As a child of South Florida growing up in the 1980s, I’m quite familiar with the University of Miami and its heyday. A mediocre also-ran for their first 50 years, the Hurricanes arrival as a football powerhouse was as stunning and impressive as anything college football has ever seen. The state of Florida was so talent rich and yet its big universities – Florida, Florida State and Miami – had done little more than produce a handful of successful campaigns. Miami became the first to win a national championship and thus began an impressive run that saw five titles land in Coral Gables in less than 20 years. But if you go back and look closely at the first championship, you’ll see how shaky the foundation was for the program’s launch.
Almost 30 years ago to the day in the 1983 season opener, Miami was absolutely bludgeoned to death by the Gators, a 28-3 beat down that if it happened today would end most team’s national championship hopes. This would be especially true of a team that played the kind of schedule Miami did that year. Remember they were an independent back then. The rest of their regular season slate included one team that would finish in the final top 20. Needless to say, they ran the table. The Gators, meanwhile, played the usual grind of SEC games. In back to back weeks, they played at eventual #3 Auburn and eventual #4 Georgia in Jacksonville. The Gators lost both games by a combined 8 points. The Gators also tied USC in Los Angeles the week after the big win over Miami. In games against common opponents, Florida beat Mississippi State by 23; Miami won by 24. The Gators beat East Carolina by 7; Miami won by 5. And there was of course Florida State, who the Gators beat by 39 while Miami won on a last second field goal.
Florida had no argument as a title contender with two losses and a tie. The Hurricanes, despite the Florida debacle, were selected to play #1 Nebraska in the Orange Bowl. This was back before BCS rankings, strength of schedule arguments and most importantly any reliable way to pair the two top teams. Nebraska and Texas were 1-2 and undefeated heading into the bowls. Auburn, who played five ranked teams in the regular season including four in the top 10, was #3 with one loss. But Nebraska was locked into the Orange Bowl, Texas to the Cotton Bowl and Auburn to the Sugar Bowl. That allowed Miami, #5 at the end of the regular season, to sneak in.
Before the Hurricanes’ Twitter mafia spasms themselves into a stupor (too late), understand that Miami certainly deserves praise after being given the shot to take on the #1 team. The 1984 Orange Bowl is one of college football’s greatest games and the double-digit underdog shocked the world. But if Tom Osborne kicks the extra point, the game ends in a tie and Nebraska wins the title. If Auburn’s strength of schedule was given the respect it deserved, they would have won the national championship. And if Miami doesn’t win the national title in 1983, does the rest of their run even happen?
These are the kinds of ifs and buts that apply to just about every college football championship including the BCS years and probably going forward with only four teams involved in the playoff. Florida certainly had its share of luck and help in its championship years. Understanding college football’s warts allows for some humility, a knowledge that greatness is to be celebrated but also doesn’t happen in a vacuum. And that’s where we circle back to Miami.
I haven’t lived in South Florida in over 20 years. I haven’t lived in the state since 2000. But you don’t need to share a neighborhood block with a Miami fan to know who they are. There is and never has been any kind of humility. From those fortuitous beginnings in 1983, Canes fan has acted like they invented the game. It is one thing to march around like the King when you are on top, but after a decade of decay and mediocrity, it is probably time to reign it back in a bit.
After a week of watching Andy Hutchins and others do battle with Canes fan on Twitter, you can see just how desperate they are. They want so badly to be back. They need to beat Florida on Saturday. But if they don’t, don’t expect the talking to die down. You see Canes fan can’t help himself. In their minds, smoke machines, fatigues and Uncle Luke never go out of style. It’s a Canes thing.
In honor of the Hurricanes and their city, I’m scrapping the normal top 25 that appears in this weekly column for a special version. Here are the 25 reasons Miami (the school and the city) is the worst:
- Empty stadiums on college football Saturdays
- A Forbes poll named Miami the most miserable city in the U.S.
- Meeting someone who actually went to the University of Miami is like spotting Big Foot. I’ve heard claims and seen dubious footage but it is hard to believe they actually exist.
- Miami Heat fans
- The school plays its football games in a professional team’s stadium 21 miles away from campus
- Drivers are bad everywhere but Miami’s are the absolute worst, bordering at third world country level
- Dwayne Johnson
- Miami’s Metro Rail is one of the worst big city mass transit systems in the country
- Falling for con artist Jeff Loria
- Then completely abandoning the team in its monstrosity of a park
- The city’s massive growth has all but destroyed the Everglades, one of the great natural wonders in the country
- Touting all week that UF is a thug institution and harbors many criminals with no hint of self-awareness or irony
- City is the epitome of America’s class struggles and income inequality with its super rich drawing attention away from the vast majority of the city’s residents suffering to stay afloat
- In fact it is the worst run city in the U.S.
- Since the Hurricanes last national title in any sport (football) in 2001, Florida has won 14 (h/t @AlligatorArmy)
- The stupidity of claiming UF dropped Miami out of fear without realizing Florida would have owned the Hurricanes for most of the past 20 years
- Of course Miami NEEDS Florida to have any chance of selling out its own stadium
- The agony of trying to get to the Keys and getting stuck in I-95 traffic
- Good luck voting if you are poor and a minority
- Mascot confusion
- The main higher education university servicing one of the nation’s largest metro areas is a private institution with yearly tuition approaching $40,000
- Miami is one of the worst places to live and raise a family
- The Miami Dolphins, a team I root for and that has tortured me for all of my 38 years with ineptness befitting the worst franchises in professional sports. Name another team that has squandered eras marked by greats like Dan Marino and Jason Taylor?
- Aaron Hernandez will rightfully spend the rest of his days in prison. Ray Lewis killed a man and never spent a single day in jail.