On Monday, popular ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit, who will call the College Football Playoff Semifinal on Friday night at the Capital One Orange Bowl, was asked by the Miami Herald in a Zoom conference if he felt Miami was in a better place than a month ago — and if Herbstreit’s GameDay commentary in late September about the UM program’s leadership failings ultimately led to its significant changes.
It should be noted that even new coach Mario Cristobal, who was awarded a 10-year, $80 million contract, per sources, lightheartedly credited Herbstreit in the coaches’ introductory news conference, saying, “We ought to get you on the air more to take jabs on [UM] resources.”
Herbstreit noted Monday that his criticism about Miami was heartfelt. He had called out UM president Julio Frenk, former AD Blake James and former football coach Manny Diaz for not being aligned in their goals and visions for the program.
UM soft spot
“I like Miami,’’ Herbstreit said. “I grew up in the ‘80s when Miami was Miami and got close to their program in ‘01, ‘02, ‘03…I got to know the [program’s] personality and really [had] a different way of respecting it. So, I’ve always had kind of a [soft] spot for their program. What I said came from my heart, because I want to see them have a chance to be competitive.’’
So, in late October, Herbstreit, who worked a couple of Oregon games this season and has a “friendly relationship” with Cristobal, said he asked Cristobal in a private conversation, “Hey, dude, by the way, this whole Miami thing that’s going on, is that a possibility? I know you’re at Oregon and everything.”
Herbstreit indicated that Cristobal didn’t want to talk about it.
“He’s like, ‘We’ll talk about that later.’
“So, he didn’t say, ‘No.’ …So it made me think at that time, ‘Hmmm. Maybe…. maybe.’ And then the coaching carousel got wacky and of course he ended up going back home.”
Cristobal has made it clear multiple times that he never envisioned leaving Oregon and never expressed any thoughts or intentions about it. He has said he immerses himself wherever he is or it wouldn’t be fair.
“When I was at Oregon I did not see myself ever leaving,’’ Cristobal said the day he was introduced as head coach. “We loved everything.’’
But Cristobal grew up in Miami and won two national championships as a player at Miami and earned his undergraduate and masters degrees at Miami and was an assistant at Miami. And his recently ailing mother still lives here.
“Home is home,’’ Cristobal said the day he was introduced.
“I’m excited for him. Nobody knows it better than a guy that lived it. Nobody knows that brotherhood, which is unique and strong, like he does,’’ Herbstreit said. “So, as much as I am a fan of Manny — I think Manny is going to do a great job at Penn State [as the new defensive coordinator] — you can’t make up for a guy that is part of the program and played on great teams.
“So, yes, not to take anything away from Manny, but because of who’s coaching and because of his life and where he grew up and where he played, he’s at his alma mater. So I’m excited for him and for the program, especially if they back him with finances and give him a chance.”
Herbstreit, by the way, said he got “a lot of calls’’ after his commentary, including from then-AD James “and people on the board [of trustees].”
“And when the dust settled,’’ Herbstreit said, “yeah, I did get a lot of people that reached out and as you say thanked me for what I said. If it helped propel change in a positive way, especially when it comes to funding, then that’s a great thing. But I’m definitely not one to say, ‘Oh, yeah, it’s because I said [so-and-so].’’’
Herbstreit also was asked by the Herald his thoughts on the COVID-19 situation in college football now and about the teams pulling out of bowl games, including Miami’s Sunday withdrawal from the Sun Bowl because of the virus.
Herbstreit: “I tested positive for COVID-19 almost a year ago to the day and I still can’t smell or taste like I did before. Still. I’m at a 6, maybe 7 out of 10 on taste and smell. That’s a year later.
“I had friends that became really, really ill from this. But I’m a guy that if they say, ‘Get a vaccine,’ where do I go? Where’s the line? OK, over here. Boom! I’m getting a vaccine. I need my second one? Boom! I’m getting it. Booster? Sounds good. Let’s get a booster. Whatever it takes to get back to living our lives, I personally sign up for. Not because I’m into politics. That’s just my choice that I’ve made. After having it and dealing with this for 12 months, I’ll do whatever they ask.
“I think these players from everybody I’ve talked with — I have a son who plays at Ohio State, a son who plays at Clemson — I’m not sitting up at night thinking, ‘Oh, my gosh. I’m worried about my kids.’ They’re all vaccinated, so I guess I can worry about them getting hit by a car, I can worry about a lot of things. But I choose not to. They’ve done everything they need to do to protect themselves and we move on. That’s kind of my take on it.
“Hate to see all these games canceled. I’m hoping no more games will be. Hopefully we’ll get these bowl games going. Hopefully we’ll be good with the semifinal games and the national championship. And I hope the protocols that were set up during the 2020 season will be updated before we get ready for the 2022 season.”
▪ Former UM offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee, who recently was hired as the SMU head coach, announced on Twitter that UM receivers coach Rob Likens will be the new SMU wide receivers coach, assistant head coach and pass game coordinator.