The college football coaching hot seat is fired up with Manny Diaz feeling the pressure amid another disappointing season. With growing support for another change, the list of Miami Hurricanes coaching candidates is already being made.
When Mark Richt retired in December 2018, Miami moved quickly to hire Diaz. Just two weeks after the Hurricanes’ defensive coordinator and linebackers coach was named head coach at Temple, he left the program to replace Richt as the leader of the Hurricanes’ football program.
There was very little to celebrate in Diaz’s first season. The 2019 campaign began with losses to Florida and North Carolina and ended with three consecutive defeats, including to Lousiana Tech in the Independence Bowl. After showing progress in a COVID-impacted 2020 season, winning eight games, the Hurricanes have crashed down this fall.
- Miami Hurricanes record (Manny Diaz era): 19-15, 0-2 in bowl games
While Diaz is under contract through 2023, in the middle of his original five-year contract, the writing is on the wall at Miami. With pressure mounting to move on from the Miami native, let’s take a look at some Miami Hurricanes coaching candidates.
Lane Kiffin, Mississippi Rebels
Every Miami Hurricanes head coach candidates list will likely begin with Lane Kiffin. Fox Sports 640’s Andy Slater reported that Kiffin would leave Ole Miss if the Hurricanes parted ways with Diaz. Given that could happen, it’s fair to start connecting the dots that would send Kiffin back to his favorite state.
- Lane Kiffin record: 75-41 career, 13-7 at Ole Miss
In just his second season with the Rebels, Kiffin has already helped the team be in the thick of the College Football Playoff Rankings. There’s also a strong possibility that Ole Miss will be playing in a New Year’s Six bowl game by the end of the 2021 season. Considering this program never won more than six games in a year under Matt Luke, that’s a massive turnaround.
There are additional reasons why Kiffin might be willing to leave Mississippi. Even at the program’s peak, it’s never going to have the recruiting pool or investment from the athletic department to compete with the likes of Georgia and Alabama in the SEC. But if reports are true that Miami is prepared to significantly increase its budget for football, Kiffin could find a lot more success in the ACC.
Mario Cristobal, Oregon Ducks
Mention the Miami Hurricanes’ coaching job and Mario Cristobal’s name will be mentioned. He grew up in the area, played for the Hurricanes (1989-’92), began his coaching career as a graduate assistant (1998-2000) under Butch Davis and returned to Miami as an assistant (2004-’06) during the Larry Coker era. But would Cristobal leave the Ducks for the Hurricanes?
It’s important to note that he just signed a contract extension, but that automatically kicked in after Oregon won its ninth game of the season. If the Hurricanes want to bring him in, it will cost a fortune. But some might see it as worth it to bring Cristobal, who many see as one of the top coaches in college football, home.
- Mario Cristobal buyout: $9 million (2022), $6.5 million (2023), $4 million (2024)
Cristobal is an excellent recruiter, dating back to his days at Alabama (2013-’16) and then an assistant on the Ducks’ coaching staff (2017). He won 247 Sports National Recruiter of the Year in 2015 and was named the AP Pac-12 Coach of the Year in 2019. He is a CEO-type head coach and would likely lose offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, one of the best play-callers in the nation. But if Cristobal is ever going to leave Oregon, it will be for the Hurricanes.
Tony Elliott, Clemson Tigers
Familiarity is a valuable trait when conducting a coaching search. While Clemson Tigers offensive coordinator Tony Elliott doesn’t have roots in Miami, unlike the candidates above him, he’s more than earned consideration for a top head coaching job. The 2017 Broyles Award recipient turned down the Tennessee Volunteers last offseason, but this could be the right opportunity for him.
Elliott played at Clemson, working his way up from walk-on to team captain during his collegiate career. His ability to lead players led him to coaching, with stops at South Carolina State (2006-’07), Furman (2008-’10) and then Clemson. After joining the Tigers as a running backs coach in 2011, he became co-offensive coordinator in 2015 and now serves as assistant head coach, tight ends coach and OC.
The offensive stars to emerge from Clemson are well-known, with a growing list of NFL players who Elliott helped coach. The 41-year-old has everything it takes to become a head coach, it’s just been all about finding the right spot. Staying in the ACC and competing against Dabo Swinney, with a chance to turn the Hurricanes around, could be what he is looking for.
Mark Stoops, Kentucky Wildcats
Mark Stoops is among our favorites of candidates the Miami Hurricanes should target. Ranked as the No. 14 coach in college football by Pro Football Focus entering the 2021 season, Stoops has done nothing to shake a belief that he is deserving of a better job.
- Mark Stoops coaching record: 56-53, 3-2 in bowl games
At first glance, the record at Kentucky is awful. But that was largely the result of a rough first three years when the Wildcats posted a combined 12-24 record. It’s been steady growth for the program since with a massive turnaround in recent years. Since the 2018 season, Kentucky boasts a 30-17 record with three consecutive bowl victories.
A defensive-minded coach, Stoops played a big role in multiple Wildcats reaching the NFL. During his tenure, edge rusher Za’Darius Smith, safety Lonnie Johnson Jr., edge rusher Josh Allen, cornerback Kelvin Joseph and linebacker Jamin Davis all played in Stoops’ defense, with Allen and Davis becoming first-round picks.
This is the same defense that held Florida to 13 points and became just the second defense this year to hold Georgia under 31 points. Plus, Stoops Stoops previously coached and recruited in Florida (Hurricanes’ defensive backs coach 2001-’03, Seminoles defensive coordinator 2010-’12). If Diaz is gone, Miami must interview Stoops.