May 30, 2007
CORAL GABLES Miami athletic director Paul Dee recently announced that he will step down from his position in June 2008.
After serving 14 years as the Hurricanes' AD, Dee, working under a contract through 2010, decided to "walk away gracefully," a source said.
Dee, 60, is expected to remain at the school in some capacity possibly teaching at the law school, where he received his law degree, or in the sports administration program until his contract expires.
Dee said one of the deciding factors that motivated him to step down was the fact that UM's athletic department is embarking on a number of projects a $60 million fundraising campaign for facility upgrades, the possible move from the historic Orange Bowl, etc. that he knew he wouldn't be able to finish.
"There comes to be a time when you can't see projects all the way through," Dee said. "That's when you know it's time to pass the baton.
"I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in the athletic department, but I have always wanted to teach and be a member of the faculty, and this way I can transition to the faculty and teach at the university for a few years before I retire."
During Dee's term, Miami won three national championships, two in baseball (1999, 2001) and one in football (2001).
In pursuit of financial stability for his department, he also was the driving force behind UM's move from the Big East to the ACC. The conference switch probably will go down in UM history as his second-greatest accomplishment, right behind building the university's first on-campus arena in 2002.
Dee first stepped into the athletic director position in 1991, on an interim basis. He returned to the job in 1993 when Dave Maggard left after two years to work for Atlanta's U.S. Olympic Organizing Committee.
Dee helped clean up the athletic program during its darkest era, which included NCAA probation and scholarship reductions for various violations.
"I thank him for his extraordinary service to the university," UM president Donna Shalala said. "I'm pleased that he will be joining the faculty and look forward to his continued wise counsel. His measured, full and thoughtful advice to the leadership of this university has been unmatched."
Prior to being named athletic director, Dee had served as a vice president and general counsel at UM since 1981. When he steps down, he'll have tied Jack Harding's 15-year record as UM's longest-tenured AD.
"We have had many challenges," Dee said, "but we've had a lot more ups than downs."
The search for his replacement is ongoing, but Miami plans to conduct a thorough search, one that won't include Dee.
The candidates could include some familiar names. Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez worked under Shalala when she was the president at Wisconsin, although at 60 years old same as Dee Alvarez may be looking forward to retiring with the Badgers. Central Florida athletic director Keith Tribble, a Florida graduate who is just one year into his tenure with the Knights, headed the Orange Bowl Committee for 13 years.
Also expected to be considered are Florida International athletic director Pete Garcia; Patrick Nero, the commissioner of the America East Conference; and Ross Bjork, UCLA's senior associate athletic director for external relations. Garcia, Nero and Bjork all worked under Dee as associate ADs in Coral Gables.
One source said that UM's next athletic director likely will be someone from the outside who brings in new ideas and is an "accomplished fundraiser."
Shalala's history suggests that she likes to hire young up-and-comers, but that person also must be savvy enough to unify UM's divided support system.
The Hurricane Club, the athletic department's major fundraising arm, is in need of new vision and someone to unify its efforts. A significant number of long-time supporters have said they felt disenfranchised in recent years.
After fundraising, UM's next athletic director should concentrate a great deal of his or her efforts on increasing the school's fan base for men's and women's basketball. That could be done, in large part, by marketing the teams better and enhancing the entertainment level inside the BankUnited Center.
Also, more resources and support should be given to women's track coach Amy Deem. She has built one of the nation's top women's track programs, virtually on her own. If the UM administration rewards that kind of outstanding production in various ways, the school's other coaches are sure to take notice.
BLOCKERS SHOWING IMPROVEMENT
During spring practice, Miami's offensive line was probably the one unit that showed the most drastic improvement. Now the Hurricanes hope that their front-line players in the trenches continue to make strides through the fall.
In most recent springs, the defensive line often became so disruptive that UM's coaches had to limit how many pass rushers would attack on certain drills just in order to execute them with some degree of competency.
This spring, despite limiting injuries that kept starting tackle Jason Fox and starting guard Derrick Morse on the sidelines for all or most of the drills, the unit didn't need any special rules or extra assistance.
The group was in better shape, courtesy of the additional conditioning work coach Randy Shannon demanded that they do each week, and the end result was a slimmer (each lineman lost at least 10 pounds) and more active line that consistently opened up running lanes.
Junior Chris Rutledge, who started six games because of injuries to other players last season, made the most drastic improvement among the blockers. Rutledge, who played tackle last season, lost nearly 20 pounds before spring practice started, and it helped him pull effectively as a guard.
His emergence prompted UM's coaches to experiment with Morse as the team's starting center. They planned to work the rising senior there this spring, before he sprained his left knee. The experiment with Morse likely will resume in August, with hopes that the aggressive two-year starter will be able to replace center Anthony Wollschlager, a solid two-year starter who graduated.
UM needs Morse to make a quick adjustment to center because sophomore A.J. Trump, last year's backup at center, likely will miss the first half of the 2007 season while recovering from the ACL tear he suffered in November.
Morse isn't the only offensive lineman on the move. UM's new position coach, Jeff Stoutland, is swapping his two starting tackles, moving Fox to the left side and junior Reggie Youngblood to the right.
Stoutland, who spent the last seven years as the offensive line coach at Michigan State, came to that decision after evaluating all of last season's games and being impressed with how Fox, then a true freshman, performed while filling in for an injured Youngblood for three games. Fox, a prep All-American from Texas, stepped directly into the starting lineup last season and quickly became the team's most effective blocker.
Now UM is hoping that two of this year's incoming freshmen Orlando Franklin and Harland Gunn will be able to make the same kind of impact, albeit most likely in backup roles.
Gunn will be used either as a center or a guard. Franklin, a 2006 signee who had to defer his enrollment last fall because of complications with his high school transcript, has the size (6-7, 320) and athleticism to play any spot on the line. With an impressive August, he even could challenge rising senior Andrew Bain for his starting guard spot.