Haywood looks to establish a 'culture of champions' Print E-mail
Written by Mike Smith   
Wednesday, December 31 2008
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New Miami head coach Mike Haywood / photo: Mike Smith
WEST CHESTER, OH - Revered tradition and a vision of the future met Tuesday at Miami Universitys new Voice of American Learning Center as Mike Haywood was introduced as the schools 33rd head football coach.

Standing between a 1973 Tangerine Bowl trophy and the 2003 GMC Bowl championship award, President David Hodge alluded to Miamis proud athletic and academic past as he mentioned the schools upcoming 200th anniversary. Moments later, athletic director Brad Bates was talking about the quest for a Miami future that would include football championships.

Haywood, most recently an offensive coordinator at Notre Dame, takes the Miami helm following Shane Montgomerys resignation a day after the RedHawks completed their second 2-10 season in three years.

According to Bates, Haywood emerged as a strong candidate early and continued to impress.

He was highly recommended from a variety of well-respected, credible sources, Bates said, And then when we met with him, he far exceeded our expectations . It wasnt a quick 20 minute interview. We rolled up our sleeves for four hours and spent a lot of time together.

An initial interview was held in Indianapolis, while a second took place in Oxford.

Various rumors and reports had linked several people with Miami connections playing and/or coaching as strong candidates for the opening. While such experiences may have been chips in their favor, Bates indicated Haywood, who lacked a direct experience at the school, was nonetheless a solid choice.

You can have an immediate splash with an individual that has some sort of historical relationship with Miami, and that is probably true for any school if you have an alum or somebody who has worked there before. That should tell you how far this guy distanced himself from everyone else, Bates said.

The field was very competitive, but he clearly stood out.

We had an extraordinary set of candidates, Hodge told those assembled at Tuesdays gathering. But of these candidates, one person absolutely rose above everybody else and that was Mike Haywood.

Ive had the good fortune over the years to interview lots of people for positions, and I dont believe that I ever had an interview that was so impressive as the interview I had with Mike, Hodge said.

Haywoods resume includes coaching stops at LSU and Texas before joining the staff at Notre Dame, where he also was a player (1982, 1984-1986). He was named NCAA Division 1-A Assistant Coach of the Year after helping the Irish offense make a dramatic improvement in 2005.

Haywood, a 22-year coaching veteran, has been associated with three Top Ten teams and six other Top 25 clubs. His coaching mentors have included former Coaches of the Year Nick Saban, Mack Brown, Charlie Weis and Lou Holtz.

Photo: Mike Smith

Another impressive stop, according to Bates, was at the U.S. Military Academy, an institution with extremely high academic standards. Haywood also had assistant coaching jobs at Ohio University and Ball State. Bates said the Mid-American Conference stints only helped Haywoods cause.

Being on the staff (of a MAC program) that won a championship certainly gives him some background experience with our league, Bates said. Sometimes its difficult for someone who has been exclusively at BCS conference schools to understand the differences (that may exist) in other schools and other leagues.

While he already had experience in the league, Haywood quickly demonstrated that he would not rest on that experience.

Believe me, he did his homework, Bates said. Even though its been a few years since he has been in the league. He knows football. He is very well-connected in the sport . When we first met, he had already used his contacts to obtain a half-dozen copies of our game film. He knew our personnel better than I did the first time we met.

Connections and organizational skills another impressive area for Haywood - will likely be important as he moves forward. Football may be played in the fall, but much of the work is done months earlier. According to Bates, Haywood has hit the ground running. He noted Haywoods first request after accepting the job was to get the names and contact numbers of recruits.

Im going to make an effort to visit every verbal commitment we have, said Haywood, who estimated there may be 23-25 scholarships available.

My team will be defined by character, We will develop the attitude that if one fails, we all fail . We will develop a culture of champions. - Mike Haywood

Haywood called Ohio one of the five best areas in the nation for recruiting high school football players. Cincinnati, he said, will get particular attention with two coaches working the area.

Recruiting efforts for out-of-state players are likely to include areas such as western Pennsylvania, Michigan, Northern Kentucky, Indiana, Chicago, Nashville, Memphis and Atlanta.

As with any school, considerable recruiting duties go to assistant coaches, and Haywood has already spent time interviewing for staff positions. He indicated one or two of the Montgomery staff members might be retained. Other spots will be filled from the outside.

Disciplined Approach
Miami players such as senior-to-be Dustin Woods, who was on hand for Tuesdays press conference, will soon know more about position coaches, schemes and other issues. In the meantime, he is just happy the program is moving forward. According to Woods, the coaching change has created some anxiety, but it also has generated excitement.

A lot of seniors might be scared thinking this is a rebuilding year, Woods said. But we know there needed to be a change . Whatever we were doing wasnt working.

Woods said his early information is that some changes will include significant shifts in discipline, and he feels players will welcome that. It is definitely what we need, Woods said. I know when the seniors met, discipline was one of the first things that came out of everybodys mouth.

My team will be defined by character, Haywood told Tuesdays gathering. We will develop the attitude that if one fails, we all fail . We will develop a culture of champions.

Woods said Haywoods hiring has created an excitement on the team, and players are anxious to start laying the foundation for a successful season. Its about winning, most of all . Whatever we have to do to win these games, that is what matters the most. I mean that from the bottom of my heart, Woods said.

According to Bates, Haywood feels the program can address both short and long term goals.

Whenever you are taking over a program that has struggled competitively, it is inherent in the process that there is rebuilding that is going to take place. At the same time (Haywood) said weve got talent on this team. Bates said.

There are some holes we need to fill, but we can win, he continued. I feel very comfortable that we are going to be able to fill those holes and be competitive on the short term. But what he is also going to do is build a foundation for long term success.

Cradle of Coaches and Great Football
Miamis history of producing coaches who generate gridiron success has earned it the title Cradle of Coaches, and one member of that illustrious coaching fraternity was especially proud when he watched Haywood hold up a Miami jersey shortly after being introduced.

Floyd Keith was an assistant coach for Miami head coach Bill Mallory from 1970-1973. The 1973 team went 11-0 and defeated Florida 16-7 in the Tangerine Bowl.

Keith, who was a candidate for the Miami head coaching position in the mid-1980s, currently serves as executive director of the Black Coaches Association. He said driving to West Chester from Indianapolis to see Haywood introduced as a coach at Miami was particularly joyful.

Not only did Keith see the new coach at a school where he formerly coached, he also was able to congratulate Haywood as he became just the sixth African-American head coach in Division I football.

The Mid-American Conference is great football. Youre going to play schools at the highest level. Youre going to compete in a great league." - Floyd Keith, Executive Director of the Black Coaches Association on the level of competition in the MAC.

According to Keith, Haywoods accumulated credentials and connections have previously put him on the short list for several head coaching positions. When Miami selected Haywood, he became the third African-American coach currently leading a Mid-American Conference program. That speaks volumes, Keith said as he praised the efforts of MAC officials and administrators at conference schools.

Keith also noted that the MAC is an excellent league for player and coach development.

The Mid-American Conference is great football, Keith said. The fruit on the tree is good in the MAC, so when you get an opportunity, you better pick it and maximize them. Youre going to play schools at the highest level. Youre going to compete in a great league . If youre successful in the MAC, you can be successful anywhere.

Extra Points

- Haywood was recruited to Notre Dame by Gerry Faust and during his senior season played under Lou Holtz. Haywood s started five games as a freshman flanker. He later moved to cornerback, where he had 13 starts and was a significant contributor (78 tackles, five interceptions, two blocked kicks)

-  Haywood has coached running backs since 1994 at four different schools. Among the players he has coached are Darius Walker, Cedric Benson, LaBrandon Toefield, Domanick Davis, Kevin Faulk, Rondell Mealey and Cecil Collins.

- Notre Dame coach Charlie Weiss tapped Haywood for offensive coordinator duties in 2008. Late in the season, however, Weiss took over play calling. Haywood said the Irish struggled late in the year (losing four of five, including a loss to Syracuse) before a bowl win against Hawaii in part because considerable new material was added. We were having so much success, that we thought we could add a lot more material, and the only thing we did was complicate things for the quarterback. With the time off we had before the bowl game, we were able to regain the quarterbacks confidence, and the players regained their confidence, allowing them to be successful in the (bowl) game.

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