guest columnist Scott Alan Salomon talks about the recent coaching shake up at “The U”, last week’s loss to Clemson, this week’s challenge at Duke, the passing of Artie Burns’ mother and now the Miami Hurricanes need to get back on track under an interim head coach with five games remaining.

Things were a little different at the Hecht Athletic Center on Tuesday. For the first time in four plus seasons, a different head coach took the lecturn today to address the media throng as well as Canes Nation and represent a new beginning in Hurricane football.

Like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, so is interim head coach Larry Scott and his band of players as they regroup to face the Duke Blue Devils in a week that saw them lose their head coach and the man that recruited many of them to South Florida.

“It’s an awesome opportunity for me to stand before you today and really just share a little bit of where we are right now as a program, but most importantly where we’re headed,” Scott said. “The first order of business, I think, is to tell you a little bit about our team and where we are.”

Scott went on to talk about the passing of cornerback Artie Burns’ mother, who was in ICU for the past few days.

“This morning, we got some news one of our starting corners—Artie Burns—his mother passed away this morning. Obviously it hit our team hard and our kids pretty hard. She’s always been awesome with all of our guys, she has opened her home and fed a lot of our kids from out of state, she’s had several at her home at a time,” Scott said.

“It obviously impacted them, in consideration for Artie, and it impacted all of us, as Artie is a very important piece to our program here, and what his mom has done for us and our family, she really became the a part of the Hurricane Family. Our prayers and thoughts go out to him and his family.”

After discussing Burns’ mother’s passing, and paying his respects to the family, only then did Scott turn back to football and look at the monumental task that the Canes have in front of them. They have to bounce back from a four-week stretch that saw them lose three times. They lost to Cincinnati, Florida State before getting obliterated by Clemson.

“The last four days have been kind of rough for our program and young people. At the end of the day, for all of us, that’s all that it’s about—it’s the young men in this program. I challenged the coaches when we all got this whole thing started, when I was given the title of interim head coach, to really tap into some of the reasons you choose to be a coach,” Scott said. “That’s what it’s going to take right now. It’s going to be far more than the X’s and the O’s, and getting this from a standpoint of corrected football. It’s going to be about being able to mentor and reach these young men, and help them and guide them through a rough period in their lives.”

Scott believes that mentally the players will have a rough time forgetting what they learned from Al Golden and that their ties to Golden are still strong and that some of them miss their former head coach.

“Anytime you have a person come into your home and recruit you—bring you in, offer you an opportunity at a great education here at the University of Miami and to put you around really good people that are going to help develop you not only on the field but in the classroom—to have a change in that area, of course, it’s rough,” Scott said.

“They’re young people. They’re young men. They have attachments, they get attached to people, get attached to the things that they need and feel like they’re getting on a daily basis from people who are trying to impact their lives. Obviously that was tough. That’s what we’ve been dealing with over the last four days.

Scott borrowed a line from the Al Golden press conferences of yesteryear when he mentioned that there is a process that the team has to go through to see the forest through the trees and emerge victorious on the other side.

“We know it’s going to be a process. That’s the thing—we don’t want to make this seem like there’s some magical potion we’re going to throw out there, give them gimmick words or something like that, that that’s going to make it heal,” Scott said. “Time heals. Having people around you that really, genuinely care about you the person can help with that, can aid with that.”

Coach Scott believes that he is the right man for the job and that he can take the Canes to a new level of football and take them to places to that they have never been.

“That’s why I started this thing out with a challenge to our coaches: ‘Hey guys, we have to make sure we reach these guys at another level today,” Scott said. “We have to make sure we’re tapping into some of the things [behind] why you do what you do. I know we all have families and things like that, but right now, the most important thing for us is this team, is this program, are these young men – their families and our families.”

Scott addressed the fact that the team has to get back to having fun. After all, he said, football is a game and you are supposed to have fun while playing the game.

“I think it’s important that that is the central point of it all, because isn’t the game supposed to be fun? Aren’t you supposed to be having fun playing a game that you love? You have to love it. You have to have love for this game. Things like passion and emotion, it pours out of you when you’re doing something that you really enjoy doing,” Scott said.

“We have to bring it every day. We have to understand we do what we love to do and, so it has got to pour out of us too. They have to see it. It’s got to be real. It’s got to be genuine. That’s what you got to get to. I think that’s what passionate play on the football field starts with. It starts with the human emotion. You have to love what you’re doing. We have to create an atmosphere of guys that are disciplined, smart, but having fun. But in all of that, when you go to play football, we’re going to have fun. That’s the fun part of it. You do all of those things to get to the grass. Now let’s go have fun.”

It has not been determined yet if Brad Kaaya will be able to play, so offensive coordinator James Coley has been preparing both Kaaya and redshirt freshman Malik Rosier to play at Duke. They will continue to follow the concussion protocol and see if Kaaya can get ready between now and Saturday.

“Our doctors and concussion protocol are being handled by our medical team. They’re the experts at that. We’re following their lead with that. We’re going to do exactly what they want to do with Brad, as far as that’s concerned,” Scott said. “Brad’s a very smart individual, a very smart person. He also has an unbelievable work ethic. I’m sure he’s doing the things he needs to make sure he’s prepared for this game. He will be prepared. However, we’re going to follow the protocol and do the right things that our medical team will have us do.”

Scott said that should Kaaya not be able to go, Rosier is comfortable running the offense and he has the confidence in him to lead the team to its second ACC win.

“As far as Malik, Malik has really attacked this thing. We’ve been happy with his attitude, his mindset. He’s feeding of the energy coming from Coach Coley, and he’s feeding off the energy that, even in these times, we’re bringing to the building every day. He’s preparing. He’s in watching film. He’s in the middle of it all,” Scott said. “He really wants to do well. If we call his number, he wants to be able to produce and do the things that we do with Brad and not miss a beat, keep it going.”

Scott was asked if he is using the next five games, as well as the potential bowl game, as an audition to keep the job next year and shed the interim tag. He would not speculate on anything past this season and deflected all the attention given to him and said that it is all about the kids that put on the uniform every day.

“It’s not about me. It’s really not about that. When this opportunity was presented to me, it was, ‘Yeah. Let’s go to work.’ But for me, it was about the kids,” Scott said. It’s about the guys that I’m in the room with every day, working with. We owe them an opportunity. That’s what it was all about. It’s about here, right now. All those other things always will take care of themselves. They always do. Regardless of how much you might want something, it’s about them.”

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