In the early part of the 21st century, the Miami Hurricanes were the premier college football program. From 2000 to the end of Larry Coker’s tenure as the Hurricanes’ head coach, Miami posted a record of 71-16 with one national championship (2001) and a 5-2 record in bowl games.
Since then, the Hurricanes have experienced a peculiar fall from grace. Since Randy Shannon took over in 2006, the Canes have just one bowl win (2016 Russell Athletic) and a 90-63 record. In that time, the Hurricanes have been through four different head coaches, including two in just four seasons.
Since the fall of UM, the burning question for the Hurricanes has been if the ‘The U’ could ever be back?
While the idea is fun, it’s near impossible that Miami, or any team in that case, could return or even duplicate what the Hurricanes once were. The 2001 Miami Hurricanes, arguably the greatest college football team ever, had 38 players drafted, including the likes of future NFL Hall of Famer Ed Reed and NFL All-Pro Andre Johnson. That number will likely not be broken by a program, especially with the way college football transfers and recruitments work.
If the Hurricanes wish to return to the dominance of college football, they have to begin to dominate Florida again. In this decade, the Hurricanes have yet to land the top-ranked recruit in the state of Florida. The closest Miami was came in 2013, when the Canes received commitments from the third and fourth-ranked Floridian recruits in Duke Johnson and Tracy Howard.
In 2019 alone, the Hurricanes failed to keep the likes of Tyrique Stevenson (4th-ranked in Florida) and Mark-Antony Richards (12th-ranked in Florida) from moving out of state. The issue here is that if Miami can’t keep the talent local, there’s no way the Hurricanes can reach the National Championship.
Recruitment, however, is only apart of the equation. The Hurricanes have constantly recruited well, including a period from 2016 to 2018, when they produced three consecutive classes that ranked in the top 25. That stretch included the 8th highest class in 2018. The issue isn’t recruitment most of the time but rather development of the talent.
With constant coaching turnaround, the Hurricanes have failed to set a system that develops future NFL Draft picks and consistent starters at the next level. While teams like Clemson have let Dabo Swinney develop the Tigers, the Canes have had issues with patience and development. Clemson does not lose coordinators, while the Hurricanes nearly failed to keep their top coordinators (Manny Diaz) from moving for good.
Outside of that, the overall parity of college football harms the Hurricanes in the long term. Since the beginning of the College Football Playoffs in 2014, Clemson or Alabama have appeared in every National Championships since 2015.
The reality facing the Hurricanes is that Clemson and Alabama have built programs that seem to have no chance of falling. Clemson, who looks prime to dominate the ACC for years, has a relatively young head coach with Dabo Swinney being just 49 years-old, and they’ve also been able to retain defensive coordinator Brent Venables, who is among the top assistant coaches in the nation.
If the program fails to develop that infrastructure and develop their talent like Clemson has done, the Hurricanes will never truly be back to where they once were. The development has to start at the core as well as granting Manny Diaz patience being the new head coach. Until that point, Miami’s hope of being back is merely a pipe dream.