Share “Coker is in the construction business”

BY CHUCK CARLTON Published: May 17, 2009
The polo shirt bore the lettering "UTSA Roadrunners” and provided a sharp contrast with the accessory on the right hand.

An oversized ring was impossible to miss, with an emerald surrounding a stylish U, commemorating Miami’s 2001 national football championship.

At once, Larry Coker’s future and past were on display. Late last week, Coker met with high school coaches through the Dallas area, selling a University of Texas-San Antonio startup program that won’t field a team until 2011.

"Every place I’ve been before,” said Coker, an Oklahoma native and former assistant at Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Tulsa, "we’ve had helmets and a dressing room.”

As much as Coker loves talking UTSA, his Miami experience remains inescapable. He won a national title, nearly won another and was out of a job by 2006. Coker’s end at Miami was symbolized by an ugly brawl against Florida International. Coker became the handy fall guy, dubbed too nice as the program slipped.

He says he couldn’t overcome the media attention on the brawl and the Miami image.

"You change hats and you change shirts,” Coker said. "In my mind, Miami was such a great experience to me. They’ve moved on, and I’m moving on.

"Now I’ve got such a great opportunity here. I don’t think about it much anymore, about the jets flying over and the championships and those things.”

Before becoming intrigued by UTSA, Coker was resigned to being the best grandfather he could be. The championship ring was tucked away in a drawer.

UTSA athletic director Lynn Hickey remembers a brief voice mail message expressing interest.

Hickey thought, "It can’t be that Larry Coker.”

It was.

Facing probably the biggest hire in UTSA athletic history, Hickey did her homework, talking to officials at Miami and the Atlantic Coast Conference.