The Team You Love To Hate – NCAA’s Public Enemy #1
It is that time of the year again. College football is back. The grand majority of Americans love to spend their Saturday cheering for their favorite schools. The excitement of seeing these young kids with bright futures truly is different than the Pro Game in many ways. Every school makes sure its players practice good sportsmanship, good manners, and act like model citizens in society. However in the 1980s, College Football was hit by a Hurricane, and it has never been the same since. Often imitated, and rarely duplicated. Ever wonder why they stop putting mics near the players during games? Thank the Miami Hurricanes. From 1980 to 2005, the Miami Hurricanes absolutely became one of the most hated sports teams of all time while also establishing itself as the most successful team in college football. They constantly spoke in foul language. They got penalized repeatedly for unsportsmanlike conduct. They would get into physical altercations on the sidelines with opposing teams, often leading to full blown brawls. They would find ways to intimidate the other team prior to games. It wouldn’t be shocking to see them run up the score on teams who were begging for mercy.
These guys were sharks who consistently smelled blood in the water. Excessive end zone celebrations and dances. The team never ceased to stop smack talking, and they were always able to back up their tough talk. They would play mind games such as landing off the plane in Arizona wearing military fatigues for the 1987 National Title Game. The tone was set, they were ready for war. It is fair to say that the University of Miami’s football program invented swagger. But as the old saying goes “When you’re on the mountain top, EVERYBODY wants to bring you down”. The national media demonized them as thugs. The NCAA always threatened to remove scholarships. Other coaches would petition to shut down the Canes football program. Some schools such as the Florida Gators and South Carolina Gamecocks went as far as to remove Miami from the yearly schedule. They struck fear in the hearts of other teams, and they knew it. All this during a time in which the media also dubbed the town Miami Vice due to the extreme violence and drug wars in the city. It was the perfect team for the rowdiness that surrounded the city at the time.
The State Of Miami (Recruiting Kids From the Worst Ghettos)
Back in 1979, little known coach Howard Schnellenberger took over for a private school in Coral Gables that had never accomplished anything. He announced to the staff and team that he planned on winning a national title within 5 years. Everyone viewed this as standard pep rally style hype. Not to be taken seriously. But then something funny happened that will forever change the face of College Football. Coach Schnellenberger implemented a pro style passing attack into the offense, which was completely unheard of in college. Then he decided to start recruiting the very best local talent regardless of attitude, personality, or even previous crimes committed during the adolescent years. This was incredibly taboo at the time, when most schools would avoid any student athletes who were not perfect little role models. But Schnellenberger didn’t care, and started a trend that other schools would follow in the years to come. He would go into the very worst neighborhoods of Carol City, Opa Locka, Liberty City, etc and sit down to talk to the families of some of the worst kids South Florida has ever seen. Some of these kids were even gang affiliated and involved with drugs during high school. But coach did not care, he believed in second chances, and he wanted to change the trajectory of most of these youth who were misunderstood and had some incredible talent in the football field. What happened next was remarkable and unbelievable.
By 1981 the school with no history suddenly defeated #1 Penn State and then Notre Dame to finish the year #8. The toughness of these kids really showed. They played with a lot of heart and passion. This would get them in trouble often on and off the field. But ultimately it took them to the promise land. By 1983, they made good on Coach Schnellenberger’s promise and won the National Title with a roster of misfits and future NFL hall of famers. The aggressive recruitment plan laid by the coach set the blueprint for future coaches. And the State of Miami was born, anything from Orlando down to Key West was considered the pipeline to Coral Gables. Rivals Florida State and Florida struggled to poach any sort of talent from this area. In the years to come, Jimmy Johnson and Dennis Erickson would win more National Titles in 1987, 1989, and 1991 while crushing other traditional power houses along the way.
The Winning Streak and Uncle Luke’s Pay for Play Scandal
One of the most remarkable records ever set and believed to never be broken is Miami’s winning streak at the Orange Bowl. From 1985 to 1994, Miami didn’t lose a single game at the Orange Bowl in Little Havana. They would go on to win 58 consecutive games. The Orange Bowl became the place of legend and lore. Opposing teams were mentally defeated before games began. Fans were rowdy. The players kept the electric vibe going. Even the best of powerhouses are unable to establish this form of dominance at home that Miami was able to master. During this time, Miami became a stepping stone for NFL talent, housing many future Hall of Famers and first round picks.
During the 80s and early 90s, the local rap group 2 Live Crew from Miami would change the rap game as well. The explicit lyrics in their songs would force Congress to make laws that would eventually create the Parental Advisory sticker in most albums with strong language. The leader of the rap group was Luther Campbell, also known as Uncle Luke. At one time he was so tied with the University’s football program that the team’s coaches would bring him in during half time to give motivational speeches. The players would look up to Uncle Luke. But in 1994 the NCAA discovered a scandal that would ban Luke from attending any future games for the rest of his life. This even cost Miami years worth of scholarships. The scandal was known as “The Pay For Play” system in which Uncle Luke would pay players to make big plays such as fumbles, interceptions, touchdowns. It is believed there was big pay days for players who could injure opposing players. The majority of the team’s players were destined for riches in the NFL, and didn’t mind breaking NCAA rules and participated in the Pay for Play system. The NCAA came down with the hammer on the program they hated, removing a large amount of scholarships from 1995 to 1999. But true dynasties are tough to bury, as Miami was able to prove at the turn of the century.
The 2001 Miami Hurricanes – An NFL Pro Bowl Team Hidden In College
Most people who hated the Miami Hurricanes were glad to see them become a shell of their former selves in the late 90s due to the NCAA bans and sanctions. However by 2000, Coach Butch Davis decided to bring swagger back to Miami. The Hurricanes would get ranked number 2 in the country and posed a real threat to returning to the national stage after defeating the defending National Champs Seminoles and closing out the Sugar Bowl strong against the Gators. All the stars would align in 2001 for the perfect season. It is widely believed that the 2001 Miami Hurricanes was capable of beating even some NFL teams, the team would scatter all NFL draft records for most first round picks. Many could not fathom how this program returned to glory so quickly. And with all this success came back some of the former tactics that made them the envy of college football. Excessive dancing, smack talking, running up scores on teams begging for mercy after a beat down, and smash mouth football.
After running the table and going undefeated, Miami setup a date with Nebraska at the National Title Game. The majority of the country was rooting for the Cornhuskers to take down the bad guys. Wishful thinking, as true talent is often hard to deny. Miami would smack down Heisman Winner Eric Crouch and win 37-14 to once again raise the Championship Banners in Coral Gables. 38 members of this team would eventually go to the NFL, the highest ever by any college team. 12 months later, Miami would find itself again in the National Title game in 2002 against the Ohio State Buckeyes. One of the worst officiating calls in the history of sports reversed Miami’s 6th National Championship, and forced the Canes to come back to the field and stop celebrating the end of the game. A future article will be dedicated to discussing this robbery.
Death Of A Dynasty – Orange Bowl Demolished, NCAA Bans, and Slow Path Back to Top 25
The University of Miami struggled to get back to elite status after the NCAA refs robbed them of the 2002 National Title. They would remain a ranked team until 2005 but eventually old bad habits would catch up with them. The 2006 Brawl with Florida International University was really nasty, in which one Hurricane was swinging a helmet as a weapon to bash people. The Shapiro Scandal blew up on the program worst than any other scandal before. Nevin Shapiro was caught guilty in a $920 million dollar ponzi scheme. During this time it was discovered that they would influence kids to play for Miami. He would offer luxury cars, apartments, and often times pay for restaurant meals, sex parties with escorts. At one point he even paid for an abortion for a girl that got pregnant by one of the players. The NCAA strictly forbids any players from receiving gifts.
The Miami Hurricanes would be banned from Bowl Games for two seasons and lost a lot of scholarships for a few years. But the true death of the dynasty occurred when the Orange Bowl was demolished in 2008. All the history and pride that came from being a Canes fan has not transferred to the new Hard Rock Stadium in which they share the field with the Dolphins. The aura of invincibility has disappeared and other teams no longer fear playing at Miami. After a failed attempt at having Coach Al Golden try to guide the team, the program turned to former QB Mark Richt who left the University of Georgia as head coach to help guide the team. After just three games in the 2016 season, the Hurricanes are ranked #15 and look to have a promising season on their hands. It’s a long way from the elite level that came to expect titles every year and crushed other traditional power houses. But it will be fun to their rise to glory again. A true champion never dies.