Five days after ESPN College GameDay host Kirk Herbstreit called out University of Miami president Julio Frenk, athletic director Blake James and coach Manny Diaz for not being aligned in their goals and visions for the football program, and three days after Diaz publicly defended the program, Frenk released a long statement regarding UM athletics.
The entire scenario unfolded on the heels of a Miami Herald article regarding football not being a priority for Frenk and the administration.
“To Our University of Miami Family and Hurricanes Fans Everywhere, the University of Miami is an institution dedicated to the pursuit of excellence,’’ Frenk began his statement Thursday, a few hours before kickoff of the UM-Virginia game at Hard Rock Stadium. “As our football team gets ready to kick off conference play this evening, I want to make clear that the Board of Trustees and I, as president, recognize the essential part of our brand and reputation derived from athletics and we are fully committed to building championship-caliber teams at the U.
“Earlier this week, at the State of the University Town Hall, I reiterated that our beloved U sits at the cross section of the two sectors most disrupted by the pandemic: higher education and health care. Intercollegiate athletics, which is a key component of higher education for student-athletes and fans alike, is undergoing similar disruption.
“Conversations about college sports tend to focus on the last game—or even the last play—and I can certainly empathize with the emotions of those moments. Yet, we must pay equally close attention to the drivers of disruption and the ways lines are being blurred between amateur and professional sports by factors including NIL legislation, antitrust rulings, promotion of gambling, conference realignments, and a corrosive discourse that falsely portrays college athletics as a means to exploit talented players, instead of what it really is: an avenue to expand opportunities for young people through access to higher education.
“We can either be disrupted, or we can play a role in strategically shaping the course of disruption. As with our academic and health care missions, when it comes to athletics, my job as president is to ensure we are doing the latter. To that end, I have decided to increase the involvement from my senior leadership team to chart a way forward. Rudy Fernandez, in his capacity as my chief of staff, and Joe Echevarria, in his capacity as my senior advisor, will augment my own direct engagement with the athletics director by facilitating seamless alignment between the Board of Trustees, my entire administration, and the athletics department.”
Proud of student-athletes
Frenk went on to say he is proud of UM’s student-athletes “and at the same time recognize our duty to prepare student-athletes for success in all spheres of life.” He said he was “grateful’’ to “our student-athletes, athletics director, his team, and the entire Hurricanes coaching staff for their dedication, and to our fans for their unceasing passion and loyalty. We are one U in our pursuit of winning—on the field and in life. Go ’Canes!”