John Clay: New coach finds himself at Miami

Miami (Ohio) is the Cradle of Coaches, you know.

Bo Schembechler, Paul Brown and Ara Parseghian all either played or coached football there. So did Woody Hayes, Sid Gillman, Paul Dietzel and Bill Arnsparger. Just to name a few.

But it wasn't so much the legendary predecessors that drew new football coach Mike Haywood to the Mid-American Conference school in Oxford. It was the students there who reminded Haywood of himself.

"In doing the research prior to interviewing for the job," Haywood, 45, said this week, "I realized that a lot of students, not just student-athletes, that attended Miami University were young people that may have applied to Harvard, Stanford, Northwestern, Duke, Notre Dame.

"And I realized that there were a lot of students who had similar backgrounds to myself."

Indeed, as Haywood makes his head coaching debut Saturday when Miami meets Kentucky at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, he does so as an elite Houston private school product who spent his college days, and a good portion of his coaching career, at Notre Dame.

Haywood played for both Gerry Faust and Lou Holtz in South Bend. After coaching at Army, Ohio and Ball State, the former lineman was hired by Gerry DiNardo to be running backs coach at Louisiana State.

He remained in Baton Rouge when Nick Saban became the Tigers' head coach before joining Mack Brown at Texas for a pair of seasons.

Haywood then returned to his alma mater and served as Charlie Weis' offensive coordinator for four seasons.

Meanwhile, Miami dipped to an un-Miami-like 10-27 over the past three seasons, including 2-10 last year. Athletics Director Brad Bates let head coach Shane Montgomery go. In researching possible successors, Bates kept hearing Haywood's name.

"He had this incredible national reputation," Bates said Wednesday. "Once we finally got to meet with him, he was incredibly impressive. Our president, David Hodge, has said it was the most impressive interview he has ever experienced."

Still, for a team picked to finish last in the MAC's Eastern Division, there is plenty of work to be done. As much work has been done with the head as the body.

Haywood quickly installed a dress code. He required that players not only attend class, but do well in class. He has gone to great lengths to make sure the RedHawks aren't fixating on extracurriculars.

"The first thing we wanted to establish was discipline," Haywood said. "Nothing against the previous staff, because I think they are fine football coaches. However, we wanted to make sure that we instilled a little more discipline on the field and off the field because those things that happen off the field carry on the field, as well."

To offset his lack of head coaching experience, Haywood brought in a veteran staff boasting 199 years in experience. The 73-year-old Morris Watts is the team's quarterbacks coach. The 66-year-old Carl Reese, former defensive coordinator at LSU and Texas, runs the defense.

"It's an amazing staff," Bates said. "To Mike's credit, the very first interview with him, he said he was going to bring in great, experienced coaches and surround them with young, hungry coaches. And that's exactly what he's done."

The ultimate goal, said Haywood, is to be more physical on offense, more aggressive on defense.

"We've had to develop a mentality of a little bit more physical football," said the coach.

But he feels confident the mental aspect will come, no matter how the RedHawks might fare in Haywood's debut Saturday.

After all, when the coach looks at his new school, he sees himself.

"What a great place, where I can go in and recruit the student-athletes that are similar to myself," Haywood said. "And if you can't recruit people like you, it's going to be hard to recruit."