Mike Haywood’s arrival in Oxford wasn’t highlighted with a grand entrance.
It did not resemble 2007 when Nick Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa Alabama to take the reigns of the Crimson Tide. Haywood wasn’t showered with a chorus of boos like Auburn University’s new head coach Gene Chizik.
No, coach Haywood was met with the relative calm of Miami University’s campus while all of the students were on winter break. The University of Notre Dame’s now former offensive coordinator, Haywood became Miami’s first black football head coach a mere day before the Irish’s 28-point crushing of the Hawaii Warriors in the Aloha Bowl.
“I can’t tell you how ecstatic I am, both personally and as a representative for the BCA,” said Floyd Keith, the executive director of the Black Coaches Association in a statement to the Miami University Athletics Web site. “Mike has been a well-known candidate for several years, and his experience and resume speak for themselves. He understands how to win. Brad Bates couldn’t have hired a better candidate. Miami has done itself well.”
Haywood was not the only candidate for the job. For many weeks there was speculation that the job would go to former Miami offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson. Wilson was one of many rumored candidates on a list that included Michigan State offensive coordinator Don Treadwell, Dan Dalrymple of the NFL’s New Orleans Saints and Luke Fickell from the Ohio State University.
The hiring of Haywood could not have come at a more critical time for the RedHawks. For four years, Haywood ran the offense at Notre Dame. In the past, his offenses were highlighted by names like Brady Quinn, now with the Cleveland Browns, Jimmy Clausen, who threw for over 400 yards in the Aloha Bowl, and Jeff Samardzija, a former All-American tight end who now pitches for the Chicago Cubs.
Haywood made it clear that the days of Shane Montgomery’s somewhat laid-back coaching style are gone. He is a no-nonsense coach, similar to that of Mack Brown, head football coach for the Fiesta Bowl champion Texas Longhorns, a team that Haywood previously coached for.
“We will coach a team that has integrity on and off the field,” said Haywood at the press conference that introduced him as Miami’s 33rd head coach. “Our players have to have faith, trust and commitment in one another to achieve the team goals. We will create this culture through discipline. We will create an attitude of one fail, all fail.”
While Haywood’s arrival in Oxford is being seen as a way to turn around the recent failures of Miami’s football program, his departure from Notre Dame leaves a sizable hole for the Irish to fill. And while he will be greatly missed in South Bend, those at Notre Dame wish Haywood nothing but the best of luck in Oxford.
“The Notre Dame program is very happy today for Michael Haywood and wishes him only the best at Miami University,” Irish head coach Charlie Weis said. “They made a great selection of a coach who is very well prepared for an assignment like this -and although we will dearly miss him we realize it’s time for him to run his own program. Michael has both the coaching pedigree and the personal character which will carry him to a successful career as a head coach.”
Haywood’s experience is beyond that of any coach hired by Miami in the past decade. Haywood’s coaching career began in 1988 at the University of Minnesota. From 1989-90 he coached at Army as a defensive ends and defensive backs coach, after which Haywood spent two seasons each at Ohio University and Ball State University. Haywood then took a job as the running backs coach for Louisiana State University, and then as the Texas Longhorns’ running backs coach and special teams coordinator under the legendary Mack Brown. After two years at Texas, Haywood headed back to his alma mater, the University of Notre Dame, as the offensive coordinator and running backs coach under Weis.
While Haywood’s resume is both lengthy and impressive, he feels Miami is where he can begin to make a name for himself as a head coach.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity to recruit student athletes to such a great academic school,” Haywood said. “But (Miami has), at the same time, a fairy-tale football tradition.”
It’s not all a fairy tale for Haywood. Last year was one of the more disappointing seasons for Miami football. A year removed from a MAC East title, the RedHawks mustered only two wins.
“I would say, that at this point in time, in evaluating tapes previously, there’s a lot of young men with a lot of talent,” Haywood said. “There’s some areas on the field in which we need to increase the numbers and increase the talent, however there’s the opportunity to win because of the players we have now and the talent.”
With a tough schedule ahead of the team, including games at Northwestern University and Boise State University, Haywood will have to hit the ground running to gain the success he aims for.
“We are successful as a team,” Haywood said. “What people don’t realize is that coaches are only as good as the players that they coach.”