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UM's Harris on Shannon: 'It's not his fault'

The Associated Press
Published:   |   Updated: March 22, 2013 at 02:55 AM
CORAL GABLES -

Jacory Harris and Randy Shannon clashed at times, over everything from Twitter to turnovers.

Nonetheless, Shannon's firing hit Harris particularly hard.

Miami's starting quarterback - who, along with Shannon, has been the face of the Hurricanes' program - said Sunday that Shannon didn't deserve to be let go, even after the team went 7-5 this season and failed again to qualify for the Atlantic Coast Conference title game.

"It's not all coach Shannon's fault," said Harris, who made his first public comments in more than two months. "To me, it's not his fault at all."

Virtually all of the Hurricanes, some of whom saw themselves in Shannon's image - inner-city kids from tough neighborhoods who sought to buck the odds, earn a degree from a private university while trying to play their way into the NFL - left a hastily called team meeting Sunday morning with the same thoughts as Harris had.

They lost games, so Shannon lost his job.

"Stunned," linebacker Colin McCarthy said. "Can't really comment more than that."

Harris had not spoken with reporters since September, in part over some comments he put on his Twitter feed. Shannon wound up banning the team from using the social networking site, and when Harris got a concussion against Virginia on Oct. 30, the coach insisted his quarterback would play again after getting medical clearance.

But Harris - who has thrown 29 interceptions since the beginning of the 2009 season - did not start against Virginia Tech or South Florida, with Shannon saying Stephen Morris simply outperformed him in practice.

"To me, Stephen Morris is a great guy. He's a great quarterback. He's been doing his job in games," Harris said. "Like I've always said, the better man wins."

Harris came into Saturday's game in the third quarter after Morris was ineffective. He threw a costly interception on Miami's final snap of regulation, denying the Hurricanes a chance to try a potentially game-winning - maybe even a job-saving - field goal.

Hours later, Shannon was gone.

"I just feel like sometimes the players have to be held accountable for things," Harris said. "We didn't go out there and take care of business. ... We're the ones that's out there on the field, not them. The coaches aren't out there running routes. We have to be held accountable for making plays when we have to make them and not playing to our opponents' level."

Players were formally told of the move Sunday morning, though they all knew why they were summoned to campus long beforehand. Ryan Hill was one of the players who spoke, his words moving some in the room to tears.

Some players expressed surprise that the move came before the bowl game.

"They could have taken more time," backup quarterback A.J. Highsmith said. "But I guess they've been thinking about it for a while now."

And although Shannon is gone, he will remain in mind during the run-up to the bowl game.

"We're going to win this for coach Shannon," Harris said.

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