Miami’s Booker T. Washington, which finished No. 2 in the Super 25 football rankings last season, hired Earl Tillman as head coach several weeks ago, but Tillman had not spoken publicly about his return to one of the nation’s top programs until an interview with the Miami Herald on Thursday.
Tillman went 28-8 from 2008 to 2010 and then stepped down to allow Tim “Ice” Harris to return to the head coaching position. This time, he succeeds Tim Harris Jr. after Harris left to become the running backs coach at Florida International University in February.
“I just felt like I was long overdue to have another opportunity,” Tillman told the Miami Herald on Thursday. “When the opportunity presented itself and Coach Harris came back I was willing to step down and let him run the program as long as I was a part of the program. Since then, the program has been pretty successful.
“I wanted to make sure it continues. Being that I had the most experience of the guys that were still left here when [Tim Jr. left], I just felt like I owed it to myself to make a push for it. My health is better. The guys that were here know what it takes. And we’re going to keep it going.”
During his first tenure as coach, Tillman was hampered by a series of five surgeries over three years for a broken tibia and fibula sustained breaking up a fight during a summer 7-on-7 game.
The Tornadoes went 14-0 last season, capped by a victory in the Burger King State Champions Bowl Series, and own the state’s longest winning streak at 41 games. Booker T. Washington opens the series against Florida Class 7A champion St. Thomas Aquinas on Aug. 28.
The coaching staff retains 11 members and lost four but Tillman is confident in the replacements. His biggest challenge, he said, will be replacing himself up in the press box. He has been the associated head coach and offensive line coach for the program.
“We know the expectations are going to be high,” Tillman told The Herald. “We’ve been to four straight state championship games. That’s a big expectation we’ve built. But we’re not going to settle for anything less.”