D'Angelo: Manny Diaz stated his case, but will it withstand lure of Cristobal or Kiffin?

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  • Mario Cristobal
    American college football player, professional football player, college football coach, offensive lineman
  • Lane Kiffin
    Lane Kiffin
    Football coach
  • Manny Diaz
    Manny Diaz
    American football coach

Manny Diaz made some in-home visits Sunday. That much we know.

What is unknown is what he told those recruits about his future at Miami.

Diaz may be twisting in the wind when it comes to his future with the Hurricanes, but the coach is going about it as if it's business as usual.

At least until he's told it's not.

"It's not the end," Diaz said after Saturday's 47-10 dominance of Duke. "It's the beginning. It's about to get really, really good.

"They're all in. They're invested in the program and they play for each other with that hunger that we talk about that is going to last throughout this, last this entire offseason."

More D'Angelo:Manny Diaz resolute about his future, excited about what's ahead for UM Hurricanes

More College Football: If Miami Hurricanes job opens, where does it rank among Power 5 football vacancies?

Diaz certainly bought himself time with the way the Hurricanes finished the year, winning five-of-six and coming within one 4th-and-14 stop at Florida State of sweeping the second half of the season. Two of those wins, the two that signaled the turnaround, came against teams ranked in the top 20, NC State and Pitt.

Because if it had gone any other way, had 7-5 bowl-bound Miami not shown up at Duke last week or was unable to hang on against Georgia Tech or prove the oddsmakers right against NC State or at Pitt, the only visit Diaz would have been making Sunday would have been to the office of whoever is in charge at Miami.

UM athletic department has problems

The athletic department is in chaos. There is no director, although interviews are ongoing for Blake James' replacement. No other program has gone through as much uncertainty the last six weeks when it comes to the status of its football coach. Its most valued assistant coach, offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee, was introduced as SMU's head coach on Monday.

Yet, few coaches around the country have done more since the midway point to state a case to return than Diaz. There is also the cost of doing business in the coaching profession skyrocketing and replacing him could mean investing up to $10 million (or more) between buyouts and salary.

Miami head coach Manny Diaz (left) and Duke head coach David Cutcliffe meet at the end of Saturday's game in Durham, N.C. Cutcliffe was fired Sunday. Diaz awaits his fate. (AP Photo/Chris Seward)
Miami head coach Manny Diaz (left) and Duke head coach David Cutcliffe meet at the end of Saturday's game in Durham, N.C. Cutcliffe was fired Sunday. Diaz awaits his fate. (AP Photo/Chris Seward)

This is not to say Diaz should be a lock to return. But making a change to satisfy unreasonable fans on social media or disgruntled former players who are quick to undermine the program is not the way to go, either.

If a decision has yet to be made on Diaz (which is possible), it is for one reason: Miami is hoping to land one of two possible candidates in Oregon's Mario Cristobal or Mississippi's Lane Kiffin.

To deny either would be an upgrade from Diaz would be as silly as denying this program has been among the nation's biggest underachievers since joining the ACC in 2004. Bringing in either would energize the entire department and fan base.

If UM can afford either coach, make the move.

But why wouldn't Cristobal (a Miami native and UM alum) or Kiffin leverage that interest? We are seeing an explosion in salaries and both are making $4.5 million, before bonuses, this season. Not chump change but not close to the top of the scale that starts with Nick Saban at nearly $10 million and who soon will be replaced by whatever numbers Lincoln Riley puts down on the blank check he is being handed by USC.

Diaz is scheduled to make somewhere between $3.5 million and $4 million in the final two years of his five-year deal, depending on bonuses, but the Hurricanes are committed to become more competitive in the marketplace. Still, what would it take?

If Oregon really wants to keep Cristobal, one phone call to college football's most influential booster, Nike's Phil Knight, would solve any money issues. And if Ole Miss truly is serious about competing in the SEC, it will start investing some of that $90 million each SEC team is expected to pull in annually once Oklahoma and Texas join the league into the coach who just took the Rebels to their first 10-win regular season.

Ten-year contract extensions an issue

The other factor ... the length of these new contracts. Do not think the recent run of 10-year extensions is not sending tremors throughout the industry. Coaches like Cristobal and Kiffin are taking note and certain to seek that kind of security whether it's an extension or from someone else.

Michigan State's Mel Tucker, who never had a winning season and is 9-7 in the Big Ten in his two years in East Lansing, was handed a 10-year, $95 million extension. Penn State's James Franklin, who is 8-10 in the Big Ten the last two years, was offered 10-year deal worth $75 million. Liberty (Liberty?) is now paying Hugh Freeze more than $4 million a year.

By these standards, Manny Diaz not only does not deserve to be fired ... he deserves a raise.

Here is why firing Diaz for anyone other than a Cristobal or Kiffin would be foolish and not worth setting back the program even further.

In the three years Diaz has been at Miami, the Hurricanes have the second-best winning percentage in the ACC at 16-9, behind only Clemson.

This season, after a 2-4 start that included losses to Alabama, No. 1 at the time, and Michigan State, which climbed as high as No. 3 in the CFP rankings, Diaz's players continued to develop and play hard, unlike what happened at Florida the last half of season, a big reason Dan Mullen no longer is employed.

Diaz has brought in a solid foundation of young, talented players. The Hurricanes are loaded in the secondary, wide receiver, offensive backfield and, most importantly, have a developing superstar at quarterback in Tyler Van Dyke.

And each year Diaz has shown an ability to add major contributors through the transfer portal. Players such as Jaelen Phillips, Quincy Roche, Bubba Bolden, D'Eriq King and Charleston Rambo.

And many of those players voiced their support for their coach Saturday.

"Love my teammates and love playing for these coaches. @Coach_MannyDiaz

is building something special, this is just the beginning!!" tweeted Van Dyke.

Soon we will learn if it is the beginning of the next chapter of the Manny Diaz era, or if it was the beginning of the end.

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Manny Diaz has a case to keep job unless Miami pursues Cristobal, Kiffin

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