Coker, Amato losing ground

Criticism of coaches grows as teams struggle with early-season defeats

ACC notebook

September 22, 2006|By Heather A. Dinich | Heather A. Dinich,Sun Reporter

After losses to Florida State and Louisville — It's only Week 4 of the college football season, but apparently it takes only two losses to call a coach's job security into question.

After losses to Florida State and Louisville - on the heels of a 9-3 season that ended with an embarrassing 40-3 loss to LSU - Miami coach Larry Coker found himself defending "Coach Coker" on this week's Atlantic Coast Conference teleconference.

"I'm not going anywhere," he said. "I'm the football coach here. I'm very positive about that. Coach Coker's gotta do a better job."

The Hurricanes' only win so far was a 51-10 drubbing of Florida A&M, and they dropped out of the national rankings for the first time since 1999. The Miami Herald reported this week that athletic director Paul Dee said Coker won't be fired during the season, but it's not clear how many games he needs to win to be retained.

"It's not about me, it's about these players, these coaches and this program," said Coker, who has a 54-11 record at Miami. "There's no doubt in my mind I'm the right person for the job and for these players, and we're going to get this thing done.

"There are certainly a lot of naysayers out there who want to bring you down, so to speak," he said. "You can't let that get you down. The expectations here are very high. We've had a lot of success here. I've had a lot of success. I'm still the coach that won the national championship here and played for another one and won an Orange Bowl and beat Florida State twice that year. I'm still that same coach. I'm a better coach now than I was then. The challenges are more now than they were then because of all the negatives."

North Carolina State coach Chuck Amato is facing some similar challenges. He has also been under scrutiny after losses to Akron (20-17) and more recently Southern Mississippi (37-17). Amato said he isn't concerned about his job security.

"I don't worry about things I can't control," he said. "We've won a lot of games here, too."

Amato, Coker, North Carolina's John Bunting, Virginia's Al Groh and Duke's Ted Roof have combined for a 4-12 start this season, with Roof the only winless coach remaining in the ACC.

Milestone for O'Brien

While other coaches have been struggling, Boston College coach Tom O'Brien accepted his new title as the school's all-time winningest coach. The Eagles escaped with a 30-23 double overtime win Saturday against Brigham Young for the 69th win of O'Brien's career.

It was an accomplishment he never intended when he was hired a decade ago, but his wife helped him put it in perspective when he came home Tuesday night.

"I was told to take the garbage out. I said, `Hey I'm the winningest coach in BC history,' " O'Brien said. "She said, `That's nice, but the garbage still has to go out.' I think that puts things into perspective."

The Eagles (3-0, 1-0 ACC) will travel to N.C. State for tomorrow's 8 p.m. kickoff at Carter-Finley Stadium. Boston College leads the league in total and passing offense.

Hot start for Wake

Wake Forest is off to its first 3-0 start since 1987, but it has come at a price. Coach Jim Grobe was at practice Tuesday afternoon standing next to two of his top players instead of coaching them.

After losing quarterback Benjamin Mauk for the season with a broken right arm and dislocated right shoulder, tailback Micah Andrews found out he has a torn anterior cruciate ligament and is expected to have surgery in a couple of weeks. Andrews was the second-leading rusher in the conference with 256 yards on 58 carries but injured his left knee with about three minutes remaining in a win at Connecticut.

"I was standing with those two guys and thinking how many yards those two would have accounted for staying healthy this year," Grobe said. "It's a big loss for our football team.

"I'm more disappointed for those two kids because football is so important for those two guys and for them to not be able to play ... it's just really hard to see."

Grobe said his team has to "find an identity" at running back now and will use at least two tomorrow in a 6 p.m. matchup with Mississippi (1-2).

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