18 years ago, the Miami Hurricanes fielded the greatest football team ever. They won a championship, then nearly repeated the following season. Even in the disappointment of the 2002 National Title game, it seemed the second part of the Miami dynasty was born. It wasn’t. Under Larry Coker, the Canes slowly drifted further and further from the spotlight until disappointment became the new normal. Miami has arguably had one good, “U”-like season since Coker’s firing, Mark Richt’s 2017 campaign. Every other year has been a mix of season-long garbage or promise that fizzles into nothing.
And yet, for a team that is one of college football’s name brands, a recognizable logo and a legendary history that came from nowhere, even mediocrity couldn’t shake The U like it has other once-great programs. No, Miami has continued to have solid recruiting classes and has never ceased in being a pro football factory, even if it has slowed down from the absurdity of the early 00’s. Miami has had one double-digit-wins season (2017) since 2003 and one bowl victory since 2006. It’s been the subject of one of the largest CFB scandals in recent memory, even if booster scandals at Ole Miss and Mississippi State seemed to have larger and more dangerous implications. Through all the turmoil, all the bad coaching and poor decisions by Athletic Directors, Miami has remained relevant if unremarkably average.
Miami is a sleeping giant, the type of program that could dominate college football if the right pieces are put in place. The U is a unique school, the type of program that top recruits all over would love to come play for if the Canes can prove, definitively, that they’re back.
Although the Canes don’t have a legacy that is as deep or rich as programs like Notre Dame, Nebraska, or Alabama, they have one that is still 40 years old and features many of the greatest stars to ever play college, or professional, football. And they have something that teams like Alabama will never have; fun. Not only in the location of the school but in the way people consider the program. Today and tomorrow’s recruits will remember Billy Corben’s documentary and imagine how fun it was to be a Miami Hurricane in the 80’s. These recruits can fulfill that nostalgic urge by wearing the Orange and Green and being apart of the newest chapter in Miami history. The Canes are resurrecting that swagger and uniqueness with things like the Turnover Chain and the enduring tradition of the smoke.
Alabama has nothing like that, just two great head coaches who are remembered for their frowns and not their smiles. You win at Alabama, but you don’t necessarily have fun like you would at Miami, that is, if Miami can win. A winning Miami program is likely something that would be hard to derail. The legacy, the alum-base, and the swagger of The U is something that appeals to many recruits, even while the team isn’t enjoying top-tier levels of success. But if they can find a way back to it? Miami can return to dominance and remain there thanks to the mythology of it’s program.