirk Herbsteit criticized on Saturday.

Herbstreit cited a Miami Herald article that mentioned football was not a priority for UM president Julio Frenk, and called out the university for not having Frenk, athletic director Blake James and Diaz aligned in their goals and visions for the program.

The Hurricanes are 2-2 and open ACC play against Virginia (2-2) at home at 7:30 p.m. Thursday (ESPN).

Here is what Diaz said in his impassioned monologue:

“I want to start off with a response to some comments that were made this weekend on ESPN about our university and specifically about the administration at our university and the assumption that there’s a lack of caring, a lack of standards for athletics at the University of Miami,’’ Diaz began. “I want to remind everybody it’s not 14 months ago when we were in the grips of the coronavirus pandemic and the narrative was that there’s no way college football should go on... no way.

“And we were out on the practice field in August and it looked like the season was going to get canceled and in my eyes, only through the leadership of our president, Dr. Julio Frenk, going on record as an expert in infectious diseases and saying, ‘Not only can we have school on campus and students on campus,’ which was not a widely held belief at that time, ‘but we can play a college football season.’

“And that would be a strong take for someone who didn’t really seem that interested in athletics. Those two things don’t really add up.

“And because of that we forget, because we played a 2020 season, not just at Miami, but everywhere. And if there had not been his leadership, I don’t know if the ACC would have agreed to play. And without the ACC the Big 12 would have for sure dropped out. The Big Ten and Pac-12 had already said they were not going to play football. So all the memories, the records, the performances from a year ago have a lot to do with how much Dr. Frenk feels about college athletics and specifically athletics at the University of Miami.

UM resources

“There are mentions about resources, and I will tell you from the time I’ve been at the University of Miami what I’ve seen change on our campus. The new dorms, the new Lakeside Village. People always recruit against Miami in terms of the dorms, the stadium. We still beat the drum on the stadium. In my mind we’ve got as nice of a stadium as anybody in college football. It’s amazing what a half a billion dollars will do for you.

“I sat in the Orange Bowl. I saw how many students came to the games in the ‘80s. I was around for four of the five national championships before I graduated high school. It was what it was, whether it’s a 20-minute drive to Little Havana or a 35-minute drive to Miami Gardens [at Hard Rock Stadium]. It is what it is. We love our stadium. It’s a big-time atmosphere. It’s a big-time place. It’s a great place to host recruits.

“The [Carol] Soffer Indoor Facility behind me — phenomenal. We’re attacking the locker room next. There’s just a lot of things that are changing on the positive here. And I will tell you the last two recruiting classes that we signed are really the first two classes that have been around when all this stuff existed. It wasn’t pictures. It wasn’t hopes or dreams or promises of ‘When you come we’ll get these things.’

Recruiting classes

“That class of 2020, Tyler Van Dyke’s class, and Jalen Rivers, Elijah Roberts and Chantz Williams and [Xavier] Restrepo, [Corey] Flagg, all these guys making a lot of big-time plays right now, they’re the ones that saw all this. Those are the guys that committed to Miami on the back of a 6-7 season.

“Then you saw the ‘21 class. Saturday’s game [against Central Connecticut State University, a 69-0 UM win] was a commercial for the last two recruiting classes that we’ve had here at [UM]. Those classes don’t happen without us increasing the resources from the support of our administration, what it takes to win here.

“I will say this: There will always be someone with more resources. And that’s not a Miami problem that’s a college football problem with a capital P that no one really wants to talk about. I mean the growing disparities in the economic situations of the different athletic departments across college football and what you’re seeing now with conference expansion and TV rights and all this different stuff, that’s a reality. That just is what it is.

“But our best resource here at [UM] has always been our people. Always. That’s always what we’ve won with, is our people. People first talk about our players, and that’s why recruiting is so important.

‘One game’ not solution

“One game from last weekend doesn’t fix anything. It doesn’t absolve us from the performances of our first three weeks. I’m completely responsible for that but what I’ve learned in my job, and this is true of any profession, if you want the organization to be better you add better people to the organization. And I can tell you for a fact with the support of our administration, our staff has improved every year — on the field staff, off the field staff, our support and recruiting staff has increased and gotten better every year. And our locker room has gotten better every year.

“It’s not where we need to be yet. That’s our job to develop these guys and put them in position to be successful on Saturdays or Thursday like this week. But the only way forward at the [UM] is through recruiting. We can’t turn and push our recruits away from our program because of something that happens in the short term.

“The fix is our people. The fix is continuing to get the guys in this area that want to come play for the University of Miami, and when we go out of area to sell them on the vision that we got going on here. And we got a lot of good things going on, in evidence, by these last two recruiting classes. That’s the only way forward. It’s going to be the only way forward. Otherwise, we’ll repeat the same [blueprint] over and over again —turning on ourselves and driving our recruits away, driving our people away.

“That’s not the vision for this university. It’s certainly not the vision of this athletic department and it’s not the vision of this football program — which I’ll tell you, all three of those visions are completely aligned.’’

Diaz said that no recruits had brought up Herbstreit’s criticism. He also said that besides the people and players at UM, the city itself was its most valuable resource.

Injury situation

When asked about how he plans to handle the quarterback situation Thursday (in light of D’Eriq King’s shoulder injury), Diaz said, “For us, we’re trying to see D’Eriq’s availability. He’s improving and feeling better every day and was able to move around a little bit today...for the first time... So we’ll see where he’s at.’’

Diaz added that “based on the performance Saturday,’’ both first-time starter Tyler Van Dyke and true freshman Jake Garcia “deserve to play more’’ if called upon...”We feel like we’re back to where we started. We’re blessed with options of different guys that can lead us to victory.’’

Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee indicated center Corey Gaynor and guard Justice Oluwaseun are banged up and “day to day.” And striker Amari Carter was sidelined Saturday with an undisclosed injury. UM defensive analyst Bob Shoop said Monday that it wouldn’t be right for him “to speak about any injuries.’’

“Amari is doing everything he can, and we’ll see.’’

Suspensions

Second-year freshman Jaylan Knighton will be back Thursday from a four-game suspension and is expected to play. Also back from a one-game suspension will be safety Gurvan Hall.

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