Alonzo Highsmith won’t be hired in an administrative role with the University of Miami football program, despite a brief second flirtation with the idea.
Highsmith, a former Hurricanes legend and the Cleveland Browns’ vice president of player personnel, was pushed by a handful of powerful Board of Trustees and football donors to accept a “Chief of Staff” role to help coach Manny Diaz and athletic director Blake James, according to sources.
A week ago, the Highsmith deal was confirmed as dead due to a lack of interest from Diaz and James. It was revived briefly when James then phoned Highsmith and once again discussed the possibility of him joining the program in some uncertain role.
Ultimately, though, that phone conversation went nowhere. Diaz and James were never comfortable with Highsmith’s role, according to sources, and he won’t be joining the program.
James, on Thursday afternoon, released a statement on Twitter.
“Alonzo is part of the Hurricane family and as someone who has spent his life around football at all levels is a real asset,” James wrote. “We have had numerous discussions about our program and his observations. We approached him about an opportunity to join our team but he decided it was best to stay in the NFL. We wish him continued success in his role with the Browns.”
It wasn’t just a question of what the responsibility, authority and money would be for Highsmith. There always would be the perception Highsmith was the proxy of the trustees and boosters more than working for Diaz inside the program.
The money always was the easiest issue, as a donor stepped forward with an offer to cover Highsmith’s salary on the spot if he was hired. But there never was a clear understanding about what Highsmith’s responsibility would be or who he ultimately would report to in the job.
The conclusion of this chapter, first reported by CaneSport.com, won’t calm the waters inside the program between Diaz and James on one side and several trustees on the other. The two sides have had meetings and discussions about the state of the program that became more emotional with season-ending losses to FIU, Duke and Louisiana Tech.
Both sides also are aware of problems with discipline and inappropriate behavior inside the team, most notably in the quarterback room. Offensive coordinator Dan Enos was fired at the end of the season due to problems in the offense and with some players.
Diaz hired Rhett Lashlee from Southern Methodist to be the new offensive coordinator. But — unless this chapter takes yet another unexpected twist — Highsmith won’t be returning to his alma mater.
©2020 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)