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Miami's Coker feeling heat, but AD staying patient

The Fire Coker movement has never been
stronger in South Florida, yet the man at the storm's epicenter
insists he's not bothered. Miami's athletic director isn't ready to make a move yet, either.

''Larry Coker is the head coach of the team, and we're looking forward to the rest of the season,'' Miami AD Paul Dee told The Miami Herald by phone Sunday night. "It's our hope we can rise to a great level of success this year with an opportunity go win our ACC Coastal Division and perhaps play in the league championship game."

Coker certainly understands a 1-2 record is
unacceptable at Miami -- and Sunday, he said it causes him more
anguish than any sports-radio caller or Web-site poster could
possibly understand.

"I've been in high-profile programs before at Oklahoma and Ohio
State, so I understand it," Coker said. "And I understand the
frustration of our fans. We have great fans, this is a great
program and they expect greatness out of the program. Believe me,
nobody wants to win more than I do."

The problem is, wanting to win clearly isn't enough for the
Hurricanes anymore.

Now unranked for the first time in nearly seven years, and out
of the national championship picture before fall even begins, Miami
is looking like a program in serious trouble.

"I really think and know that a lot of people, the fan base and
everywhere else, are probably ready to give up on this team,"
Coker said. "We're not ready to do that here in our inner circle.
Obviously, we've got work to do, but certainly, this season is not
over. We've got a lot of season left. We've got a lot to play
for."

The Hurricanes were soundly beaten in Louisville on Saturday, a
31-7 defeat that knocked Miami out of the AP Top 25 for the first
time since Nov. 28, 1999 -- a span of 107 weeks.

That, though, is the least of Coker's issues these days.

He's aware of the he's-gotta-go pleas, rumors that the
university's board of trustees was convened for an emergency
meeting Sunday to discuss the coaching situation -- a school
spokesman denied any meeting would take place -- and a perception
that the Hurricanes have fallen from their once-prominent perch.

"I'm not really concerned about job security. I'm really not,"
said Coker, who's in the second year of a five-year extension
signed last year. "I'm not concerned about that at all. I'm
concerned about getting our football team back to where it needs to
be, winning football games. If we do that, job security will take
care of itself."

It's not going to be easy.

Miami is 0-2 against Division I-A schools this year, having lost
13-10 to Florida State in the season-opener, five days before
beating up on I-AA Florida A&M 51-10 in Week 2. And on Saturday,
the Hurricanes were beaten in all areas -- offense, defense and
special teams.

Plus, they had no answers after falling behind -- again. In
Miami's last seven losses, going back to Nov. 6, 2004, it has been
outscored 79-3 after halftime, including 21-0 in the final two
quarters Saturday.

"I've got to find the answer," Coker said. "And it's my job
to do that."

His job may depend on it, too.

The Hurricanes are off until Sept. 30, when they begin a
three-game homestand against Houston -- and there's two distinct
schools of thought on the bye week. Some would say that it comes at
a bad time for Miami because the Louisville loss will linger;
others, like Coker, suggest that the team can use the time to get
better.

"You're either with us or you're not," linebacker Jon Beason
said after Saturday's loss. "Still a long season to go. We've just
got to go back and we've got to find ourselves. Everybody on this
team, individually as a player, you've got to find yourself. I
don't fault the coaches."

No team has ever won the national championship with two losses,
yet all hope is still not necessarily lost.

Miami -- the preseason favorite to win the Atlantic Coast
Conference title -- has seven league games remaining and could still
win the ACC's Coastal Division. Do that, and Miami would have a
berth in the ACC title game in Jacksonville on Dec. 2. A victory
there, and the Hurricanes would find themselves back in the Bowl
Championship Series for the first time in three seasons.

"To look at the future, it's hard right now," Miami center
Anthony Wollschlager said. "But you take a step back, there's
still everything. There's the ACC, there's the BCS, there's a lot
of stuff like that. But in order to do that, we need to get a lot
of things right with ourselves and right now, we're not getting the
job done."