Byline: Gene Frenette
Sometimes in college football, you take the safe play over a wild risk. The University of Miami went that route in promoting defensive coordinator Randy Shannon to succeed Larry Coker as its head coach.
UM reached the point of diminishing returns because it didn't have unlimited resources to hire a big name, and the quirky personality of Texas Tech coach Mike Leach has turned schools off in past interviews.
By hiring Shannon, the Hurricanes get a solid recruiter with long-established relationships in south Florida, risk no further embarrassment in candidates turning them down, and they replace Coker at a much cheaper price tag. Well, at least minus a $30,000 retainer UM wasted on head-hunter Chuck Neinas.
It remains to be seen whether Shannon, the second African-American head coach in the Atlantic Coast Conference (Wake Forest's Jim Caldwell, 1993-2000), works out as well as Coker did in his first four years.
The only element of risk for Miami is this: When do you ever see a big-time program fire its head coach and replace him with one of his assistants? . . .
Speaking of playing it safe, the Toyota Gator Bowl knew when it selected West Virginia last week that head coach Rich Rodriguez might bolt for Alabama, leaving disappointed Mountaineer fans slightly less enthused about a bowl trip.
But the Gator Bowl Association had little choice because with the ACC forcing its hand on selecting Georgia Tech, there was no other school - Texas, Rutgers, etc. - that could fill seats in Jacksonville as quickly as West Virginia.
Even if Rodriguez had taken the Alabama job - which he turned down Friday - the Gator Bowl still expected 12,000-15,000 Mountaineer fans to flock to Jacksonville for the New Year's Day game. …