SHOW RISING MARKET
May 24, 2005
CORAL GABLES - Larry Coker's coaching career is off to one of the best starts of any head coach in recent history. If only contract talks regarding an extension for Miami's football leader mirrored that pace.
According to Sports Journal sources, a few contractual sticking points have prevented UM's administration and Coker's representatives from finalizing a deal that has been on the table since last season.
"We're moving toward an agreement, and we're close," said Jimmy Sexton, Coker's agent, who also represents a number of the nation's most prominent coaches, including Nick Saban of the NFL's Miami Dolphins, Tommy Tuberville of Auburn, Steve Spurrier of South Carolina, and Phillip Fulmer of Tennessee.
Sexton recently negotiated Saban's Miami contract, which will pay the ex-LSU coach at least $4.5 million per year. He also landed Tuberville his new seven-year, $16 million deal at Auburn, and two months ago he got Fulmer an extension that runs through the 2011 season at an average of $2.05 million per year.
That's about the going rate for college coaches at the nation's premier programs, although there are some exceptions. Florida is paying Urban Meyer an estimated $14 million over seven years, with his price driven up by Notre Dame's interest in the former Utah coach. Spurrier signed a seven-year deal worth $1.25 million a season that could grow to more than $2 million with incentives.
Coker, who owns a 44-6 record that has him tied with Dennis Erickson for winning the most games in their first four years at UM, has two years remaining on the five-year, $5.25 million contract he signed in 2002 after winning the program's first national championship in 10 years. That contract also included incentive clauses that have boosted his salary to the $1.4 million range, which is clearly a bargain compared to the current market.
"A lot of people are overpaying for the really high, superman coaches, the got-to-win-you-a-national-championship-next-year (guys)," UM athletic director Paul Dee said in December, "and it's raising the prices."
Exactly what's holding up the new deal isn't known publicly, but it likely involves the length of the contract, and the language involving a possible buyout. Dee said he recently sent more correspondence to Sexton and is awaiting a response.
Coker's salary requests are unknown, but what hurts his leverage is the fact that he has no NFL ties and - in stark contrast to Butch Davis, his predecessor at Miami - no interest in shopping himself to pro teams or other college programs.
"We're still going through some issues, but we're not far off," said Dee, who this spring signed men's basketball coach Frank Haith to a new five-year pact. He also fired women's basketball coach Ferne Labati, replacing her with Katie Meier.
When asked about a timetable for finalizing Coker's deal, Dee implied that something likely will be done by the end of the summer. If not, talks could go into the 2005 season, where Coker's success will be vital to his future. Miami's 9-3 record last season marked the first year in which a Coker-led Miami team didn't participate in a BCS bowl.
Getting a deal worked out soon is important to UM's coaching staff, because it would ensure the program's stability to members of the 2006 recruiting class. As usual, the Hurricanes are well into scouting and pursuing many of the nation's best rising seniors.
Rios Commitment Huge For Haith
Miami's basketball program recently landed its biggest recruit in the Frank Haith era. Edwin Rios, one of the nation's top sophomores, committed in May to play for the Hurricanes. The only problem is that UM will have to wait a year and a half to sign him.
Rios, a 6-1 point guard from Miami Senior High who averaged 24.3 points, six assists and five rebounds while leading the team to a state championship in March, is ranked among the nation's top 10 recruits in the Class of 2007 after steadily playing his way into elite status.
Upon taking the UM job last spring, Haith sought out the area's best prospects. Rios was among them, and in their meeting Haith was the first coach to offer him a scholarship. That left a lasting impression.
"That is where my heart is. I grew up a Miami fan," said Rios, who also has fielded offers from Cincinnati, N.C. State, Syracuse and others. "Miami's home, and I didn't want to deny it anymore."
Oral commitments are not binding, which means Rios has until the fall of 2006 to change his mind before signing an official letter of intent. But he said he doesn't intend on wavering, despite the fact that interest from programs such as Duke and Connecticut was intensifying at the time of his announcement.
The Miami coaches are not allowed by NCAA rules to comment on a player until he actually signs, but Rios said he and his father, Edwin Rios Sr., who both followed the Hurricanes closely last season, went to UM to tell the coaches personally.
When Haith took over the program last year, he said his top priority was to keep the home-grown talent at home, and he's doing just that. The Hurricanes' 2005 signing class featured three South Floridians: Miami Calusa point guard Denis Clemente, South Miami swingman Brian Asbury and Pembroke Pines Flanagan forward Adrian Thomas. Now UM has Rios to serve as another building block for the future.
One of the reasons Rios committed so early was to help with UM's recruiting efforts over the next two years. This summer, he plans to play for Team Breakdown, an AAU team made up of many of Florida's top prospects. His high school teammate is Dwayne Collins, a highly regarded 6-8 forward from the Class of 2006. Collins also is considering Miami.
It's Official: Hester Runs Fastest
Miami speedster Devin Hester finally can back up the claims that he's the fastest member of the Hurricanes.
During Miami's pre-summer testing drills, which is an array of workouts the team's trainers conduct to track the players' summer development, Hester ran the team's only sub-4.3 time in the 40-yard dash.
The junior, who established himself as one of the nation's top special teams players last season, posted a 4.29 in one of his three 40-yard runs, winning bragging rights as UM's fastest player entering the fall. Last year the honor belonged to senior cornerback Marcus Maxey, with whom Hester is competing for the starting corner spot vacated by first-round NFL draft pick Antrel Rolle.
Hester was among eight players who ran sub-4.5 40 times and one of four defensive backs - along with Maxey (4.40), Kelly Jennings (4.40) and Anthony Reddick (4.46) - to achieve the feat. Three receivers - Terrell Walden (4.34), Akieem Jolla (4.40) and Sinorice Moss (4.40) - and one linebacker, Tavares Gooden (4.47), also broke the sub-4.5 mark.
Hester also tied with Maxey for the fastest short shuttle time, with both players posting 4.00s.
As a whole, the team's 40-yard dash average was 4.71 seconds during the pre-summer timing. That represented a tremendous improvement over last year's team, which was at 4.83 seconds at this same stage.