Miami AD Blake James addresses future of coach Diaz: ‘Manny knows we need to win games’

·6 min read

University of Miami athletic director Blake James told the Miami Herald that football coach Manny Diaz “knows we need to win games,’’ but declined to say if his job is safe for the rest of the season.

When asked during a phone conversation Friday if Miami’s Diaz would definitely finish the season as head coach, James declined to answer specifically.

“I can’t look into the future,’’ James said. “I think it’s a situation where Manny is our head coach and he’s getting the guys ready to play a game tomorrow.

“Manny is our head coach. Obviously this has been a disappointing season. Manny would acknowledge that. Our guys would acknowledge that. And I understand that the fans acknowledge that.

“The last two losses have been very tough. The team has fought to the very end. And while those games could have easily gone our way and we’d be sitting here at 4-2 and 2-0 [in the Atlantic Coast Conference], they didn’t go our way.

‘We need to win’

“We need to win games. Manny knows we need to win games. And he and his coaching staff are doing everything they can to put our guys in position to win games.’’

The Hurricanes (2-4, 0-2 ACC), off to their worst start since 1997, meet No. 18 NC State (5-1, 2-0) at 7:30 p.m. Saturday (ESPN2) at Hard Rock Stadium.

Going into the NC State game, Diaz, 47, is 16-14 since he became the head coach at Miami before the 2019 season. Diaz’s five-year contract runs through 2023. His salary is not publicly disclosed because UM is a private school, but a source told the Herald’s Barry Jackson that Diaz was due to make between $6.5 million and $8 million combined over the 2022 and 2023 seasons, depending on if he met incentives.

The Herald asked James if the NC State game could affect Diaz’s job status.

“Every game affects the evaluation of a job,’’ James said. “Again, dating back to his time over the years, every game you play affects your status. It strengthens it in certain games and obviously challenges it in others. Every game is part of the evaluation of someone’s job status.’’

Diaz has been under immense pressure since the end of the 2020 season, when the Canes finished 8-3 overall but got humiliated by North Carolina 62-26 in their final regular season game and went on to lose to Oklahoma State in the Cheez-It Bowl. Miami has lost six of its past eight games dating to last season, and its past six games against opponents in Power 5 conferences. UM’s last win against a non-ACC Power 5 opponent was Nov. 11, 2017 against No. 3 Notre Dame.

Would James consider making a coaching change if UM doesn’t qualify for a bowl? The Hurricanes need to win four of their last six regular-season games to qualify.

“I can’t look into the future and say, ‘If X then Y,’’’ James said. “But yes, there’s always an ongoing evaluation of our coaches in any sport.”

Julio Frenk situation

The Herald also asked James if UM president Julio Frenk has assured James that his job is safe.

“I haven’t had those types of conversations,’’ James said. “What I can say is Julio Frenk has been very supportive of me. He’s been very supportive of our athletics program. He has great alignment and he has great expectations of our athletics program. Obviously we have to continue to get better. I know that, he knows that and in this case Manny knows that.

“Those are the things we’re focused on, getting better.

“I have great communication with Julio and a great appreciation for my job and recognize that part of my job is making sure we exceed at a higher level of competition.”

In late September, after ESPN College GameDay host Kirk Herbstreit called out Frenk, James and Diaz for not being aligned in their goals and visions for the football program, Frenk released a long statement regarding UM athletics that included his decision “to increase the involvement’’ of Frenk’s leadership team to “augment my own direct engagement with the athletics director.” Frenk named his chief of staff Rudy Fernandez and his senior advisor Joe Echevarria as helping to facilitate “seamless alignment between the Board of Trustees, my entire administration, and the athletics department.’’

“The only way my role has really changed is that I have much more regular communications with those two individuals,’’ James told the Herald. “But I had communication with them in advance of the letter and I have communication with Julio.

“It’s not like I didn’t have communication with so many of the leaders on our campus. We’re part of a university. We’re not on an island. I wouldn’t want anyone to think that I didn’t have communication with campus before all this happened.’’

Why no coaching change?

James was then asked why he has decided not to replace Diaz at this time, considering the reality of where UM is as a football program.

“Because I don’t think that’s the best decision for the University of Miami football program,’’ James said.

Why not?

James: “When you look at Year One obviously there were some real challenges in Manny’s head coaching. He would acknowledge that. It was a tough finish for us with the three losses to end the season.

“Year two [in 2020] the team significantly improved and we had a great year overall. Obviously a very disappointing and frustrating loss to North Carolina and a battle with Oklahoma State that didn’t go our way. But calling it for what it is, an 8-2 regular-season record and loss in the bowl game.

“And this year has been disappointing on all accounts.

“We need to win more and Manny knows we need to win more and that’s what he’s focused on. But my job is to support him in doing that and part of that is getting ready to play North Carolina state tomorrow.”

Should UM hire a new coach, James was asked if there is enough money to hire a big-time, proven one.

“I’m not going to get into that,’’ James said. “What I’ll say is the University of Miami is committed to winning football. And we’re committed to putting the resources in our program that are needed to winning on whatever front that is.’’

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