UM Athletics Director Blake James will rely on a search firm and a six-member advisory committee to help him choose the next Hurricanes football coach.
UM will use Miami-based Korn Ferry to “assist the University in all aspects of the search process” of replacing Al Golden, according to a press release.
The advisory committee will “provide James with input on the process and on candidates.” The members are UM Board of Trustees members Hilarie Bass, David Epstein and Steve Saiontz; Deputy Director of Athletics Jennifer Strawley and former UM standouts Jonathan Vilma and Heisman Trophy winner Vinny Testaverde.
Korn Ferry played a role in the coaching hires of Jim Harbaugh at Michigan, Jim McElwain at Florida, Charlie Strong at Texas in addition to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and SEC commissioner Greg Sankey. Public documents uncovered by USA Today showed Texas paid the firm nearly $267,000 to hire Strong, though Miami almost certainly would not approach that number.
The search committee was much smaller last time around. When former UM AD Kirby Hocutt hired Golden in Dec. 2010, he leaned on consultant Chuck Neinas. Neinas, who is now semi-retired, said he worked with Hocutt to pare down a list of candidates. Former quarterback Bernie Kosar, a member of the Board of Trustees, sat in on interviews. Trustee Paul DiMare was also involved.
Korn Ferry, according to its contract with Texas, said it would help market the position, find a qualified and diverse pool candidates, a.ssist the committee in screening candidates and help facilitate interviews. Texas announced its hire of Strong 16 days after signing the contract with Korn Ferry.
In a recent interview with the Post, James would not publicly discuss a timetable for the hire. In Monday’s press release, he said UM is “well underway” in our search process,” which began after Golden was fired Oct. 25.
Multiple sources told the Post that between six and 10 candidates are expected to be seriously considered, including former coaches Butch Davis and Greg Schiano, Alabama a.ssistant Mario Cristobal, Texas coach Charlie Strong, Houston coach Tom Herman and Indianapolis Colts a.ssistant Rob Chudzinski.
UM, a private school, is not required to disclose financial dealings but is expected to have in the neighborhood of $3 million per year to spend on a coach. Neinas said he doesn’t know how Korn Ferry conducts its searches, but coaches who are currently employed often communicate with a school through agents or other intermediaries until their seasons are complete. Strong, for example, finishes the season at Texas Dec. 5, unless the Lonhorns win their last two to become bowl-eligible.
“As expected, there is already a tremendous amount of interest in the ‘U’,” James said in the release. “Additionally, we are reaching out to a number of UM constituencies to engage in dialogue and to hear their thoughts and vision. We will work diligently to find a great fit for Miami and I want to thank in advance the members of the advisory committee for their dedication to our university.”
The names on that internal committee will be much discussed and debated.
Vilma, 33, retired from the NFL last year after a 10-year career in which he was a three-time Pro Bowl selection. His UM days (2000-2003) began when he was recruited by Davis. He was inducted to the UM Sports Hall of Fame last April. One former teammate believed Vilma’s ties to Davis wouldn’t color his advice to James. “He’s a smart guy,” the teammate said. “He’s going to do what’s best for the university.”
Testaverde, 52, lives near Tampa and finished a 21-year NFL career in 2007. His son, Vincent Jr., is a reserve quarterback at Miami. Another prominent former Hurricane who played in the Dennis Erickson era was critical of Testaverde’s selection, pointing to his lack of involvement in the program over the years. “When I played I kept wondering why he never came back,” the player said. Testaverde also has ties to Davis, who was an a.ssistant when Testaverde played, and Jimmy Johnson, the head coach at the time who is rumored to be a consultant to James.
Strawley, a 1998 Penn grad, is UM’s Senior Woman Administrator. Her areas of oversight include football, sports medicine, academic services and student-athlete development. Prior to UM she worked for the NCAA as a Director of Academic and Membership Affairs.
Bass was called “one of the most powerful women lawyers in the country” in a Miami Herald article. She is a UM graduate, million-dollar donor and co-president of legal giant Greenberg Traurig, which has 33 offices worldwide. Since 2009, Bass has served as a vice chair of UM’s Board of Trustees, a position she currently holds with Richard Fain. Stuart Miller is the chair.
Saiontz, a two-time UM grad, is a Board of Trustees member and is chairman of Weston-based Council for Educational Change. He led multiple real estate and finance companies and previously worked with Miller, his brother-in-law, at Lennar Corp.
New UM President Julio Frenk, who has been in office less than three months, is not expected to play a prominent role in the search. James told the Post that Frenk’s involvment is up to him, but that “I’m sure President Frenk will be in complete support of whomever we choose.” A prominent trustee commented that former president Donna Shalala, who retired in May, would “be right in the middle of it” if she were still around. Shalala, who now heads the Clinton Foundation, will have no involvement.
The final decision will be made by James, who was hired in Feb. 2013 and has hired volleyball, rowing and women’s soccer coaches in his tenure. Despite James’ relative inexperience, a senior Board of Trustees member who has had previous involvement with football coaching searches said he has no issue with James making the hire.
“He’s not stupid,” the trustee said. “He knows we have to go get the best person we possibly can get. He’s not going to fool around. He’ll make the right choice among the people we have the availability to take.”