By: Ken LaVicka
ESPN 106.3 Staff Writer
Almost fourteen years ago Larry Coker was on top of the football world. Now, Coker is more than content with his more inconspicuous life as the head coach at upstart Texas-San Antonio.
After six seasons in charge of the final years of University of Miami college football legitimacy, including leading the 2001 squad that claimed the school's last national championship, Coker will return to South Florida on Saturday as his Roadrunners take on Florida Atlantic in Boca Raton.
He joined Evan Cohen on ESPN 106.3 in West Palm Beach, Fla. on Thursday afternoon and admitted that wins, even under-the-radar ones, are celebrated a bit more at UTSA than they were, and are, at Miami.
“They appreciate it a little more [in San Antonio],” Coker told Cohen.
UTSA, in its fourth year of competitive football and first at the FBS level, tasked Coker with building a football program and he's developed it into a squad that won seven games last year in its transition to Division I. The Roadrunners are 1-2 entering Saturday's contest in Boca, but one of those losses was a near upset of Arizona.
Coker is grateful for the level-headed mindset that comes with running a mid-major program like UTSA's as opposed to his previous gig with the high-pressure Hurricanes.
“Sometimes expectations are more realistic at a program like we're in now,” said Coker. “I don't know, maybe at Miami, maybe they're not all that realistic. Certainly [the expectation] is to win every game and play in national championships every year, which usually doesn't happen.
“The thing that you see here is that we've won one game and played Arizona in a tough game and lost to Oklahoma State and people have been pretty pleased and they've been playing pretty well. Different expectations right now.”
Coker was fired at UM after a disastrous end to 2005 and subsequent 2006 season that saw the Hurricanes suffer a 40-3 Peach Bowl loss to LSU, the tragic murder of defensive lineman Bryan Pata, a nationally-televised blowout defeat at the hands of Louisville, the high-profile brawl against FIU and a four-game losing streak.
When asked if he had any ill-will against the school that made his name a household one, Coker didn't hesitate to take the high road.
“I don't think so. They wanted to make a change. That's their prerogative and I respect that.”
Coker also understands the weight placed on his shoulders in Coral Gables.
“Expectations were high. I knew that going in. You win five national championships in that short amount of time, that's pretty hard to top.”
Saturday's FAU-UTSA kickoff is at 5:00 p.m. It can be heard on ESPN West Palm (106.3 FM), the flagship for Florida Atlantic football, with coverage beginning at 4:00 p.m.