CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) _ Randy Shannon helped the Miami Hurricanes win three national championships. Now he'll try to reverse their decline.
Shannon, a former Hurricanes linebacker and their defensive coordinator since 2001, was chosen to replace Larry Coker as head coach and introduced at a news conference Friday. Miami fired Coker two weeks ago after the team finished the regular season 6-6, its worst record since 1997.
The 40-year-old Shannon will become the sixth black head coach currently at one of the 119 Division I-A schools, joining Mississippi State's Sylvester Croom, UCLA's Karl Dorrell, Buffalo's Turner Gill, Kansas State's Ron Prince and Washington's Tyrone Willingham.
``It's one of my dream jobs,'' Shannon said. ``Always been.''
``Randy has the discipline and heart of a champion,'' university president Donna Shalala said in a statement. ``He has been preparing himself for a head coaching position his whole life, and I am very happy that the opportunity came at the University of Miami, his alma mater. We are extremely lucky to have him.''
The Miami Herald first reported the hiring Thursday night.
``It's the guy that I wanted. It's the guy a lot of us wanted,'' Miami quarterback Kirby Freeman said. ``Randy's been extremely sincere to this football program. He's been sincere about his feelings toward everyone on this team and the direction he wants this program to go. This is definitely the decision I wanted.
``Randy is the future of our football team now. And we're going to have some bright, bright success. I'm excited. I'm really excited.''
School officials also spoke with Rutgers coach Greg Schiano _ a former Miami assistant _ and Texas Tech's Mike Leach about replacing Coker, who was fired Nov. 24 with three years remaining on his contract.
Coker was 59-15 in six seasons with one national championship and another appearance in the Bowl Championship Series title game, but lost 12 games the past three seasons _ including six this year, when the Hurricanes fell from the national rankings for the first time since 1999, a span of 107 weeks.
Miami athletic director Paul Dee has said repeatedly that Coker will coach Miami in its season finale against Nevada on Dec. 31 at the MPC Computers Bowl in Boise, Idaho. Shannon likely will assume many typical head-coach duties, particularly in the recruiting area, almost immediately.
``This team is still coach Coker's team,'' Shannon said. ``If he wants to coach in this bowl game, he will be the coach in this bowl game.''
Most of the Hurricanes' struggles in recent years stemmed from inconsistent play on offense _ while the defense put together by Shannon continually ranked among the nation's best, a fact the university obviously took note of during its search for Coker's replacement.
Shannon's 2001 defense at Miami led the nation in turnover margin, scoring defense and pass efficiency defense, plus set school records for turnovers forced (45) and interceptions (27). His defenses also led the nation against the pass in 2002 and 2005, plus have always ranked among the national leaders in total defense.
Even this season, while the Hurricanes struggled, Shannon's defense was the fifth stingiest in the country, yielding only 252 yards per game.
``I love him as a coach,'' Miami defensive end Calais Campbell said earlier this month when asked about Shannon. ``I have the most respect for him of all the people I know. I think he's a great guy. ... He played here. He is a die-hard 'Cane. He wants to be a head coach. He definitely has the qualities.''
This season was turbulent at Miami _ which reeled from the death of defensive lineman Bryan Pata, who was shot and killed outside his off-campus apartment complex on Nov. 7. The Hurricanes, who entered the season as favorites to win the Atlantic Coast Conference, also were involved in an on-field brawl with Florida International which resulted in the suspension of 31 players _ 13 from Miami.
Shannon _ whose son, Xavier, plays center at Florida International _ was a four-year letterman at Miami, a two-year starter at linebacker and part of the Hurricanes' 1987 national championship squad. He was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in 1989 and became their first rookie starter at outside linebacker in 26 years.
A Miami native and graduate of the school, Shannon has spent most of coaching career with the Hurricanes, first as a graduate assistant in 1991, a defensive line coach in 1992 and then as linebackers coach from 1993-97.
He was with the Miami Dolphins from 1998-00 as a defensive assistant and linebackers coach, then returned to the Hurricanes in 2001 as defensive coordinator _ and immediately helped the program win its fifth national championship in his first season back at Coral Gables.