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The State of the U (Finale) - Grading The Major Team Sports

Football, Basketball, and Baseball haven’t been graded yet. We change that to conclude our look back at the 2021-22 competitive year.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 22 FSU at Miami Photo by Samuel Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This is the final, Part 3 of our “State of the U” series grading each and every sports program at the University of Miami. To recap, we handed out grades for Olympic Team Sports in Part 1, and Individual Sports in Part 2 of this series. Click the links below to get caught up:

Today we’ll cover the major sports — Football, Men’s Basketball, and Baseball — and give out our final grade for the overall State of the U. As a reminder, one factor being considered is points for the NACDA Directors’ Cup.

Football: C

  • Season Record: 7-5 (5-3)
  • Post Season: Sun Bowl invitation (withdrew because of COVID)
COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 20 Virginia Tech at Miami Photo by Samuel Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

There’s a lot of buzz surrounding the Hurricanes’ flagship athletic program. UM deserves all the credit for hiring its most exciting (and expensive) coaching staff in two decades. Recruiting is trending upwards under Coach Cristobal. Miami has a legitimate Heisman Trophy contender at QB for the first time in a long time. There’s plenty of reasons to feel optimistic.

But this grade isn’t about next season. It’s about last season. And to put it mildly, last season stunk and rightly lead to the dismissal of the program’s head coach. The season started with promise - a top 15 preseason ranking and a hyped opener against Alabama - only to quickly fall off the rails. Although the Canes finished the season strong, winning five of their last six games, the one loss over that stretch was against Florida State.

One of the few highlights was Tyler Van Dyke (QB, Fr.), who was named the ACC Rookie of the Year after assuming the starting QB position mid-year when D’Eriq King (QB, Sr.) went down with an injury. Charleston Rambo (WR, Jr.), DJ Scaife, Jr. (OL, Sr.), and Lou Hedley (P, Sr.) were also named to the All-ACC Second Team, while Jaylan Knighton (RB, Fr.), Zion Nelson (OL, So.), Tyrique Stevenson (CB, So.), James Williams (S, Fr.), and Andy Borregales (K, Fr.) were ACC Honorable Mention.

Off the field, four players - Van Dyke, Nelson, and Hedley were joined by Jarrid Williams (OL, Sr.) on the All-ACC Academic Team. Additionally, not far removed from a record-setting streak of first round NFL draft picks, the only Cane drafted last year was Jonathan Ford (DT) in the 7th round.

Bottom line... this grade does NOT improve without on the field results. The fact of the matter is that football has been mired in mediocrity for years. Hurricanes fans expect the football program to compete annually for conference championships and to usually be in the national title conversation. A winning record and a Sun Bowl birth would normally be a C+ grade, but we’re docking this further for losing to Florida State as the rotten cherry on top.

Men’s Basketball: A+

  • Season Record: 26-11 (14-6)
  • Post Season: Semi-finals of ACC Tournament; Elite Eight of NCAA Tournament
NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament - Sweet 16 - Iowa State v Miami (Fl) Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

The highlight of the ‘21-’22 year has to be the men’s basketball team making their first Elite Eight in program history. The Canes had a rough 4-3 start, including losses to UCF and Dayton, but this team rallied off 9 straight wins capped by a victory at Duke. Miami ultimately earned a No. 10 seed in the NCAA tournament and proceeded to march into their first Elite Eight before falling to eventual champion Kansas. The final AP Poll had the Hurricanes ranked No. 16, one of their highest finishes ever.

Kameron McGusty (G, Sr.) lead the team with a First Team All-ACC selection, while Isaiah Wong (G, So.) was selected to Third Team All-ACC and Charlie Moore (G, Sr.) earned All-ACC Honorable Mention. Moore also was also tabbed to the All-ACC Defensive Team. Moore and Sam Waardenburg (F, Sr.) were also named to the All-ACC Academic Team.

Coach Larrañaga has been masterful effectively using the transfer portal to reload the roster after several, injury-riddled seasons. Next season seems no different as the program welcomes Sun Belt Player of the Year Norchad Omier and First Team All-Big 12 honoree Nijel Pack through the transfer portal. The Canes reached new heights last year and look poised to stay competitive for years to come.

Baseball: B

  • Season Record: 40-20 (20-10)
  • Postseason: 0-2 in ACC Tournament; No. 6 National Seed in NCAA Tournament; Eliminated in Regionals (1-2)

Like the football team, baseball is graded on a tougher curve given its historic success and national championship pedigree. Miami used to be a mainstay in the College World Series, but the baseball team hasn’t visited Omaha since 2016. At one point this year, Miami looked like a top 5 program and Gino DiMare was eyeing his first CWS as the Canes’ skipper. But as the post-season approached, the wheels fell off. Despite earning a No. 6 National Seed, Miami went 0-2 in the ACC Tournament, and then needed a comeback win against Canisius (!!) to avoid being swept out of its own regional.

The 2022 team was lead by closer Andrew Walters (RP, So.), a First Team All-American, and ace starting pitcher Carson Palmquist (SP, So.), a Second Team All-American. Walters and Palmquist were also All-ACC First Team selections. Jacob Burke (OF, So.), CJ Kayfus (1B, So.), and Yohandy Morales (3B, So.) were named Second Team All-ACC, while Karson Ligon (SP, Fr.) was named to the ACC All-Freshman Team.

Palmquist was Miami’s highest drafted player, being selected in the 3rd round by the Colorado Rockies. Other Miami Baseball draftees included: Alex McFarlane (SP, So.) in the 4th round, Maxwell Romero Jr. (C, Jr.) in the 9th round, Burke in the 11th round, Jake Garland (SP, Fr.) in the 17th round, and Walters in the 18th round. Thus far only Romero Jr. has signed his professional contract, but players have until August 1st to turn pro.

Had Miami pulled it together and made it back to Omaha, as a nationally seeded squad is supposed to, this would have been an easy A grade. But that’s not what happened, and that’s not the grade they earned.

Final Athletic Department Grade: B+

  • Final Directors’ Cup Ranking: No. 49
  • Top Performing Programs: Men’s Basketball (A+), Women’s Swimming and Diving (A+), Men’s Diving (A), Women’s Track & Field (A) Women’s Tennis (A), Women’s Basketball (A), Women’s Volleyball (A-), Men’s Track & Field (A-)
  • Average Performing Programs: Men’s Tennis (B), Baseball (B), Women’s Rowing (B-)
  • Bottom Performing Programs: Women’s Golf (C+), Football (C), Men’s and Women’s Cross Country (C-), Women’s Soccer (C-)

Unlike the Directors’ Cup, the State of the U DOES place greater emphasis on certain programs in handing out its final grade. No matter how well the other programs perform, an “A” ranking is simply impossible when the flagship football team continues to be stuck in mediocrity. Maybe we could justify an A- rating if Miami’s historically good baseball team made it back to Omaha, but they didn’t.

Miami ended up finishing the year 49th in the Directors’ Cup. To give fans some context, Miami finished No. 62 in ‘20-’21, No. 58 in ‘18-’19, and No. 62 in ‘17-’18 (there were no standings in ‘19-’20 due to Covid). So while 49th was definitely an improvement, the Canes still finished 10th in the ACC behind North Carolina (6), Notre Dame (8), Virginia (11), Florida State (14), NC State (17), Duke (21), Virginia Tech (33), Louisville (34), and Wake Forest (45). For the curious fans keeping an eye on the conference realignment news cycle, Miami would have been 12th in the SEC and 10th in the Big Ten.

Our “B+” grade for the 2021-2022 year is based on the strength of an improved Directors’ Cup finish and several programs’ historic accomplishments. Miami produced numerous All-Americans, and diving gave the Canes a national champion. Several teams also made deep runs into their respective NCAA Tournaments.

Congrats to those programs that met and exceeded expectations last year, and to all programs we’re rooting for continued improvement next year.