Tag Archives: Larry Coker

Mark Helfrich Is the Larry Coker to Chip Kelly’s Butch Davis

These days, the only thing more aflame than Oregon’s uniforms is coach Mark Helfrich’s hot seat.

Just two seasons after finishing runners-up in the inaugural College Football Playoff, the Ducks stare down the barrel of extending a three-game losing streak to four in this week’s matchup against the #5 Washington Huskies. They’re allowing 210 rushing yards per game, they’re the sixth-most penalized team in college football, and they’re endangering their shot at earning a bowl invitation.

How have Oregon fans responded? By launching a GoFundMe page to bankroll Helfrich’s massive buyout.

Have faith Oregon fans. At the time of this writing, there’s only $10,999,790 left to go.

To his credit, Helfrich isn’t making any excuses. “Anything that’s bad in this program is my responsibility,” he insisted after a disappointing loss to Nebraska. “Anything you think of that’s bad is my fault.” Don’t get me wrong- that degree of integrity and accountability in a head coach is truly admirable. I like Mark Helfrich. Maybe he doesn’t know a lick about how to play defense (or how to choose a defensive coordinator), but Mark Helfrich is still a quality individual.

Except, quality individuals make awful head coaches. As far as I can tell, that’s the college football reality we live in. Show me a coach with 409 career wins, and I’ll show you someone who reprehensibly covered the tracks of a child rapist. Oh, is it too soon for those questionable Joe Paterno references? Apparently, it isn’t too soon for Penn State to roll out the red carpet in questionably honoring him.

Also, I’m almost certain one of the top five coaches in college football spends his Sundays posterizing middle schoolers at the local YMCA. Is that coach Jim Harbaugh? The world may never know.

Enabling sexual assault. Committing blatant recruiting violations. Hiring coaches recovering from alcoholism. That’s the kind of college-football-isn’t-supposed-to-be-fun mentality you need to coach in college football. Mark Helfrich lacks that mentality. Mark Helfrich looks more like Kermit the Frog than somebody willing to drown a litter of puppies to secure a five-star recruit. When I see Jimbo Fisher, I see a man who would trample a sea of helpless baby orangutans just to re-polish the encased ACC Championship trophies perched so prominently atop his mantle.

Helfrich is clearly more understated than his mentor and predecessor, and while that can have its benefits, it doesn’t help him in either recruiting or developing players and assistant coaches. Helfrich earned his reputation under Chip Kelly by tutoring a number of high-skill quarterbacks, including, most notably, Marcus Mariota. Truth be told, Chip Kelly and Scott Frost (currently at UCF) deserve an enormous amount of the credit assigned to Helfrich. As luck would have it, both men have surfaced in coaching carousel discussions surrounding a potential Helfrich departure.

Helfrich is the Larry Coker to Chip Kelly’s Butch Davis. The latter halves of the comparison each continued onto questionable coaching careers in the NFL. The former half failed to fill the shoes of their coaching mentors. The University of Miami has finally left a downward spiral triggered by inept coaching. If the Ducks don’t act fast, now may be only the beginning of that spiral.

Chip Kelly and Mike Bellotti built the Oregon program to stardom in the previous two decades, yet a decision to stand pat with an average coach in Helfrich threatens every last ounce of that stardom. The Ducks are currently trending away from a winning season and trending away from the offensive firepower that led them to a national championship. A handful of graduate transfers at quarterback have kept the program momentarily afloat, but in a matter of years, the full incompetence of the Helfrich regime will become fully exposed.

And by then, it’ll be too late.

Oregon tried and failed to maintain operations in-house. It’s time for the athletic department to expand the coaching search beyond the boundaries of Eugene- and whatever the hell they call that offense- to bring in an regularly-credentialed asshole with some know-how. If the Ducks waste the 2017 season with a proven lost cause at the helm, who knows whether the former glory of the Oregon program can ever be fully salvaged.

Then again, at least they’ll always have those jerseys.

Email Cole Hankins at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @Cole_Hankins.

Photo courtesy – Wikipedia

Is the Miami Hurricane Program a Super Power or Just Another Middle of the Road Program?

As the game clock ticked to 0:00, the Rose Bowl crowd witnessed the Miami Hurricanes win the 2001 BCS National Championship. Their 37-14 victory over the Nebraska Cornhuskers was the Hurricanes 5th national championship in the history of the program. This was also the final time Miami would play on a stage this large.

For many college football fans, The U and national championship games go hand-in-hand. The Hurricanes also seemed to have invented the swagger that college football players currently bring to the field and they are also credited with being the founding fathers of off the field swagger. The problems at Miami were systemic throughout the football program. At certain points in time, it was so bad that then head coach Jimmy Johnson hired a former criminal lawyer to be on his staff. Their mascot, Sebastian the Ibis, was even detained by the police. Remember, before P-Diddy was giving kettlebell tutorials, Miami had Luther Campbell.

In 2001 Larry Coker was promoted to Head Coach as he replaced Butch Davis. He also inherited that 2001 national championship. His championship team roster included Ken Dorsey, Andre Johnson, Ed Reed and Jonathan Vilma.

Coker was the head coach at Miami for 6 seasons. That was long enough to accumulate a record of 60-15. He was also the head coach as the program entered the ACC in 2004. His final year was 2006 and it was a rough one. The team finished 7-6, but worst of all was the widespread problems that continued to transpire.

In his final season, the Hurricanes took part in an on-field brawl with Florida International and saw the shooting death of Bryan Pata. Problems with the program were nothing new, however, the team’s 7-6 record was considered to be new and the off field problems gave university president Donna Shalala a convenient reason to fire Coker.

Miami was now ready to take their perceived rightful place back on the Mount Rushmore of college football. The coach tapped to restore Miami’s winning ways was former player and assistant coach Randy Shannon. Unlike Coker, Shannon did not inherit a championship and was also faced with the task of competing in a power conference. In the end his demise was a 28-22 record.

This leads us to current head coach Al Golden. As the team sits at 3-1, there appears to be discontent amongst the Hurricanes faithful followers. Remember, Coker was run off due to an overall record of 60-15. It is important to note that he was 35-3 in the team’s last 3 seasons in the Big East and was 25-12 in their first 3 seasons in the ACC. As for Golden’s tenure at Miami, he is currently 31-23.

Here’s the question that needs to be answered: Is Miami a super power or are they just another team that had a great run?

When I think of super powers in college football, I think of Alabama (15 championships), Michigan (11 championships), Notre Dame (11 championships) and USC (11 championships). You know who I don’t think of when I think super power? I don’t think of a team who has won less championships than Minnesota (7 championships) and that is precisely who Miami looks up to on the championship ladder. Unlike Beano Cook, I do not consider Miami to have been “the greatest dynasty since Caesar.”

When Miami was good they were DAMN good. From 1979-2003 they were a machine and for a short time they absolutely bulldozed their opponents. But it was for just that, a short time in the history of college football.

So what made 1979-2003 so profoundly different than 2004-present? In a word, it was competition.

The first 3 championships the Hurricanes won were while they were considered to be an Independent. As an Independent, Howard Schnellenberger had a record of 41-16 which includes an 11-1 record in his final year in Miami. Jimmy Johnson took over the program in 1984 and went 52-9. Again, this was as an Independent. Dennis Erickson accumulated a record of 73-11 as Miami competed as an Independent and then as a member of the Big East Conference.

Miami feasted on being an Independent and then being a member of a lousy conference once they decided to join the Big East. Once they joined the ACC, their luck quickly ran out. However, simply joining the competition of a legitimate conference is only half of the program’s undoing. Miami has won a total of 9 conference championships with each one coming as a member of the Big East. In the case of Miami, competition proved to be a two-headed coin.

You know who plays solid football in the state of Florida? The University of Central Florida and the University of South Florida. These are two smaller schools that were not legitimate threats to Miami during their wonder years.

Central Florida began playing football in 1979. Yes, they did exist while Miami was beginning to go on its dominating run, but UCF was not playing football in the Division I Football Subdivision (FBS) until 1996. Since Larry Coker’s last season at Miami (2006), UCF has gone 73-48. This is a program that has placed 36 players in the NFL. Not bad for a small, directional school.

Some of the notable players include Blake Bortles, Brandon Marshall, Breshad Perriman and Asante Samuel. During the glory years of Miami football, I would have expected these players to have gone to Miami. Of the players mentioned, only Perriman and Samuel were offered scholarships to play at Miami. This is based primarily on their Rivals’ profiles. The surprising thing about Perriman turning down his Miami offer was that his father, Brett Perriman, played at Miami. Recruiting certainly isn’t a science and hindsight tells us that Miami missed out big time on some players who chose to go to UCF.

As for the University of South Florida, they have existed for a mere 18 years. In their short time on the field, they have already placed 18 players in the NFL. This total is highlighted by Mike Jenkins and Jason Pierre-Paul. As was the case with the UCF players, neither Jenkins or Pierre-Paul had offers to play at Miami. Pierre-Paul’s road to USF included a stop at Fort Scott Community College. To add insult to injury, he did not have a Miami offer out of high school but he did have an offer from UCF.

While not on par with UCF or USF, Florida Atlantic has also had some success of their own. The Owls have been good enough to go to bowl games in 2007 and 2008 with wins in both games. They have also placed 6 players in the NFL. And would you like to take a guess as to who their head coach was from 2001-2011? Howard Schnellenberger. The same Schnellenberger who started Miami on their road to domination.

Here’s the thing with Miami; they caught lightning-in-a-bottle when they built their success. Once they entered a legitimate conference and had more in-state competition, they crumbled like most middle of the road programs would.

And that is what they really are. They are a borderline commuter school with middle of the road program. Historically speaking, the difference between Miami and other commuter schools with football programs is that Miami had a fertile recruiting base to pick players from.

Tulsa is another commuter school that has had relative success. The Golden Hurricane has played football for 108 years, yes, that’s right, longer than Miami. Like Miami, Tulsa started off as an Independent and has worked their way up to being members of the American Athletic Conference.

Tulsa has won 55.6% of their games while Miami has won 63.3% of their games. The golden years of Miami football were 1979-2006. Prior to that 27 year period, the program had won 55.7% of their games. To me, these 27 years were the outlier based on what the program was pre-1979 and post 2006.

So when Miami fans demand a coach who is able to manufacture more success than Randy Shannon and Al Golden, I can only say that they are being delusional. Face it Miami, you were Tulsa for all those years if Tulsa had a recruiting base and a coach who was willing to turn their program into The Longest Yard.