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How EA’s NCAA Football grew my love affair with the ‘Canes and Coaching Football

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The EA Sports NCAA Football series made me a bigger ‘Canes fan and want to be a coach

Miami Hurricanes Football: Pictures From Paradise
Ray Lewis at Paradise

When I was a kid, Tecmo Super Bowl was the be all and end all of American Football video games. After Hurricane Andrew I moved to my grandma’s in Jacksonville, then back south to an apartment in downtown Miami with my family. This was the 1992 season. The ‘Canes were undefeated, and I sported my Starter jackets and script M Hurricanes baseball hats in ‘Nole and Gator country before heading back in downtown. I saw Passenger 57 in the Omni Mall movie theatre, and played endless seasons of “Tecmo” against my brother from our mattresses on the living room floor where we slept, played Tecmo seasons for days, and ate Entenmann's Coffee Cake.

It’s 1992. The ‘Canes were undefeated again. I dug Thrill Hill and his six guns in the end zone against Texas on my little black and white TV from my bunkbed. Then the ‘Canes had won it all in 1991 and by the fall of ‘92 I was obsessed. I played Pop Warner Football with my jersey tucked into my pads, my ‘Canes bandana on, my eye black smeared, and my attitude cranked to 11. I watched Tamarick Vanover return the opening kickoff 90+ yards for a touchdown from my Nana’s couch, and then cheered as he got lit up by Mike Barrow, and MY ‘Canes prevailed on another wide right field goal attempt.

In 1993 I bought a Sega Genesis and started my career at being a weirdo obsessed with the EA Sports brand of College Football video games. Bill Walsh College Football, then my quick fore from Oceanic Video into a season of NCAA National Championship football in ‘93 where my brother and I teamed up for the crystal ball, and of course Bill Walsh ‘95. So Bill Walsh 95... I actually refused to attend a New Year’s Eve party with my family because I missed a PAT in BW95 that cost me the title. I was coaching, college football and ‘Canes obsessed.

Eventually the series progressed into College Football USA before being NCAA Football. I would peruse the rosters of teams and Athlon Magazine to figure out where I could sign as a Guard/Center once I was ready. One year I went and bought the Gamebreaker series (‘98 with Warrick Dunn on the cover). But by 2000 I was hooked, and it was on what EA was offering.

In 2000 I remember playing as the ‘Canes and leading my boys back to dominance with guys named Rumph, Reed, Dorsey, and Moss. I hung out in my room in my parent’s house where people would climb into the window and land on my bed (some real Dawson/Joey stuff) and we would play WWF Smackdown and NCAA on my PS1. My favorite edition for years was 2002, the one with Chris Weinke on the cover. That was the fall I went off to college and got my PS2. I played this game as UCF and Miami for hours on end instead of writing that paper or drinking that beer outside my dorm room. I would always play my first season with Miami and win the title before switching to UCF and taking the lowly Knights (I’m a UCF grad- ‘05) to a national title.

Between picking my own plays in Tecmo, running the triple option in Bill Walsh, creating dynasties in the NCAA series and playing my way through Pop Warner and high school- I wanted desperately to be a coach. I wanted to know all I could and I honestly think EA is to blame/praise. Create a playbook, create a coach, and the recruiting features made me want to join the ranks.

The EA games were big on “All Time” and championship year teams and I would input every player for the Hurricanes teams and even re-write the roster to my favorite players. I owned the “Decade of Dominance” magazine and VHS, and bought VHS tapes of old games online. I recorded ‘Canes games on ESPN Classic. I was an old school Grassy member (yep, Grassy). Between EA and the internet- I was a fanatic.

I began coaching in 2003 and didn’t stop playing NCAA Football even though I was coaching. I forged on and played my brother once the PS2 would let you play online games from my dorm room in 2002. I played my boy Mike Gregory (now the Tampa Catholic Head Coach) in my apartment back in 2006. I played while house sitting and eating gummy bears in 2007- completely stoked I could finally run Urban Meyer’s and Navy’s offenses the right way thanks to auto-motion.

How did these games make me more obsessed with coaching? I kept my fix going all off-season by playing season after season of NCAA from my dorm rooms and apartments. How did these games make me an even bigger ‘Canes fan? When you and your friend that was a ‘Nole or Gator, or even worse an Irish fan, got together to play you played for pride.

I even ran the wildcat with Ray Ray Armstrong for a national title, won more games with the ‘Canes than Al Golden ever did, and whooped up on Tommie Frazier’s Huskers All-Time team with the Hurricanes All-Time team led by Jerome Brown and Vinnie Testaverde.

There wasn’t a bigger ‘Canes fan than I was before these games, but they made me an even bigger ‘Canes fan and drove my desire to coach to the next echelon and the series is greatly missed. Today, 8/7/16, I sat down and played NCAA ‘14 on my PS3. It’s still fun, I still get way too into it, I still think it drives my Miami fandom and my coaching ires.