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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


National champion coach Larry Coker leads UTSA against Arizona football

Jeff Huehn
SAN ANTONIO, TX – SEPTEMBER 7, 2013: The Oklahoma State University Cowboys versus the University of Texas at San Antonio Roadrunners Football at the Alamodome. (Photo by Jeff Huehn)

At first glance, UTSA is a program with basically no history. Only in its third season, the team has yet to have a graduating recruiting class, and it’s never won a conference, let alone a national title.
However, take a closer look at its head coach, Larry Coker, and you’ll see why Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez has the utmost respect for Saturday’s opponent.

Coker has won three Big East Conference championships and one national title. His University of Miami teams in the early 2000s produced countless NFL players, from running back Clinton Portis to wide receiver Reggie Wayne. Coker’s impact on college football and the NFL has been pronounced.

“Those were some talented teams,” junior safety Tra’Mayne Bondurant said. “I remember as a kid, watching ‘The U,’ you wanted to go play for them.”

Coker’s relationship with Rodriguez goes far beyond Saturday’s game. Rodriguez and Coker were rival coaches in the Big East Conference but haven’t faced one another since 2003.

“We had some great battles,” Rodriguez said, reminiscing about his time coaching at West Virginia against Coker. “He had some great teams, and they did a great job and I really got to know him over the past 10 to 15 years.”

Both Rodriguez and Coker became head coaches at West Virginia and Miami, respectively, in 2001. Coker led his Hurricanes team to an undefeated season and beat Nebraska in the Rose Bowl for the national championship, while Rodriguez took over a far less experienced Mountaineers team and struggled out of the gate, finishing with a 3-8 (1-6 Big East) record.

Rodriguez is 0-3 all-time against Coker as a head coach, losing with a combined score of 107-46. Rodriguez did almost beat Coker in their final meeting in 2003, and it took a game-winning field goal by Miami at home to beat West Virginia 22-20. The two schools became co-champions of the Big East that year.

In that 2003 matchup, former Mountaineer defensive back Jahmile Addae, now the Arizona football operations coordinator, made his first career start as a 17-year-old true freshman. Addae had his hands full dealing with all the talent the Hurricanes had on offense.

“I remember coach Addae lining up 25 yards deep,” Rodriguez said with a chuckle. “That’s when they had [receiver] Kellen Winslow and all that.”

Rodriguez seems to enjoy remembering the short but momentous rivalry he had with Coker in the early 2000s — but don’t expect him to look back on the game film from then.

“I don’t even know where [the tapes] are,” Rodriguez said. “They’re probably on VHS somewhere. But they have completely different guys and all that.”

After the 2006 season, Coker was fired from Miami. The Hurricanes had finished 7-6 that year, and there had been a gradual decline in the program culminating in the worst finish for Miami in 30 years. Coker did not return to college football until 2009, when he applied for UTSA’s first head coach position. The Roadrunners did not become a Division I program until 2011, but since then, they have posted a 12-10 all-time record, including their 1-1 start to the 2013 season.

Besides an impressive record, Coker has brought much attention to the start-up program. In 2012, UTSA had an average home attendance of 29,226.

“It’s remarkable what they’ve done in three years,” Rodriguez said. “My hat’s off to that staff.”

— Follow Luke Della @LukeDellaDW

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