Manny Diaz is one of the nation's top college football coaches. He catapulted the Hurricanes’ defense to elite status during his three years as the team’s defensive coordinator from 2016-2018 and is now the head coach of the University of Miami football program.
Manny’s impressive resume spans two decades as a defensive specialist coaching several collegiate programs. He has coached in 18 bowl games, amassing a 13-5 record in bowls, and has coached numerous all-conference and NFL players at six collegiate institutions. Manny is also the son of former Miami mayor, also named Manny Diaz, and he and his wife Stephanie, have been long-time family friends.
Football coaches are notorious for having virtually no time off; during this pandemic, how different is your professional life, and how are you and your staff members communicating and getting your job done? In other words, what does "going to work" look like now?
During the season we work 7 days a week, with the shortest day being a 12 hour day. Then in December and January we travel for recruiting. Other than some vacation around the 4th of July, February-April is the “quiet time” of year, working either 5 or 6 days a week, usually 10 hour days on average. So to go “full stop” and just sit at home is quite the culture shock. Like most, we communicate mostly through video conferencing apps. We have found a structure to the day; meeting with our players in the morning and then working as a staff in the afternoons. Recruiting hasn’t slowed down a beat. We are still on the phone and communicating via text and social media with prospects all the time. That part hasn’t changed.
How are you able to stay connected to your players right now when they are all scattered to their homes? How difficult is it to make sure they are staying on top of classwork, eating right, maintaining some exercise and just staying connected to them personally?
It is an extraordinary challenge to make sure over one hundred 18-22 year-olds stay on top of classwork, eat right, and take care of their bodies when we are all together in normal times. Scattered, as we are now, it becomes even trickier. We meet with them every day to go over their academic responsibilities. However, many kids have varying access to computer hardware and a suitable internet connection. That presents a challenge. The same is true with nutrition and fitness. In this time of social distancing they can only work with what they have. Our strength coach sends out a suggested work out every day that you can do with things found around a house (like stuffing a duffle bag with bottles of liquid to make it heavy).
You were having quite an offseason. Your 2020 recruiting class was rated 13th best in the nation, you hired one of the top offensive coordinators in the country in Rhett Lashlee, and secured arguably the top two transfers at their positions in QB D'Eriq King and DE Quincy Roche. After 4 spring practices everything was shut down; how grateful are you that you even got those 4 practices in?
You are allowed 15 practices during the spring semester. We would have loved to get all 15, but we still saw great value from the four we did get in. We were able to introduce the new offense, our players could acclimate to the new coaches, and our transfers and early-enrollees had a chance to show what they can do.
Recruiting never stops in your business; what does recruiting look like at a time of social distancing and safer at home?
Three things changed recruiting forever and they all came hand in hand. First was the elimination of the “long distance call”...remember that? Second was when basically every kid in high school came equipped with a cell phone. Sprinkle in social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat and the whole model turned on its head. Before these things, the college had to bear the ‘expense’ of communication - namely a phone call. Those calls were limited to either certain times a year, or a limit of how often a week. Those limitations still apply today. There is no limit on how often they can call you however. There is also no limit to how often you can text or DM them (after the beginning of their junior year). In other words, recruiting went from being a sometimes thing to an all-the-time thing. The fact that we are all in self-isolation as you would imagine hasn’t slowed down the communication at all. If anything just given both parties more time to connect.
What silver linings have you experienced - professionally and personally - during this time of being essentially forced to remain at home?
The most obvious is getting to spend more time with the family. I have three sons, one just finished college and has moved back in with us, and the other two are in 10th and 8th grade. Being able to spend this time with them is invaluable because we know the next few years will go by quickly.
Photo by Brynn Anderson/Associated Press