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Old 09-18-2006, 12:39 PM   #1
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Default Miami's Coker feeling heat

The Fire Coker movement has never been stronger in South Florida, yet the man at the storm's epicenter insists he's not bothered. Miami's athletic director isn't ready to make a move yet, either.

''Larry Coker is the head coach of the team, and we're looking forward to the rest of the season,'' Miami AD Paul Dee told The Miami Herald by phone Sunday night. "It's our hope we can rise to a great level of success this year with an opportunity go win our ACC Coastal Division and perhaps play in the league championship game."

Coker certainly understands a 1-2 record is unacceptable at Miami -- and Sunday, he said it causes him more anguish than any sports-radio caller or Web-site poster could possibly understand.

"I've been in high-profile programs before at Oklahoma and Ohio State, so I understand it," Coker said. "And I understand the frustration of our fans. We have great fans, this is a great program and they expect greatness out of the program. Believe me, nobody wants to win more than I do."

The problem is, wanting to win clearly isn't enough for the Hurricanes anymore.

Now unranked for the first time in nearly seven years, and out of the national championship picture before fall even begins, Miami is looking like a program in serious trouble.

"I really think and know that a lot of people, the fan base and everywhere else, are probably ready to give up on this team," Coker said. "We're not ready to do that here in our inner circle. Obviously, we've got work to do, but certainly, this season is not over. We've got a lot of season left. We've got a lot to play for."

The Hurricanes were soundly beaten in Louisville on Saturday, a 31-7 defeat that knocked Miami out of the AP Top 25 for the first time since Nov. 28, 1999 -- a span of 107 weeks.

That, though, is the least of Coker's issues these days.

He's aware of the he's-gotta-go pleas, rumors that the university's board of trustees was convened for an emergency meeting Sunday to discuss the coaching situation -- a school spokesman denied any meeting would take place -- and a perception that the Hurricanes have fallen from their once-prominent perch.

"I'm not really concerned about job security. I'm really not," said Coker, who's in the second year of a five-year extension signed last year. "I'm not concerned about that at all. I'm concerned about getting our football team back to where it needs to be, winning football games. If we do that, job security will take care of itself."

It's not going to be easy.

Miami is 0-2 against Division I-A schools this year, having lost 13-10 to Florida State in the season-opener, five days before beating up on I-AA Florida A&M 51-10 in Week 2. And on Saturday, the Hurricanes were beaten in all areas -- offense, defense and special teams.

Plus, they had no answers after falling behind -- again. In Miami's last seven losses, going back to Nov. 6, 2004, it has been outscored 79-3 after halftime, including 21-0 in the final two quarters Saturday.

"I've got to find the answer," Coker said. "And it's my job to do that."

His job may depend on it, too.

The Hurricanes are off until Sept. 30, when they begin a three-game homestand against Houston -- and there's two distinct schools of thought on the bye week. Some would say that it comes at a bad time for Miami because the Louisville loss will linger; others, like Coker, suggest that the team can use the time to get better.

"You're either with us or you're not," linebacker Jon Beason said after Saturday's loss. "Still a long season to go. We've just got to go back and we've got to find ourselves. Everybody on this team, individually as a player, you've got to find yourself. I don't fault the coaches."

No team has ever won the national championship with two losses, yet all hope is still not necessarily lost.

Miami -- the preseason favorite to win the Atlantic Coast Conference title -- has seven league games remaining and could still win the ACC's Coastal Division. Do that, and Miami would have a berth in the ACC title game in Jacksonville on Dec. 2. A victory there, and the Hurricanes would find themselves back in the Bowl Championship Series for the first time in three seasons.

"To look at the future, it's hard right now," Miami center Anthony Wollschlager said. "But you take a step back, there's still everything. There's the ACC, there's the BCS, there's a lot of stuff like that. But in order to do that, we need to get a lot of things right with ourselves and right now, we're not getting the job done."

http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/news/story?id=2592353
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