- Associated Press - Sunday, November 28, 2010

CORAL GABLES, FLA. (AP) - Miami offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland has accepted an offer to be the Hurricanes’ interim coach, taking over less than one day after the university fired Randy Shannon.

Stoutland held early strategy sessions with other assistants, all of whom have been told they are welcome to stay through Miami’s bowl game, although some may consider leaving if they secure other offers. Players were told of the decision by athletic director Kirby Hocutt and other coaches in a Sunday morning meeting that turned emotional.

Hocutt was scheduled to hold a news conference at 1 p.m, but the university confirmed Stoutland’s new title.

“I’m very disappointed,” quarterback Jacory Harris said. “Coach Shannon is like my father figure. He’s someone who brought me into this program and I wanted to leave with Coach Shannon still being my head coach, but it’s an unfortunate situation that we have to go through. It’s something that I’m sure a lot of people are mad at, especially on this team.”

Hocutt fired Shannon on Saturday night after the Hurricanes completed a 7-5 regular season with a 23-20 overtime loss to South Florida. Shannon received a four-year extension just before the start of the 2010 season. He was 28-22 in four seasons at Miami, with Stoutland as his offensive line coach throughout that tenure.

“Surprised wouldn’t be the word. I was a little shocked about it,” defensive lineman Adewale Ojomo said. “But you could almost see it coming.”

Miami players are not scheduled to practice again until Saturday, though that may change. The Hurricanes expect to have a bowl destination, possibly the Sun Bowl, by week’s end.

“We have made a decision to seek new leadership for our football program,” Hocutt said in a statement Saturday night. “Our expectations are to compete for championships and return to the top of the college football world.”

Since the start of the 2007 season, 47 teams have more wins than Miami _ including four from the state of Florida. The Hurricanes were 16-16 in the ACC under Shannon, the sixth-best mark in the 12-team league. And barring a wild turn of events, Miami will finish out of the Top 25 for the fourth time in five years.

The truest consistency was inconsistency.

Miami’s longest winning streak under Shannon was five games during 2008, and three of those victories came against teams that finished the year with losing records. The Hurricanes went 1-7 away from home against ranked teams since the start of 2007. The only win over a top-10 team was last season, when Miami beat Oklahoma _ a game Sam Bradford sat out with a shoulder injury.

Hocutt made the decision shortly after Miami lost to South Florida in a game where about 27,000 people filled the 73,000 seats at Sun Life Stadium. A plane circled the stadium before kickoff calling for a coaching change.

Shannon drove away from the stadium around 5:30 p.m. Saturday unsure of his fate, though he suspected that he would be fired after the Hurricanes were embarrassed at home by Florida State on Oct. 9 and then were beaten by lowly Virginia three weeks later. He considered making many changes to his staff and was deciding whether to dismiss some coaches later Saturday evening.

Instead, Miami beat him to the punch.

“I’m not worried about me,” Shannon told The AP earlier in the week, when asked about his job security. “If they do it, they do it. I think someone will give me another job.”

Shannon is expected to receive a buyout of about $1.5 million.

Miami is a private school without the deepest of pockets when it comes to paying coaches, but it has had a fundraising drive to support athletics for several years and believes it will be able to put together enough money to lure a top-notch staff.

Shannon took over for Larry Coker at the end of the 2006 season and went on a mission to change the culture at the school _ which, in many respects, he did. Miami has been among the nation’s leaders in academic success by its football program, and the off-the-field reputation has been cleaned up considerably.

But it never translated into enough wins.

Shannon went 5-7 in his first season, then 7-6, then 9-4 last year. He never won a bowl game, and never got the Hurricanes past second place in the ACC’s Coastal Division. Miami still has not won a conference championship since leaving the Big East, and hasn’t been part of the Bowl Championship Series since the 2003 season.

Randy Shannon is Miami,” university president Donna Shalala famously said when he was hired, with good reason. Shannon is a native of Miami, played for the Hurricanes and was a longtime assistant coach before getting the chance to lead the program.

Even after Miami lost to Virginia Tech and was eliminated from the ACC race, Shalala sent Shannon a note of support. But when asked by The AP after Saturday’s loss if he was concerned about his future, Shannon simply shrugged and said it would remain a source of speculation.

Less than six hours later, he was out of a job.

“I still believe in Coach Shannon,” Harris said. “I love the man.”

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