The Miami Hurricanes football program has been the most influential college sports team of the last fifty years. I don’t say this as a biased fan, but as a simple statement of fact.
From their emphasis of speed on the field, to their style and swagger off of it, Canes football has been a trendsetter in about as many ways as humanly possible. As tough as it has been watching other big-time college football schools dominate for the last twenty years, it is nice knowing the team I root for played a major role in the advancement of the sport. Wait, did Miami help cause their own demise? That is a question for another day. This is an article to celebrate the Canes and their contributions.
Below is a list of Miami Hurricanes football innovations that have been ripped off or stolen.
Running through the smoke
From the 2010 AP’s 12 best college football traditions article: #2 - The smoky entrance became a part of Miami football back in the 1950s when fire extinguishers were used to create the cloud. The effect stuck, and when the Hurricanes turned into the most dominant program in the college football in the 1980s, their sprint onto the field through the smoke suited the team perfectly.
The AP summed it up nicely. After Miami started the intimidating entrance, there have been too many teams and bowls to list that have copied it. I can’t blame them; running through the smoke looks awesome. Let’s be real though, everyone knows running through the smoke is synonymous with Miami Hurricanes football.
I like this grainy video below much more than the HD-quality ones on YouTube. It really showcases the fan perspective and noise. Plus, one of the HD ones was from 2013 against Georgia Tech. An Al Golden smoke entrance in this article? No way.
This is more of a ruined it for every other school as opposed to a stolen innovation. Still, the Canes were the first to perform many of the soon-to-be illegal celebrations after touchdowns and big plays. This was covered in detail in ESPN’s 2009 30 for 30 documentary, The U. Before the 1991 season, the NCAA cracked down on football celebrations, releasing a video showing examples of what would not be allowed moving forward. The video was filled with Canes game tape. This was a point of pride for Miami players and fans. A main reason for the new rules was the Canes’ performance in the 1991 Cotton Bowl against Texas. Miami won 44-3. They also racked up 202 penalty yards. The NCAA deemed the behavior of the Hurricanes that day as “The most disgusting thing in the history of college sports.” Hell yeah. Stick it to the man.
Pivoting off the crackdown on celebrations, the Miami Hurricanes were one of the first schools to both take on and openly antagonize the NCAA. Jalen Rose spoke about how the Fab Five loved the Canes football team; they even wore Miami gear. The Fab Five also took on and antagonized the NCAA. No coincidence there. Once the Miami Hurricanes football program started winning, they were despised by the NCAA for many years. While other schools were getting away with murder (figuratively), Miami got the book thrown at them for some Pell Grants. Give me a break. To a bunch of other big-time college football programs: You’re welcome.
Apparel deal for the entire athletic department
This was covered in an incredible article penned last year by some handsome and talented contributor named Mike Schiffman. Please check it out below. To summarize, the University of Miami was the first college to have an athletic apparel deal for their entire sports program, both men’s and women’s, partnering with Nike in 1987. This never-before-seen pairing paved the way for all future college sports apparel deals from that moment on. As a result, the Canes made tons of money for many schools and several sports apparel companies. Like many things, it would’ve happened at some point. However, the University of Miami had the foresight to think up and execute this new way of partnership and promotion of their athletic brand.
And we come to the biggest accomplishment Manny Diaz had during his coaching tenure at Miami, the Turnover Chain. I remember my good friend, a lifelong Gator fan, texting me after its debut, saying, “Damnit. That thing is awesome. I’m jealous.” I appreciated the honesty. Turns out, a bunch of other schools were jealous too.
The U’s Turnover Chain was a phenomenon. It was featured on ESPN’s College Gameday. It was printed on all types of clothing and posted all over Twitter and Instagram. It was a discussion point among many a college football fan in many a bar. There was even a song named after it. This popularity inevitably led to copycats. They are listed below in no particular order. I suggest looking up the pictures as they are quite entertaining.
Oregon’s horrific metallic chain, Boise State’s throne, Memphis University’s robe, Louisville’s boxing belt, SMU’s crown and chalice, Tulane’s beads, Texas A&M’s cane, Akron’s pencil, Kennesaw State’s piece of wood, UNLV’s slot machine, Tennessee’s trash can, West Virginia’s miner’s helmet, Virginia Tech’s lunchpail, Mississippi’s wide receiver belt, Georgia’s spiked shoulder pads, and Florida State’s incredibly lame backpack all tried replicating the magic of Miami’s Turnover Chain.
That’s SIXTEEN copycats. I don’t think I need to say anything else here.
Throwing up The U - two-hand team signals by fans
FSU fans will argue for “The Chop”. While that absolutely came first, it’s a motion, not a symbol or logo made by both hands. The same logic applies for the Texas “ Hook ‘em Horns” hand sign. It’s only one hand! Lazy. Throwing up The U was the first of it’s kind. Turns out, there is an unimportant controversy on who invented it.
In 1992, Canes cheerleader Bill Tigano says he suggested Miami have a hand symbol to separate itself from the “chop” and “chomp” of the Noles and Gators, respectively. Thus, throwing up The U was born. However, Eric Van Der Floot, a fellow cheerleader, was photographed throwing up The U on the sidelines during the aforementioned 1991 Cotton Bowl. But wait, there’s more. Former UM student Juan Valladares claims he invented it during the 1984 game against FSU. Are you sick of this yet? Too bad. There’s video of UM cheerleader Mark Chaykin throwing up The U before the 1987 game against FSU. I like his story the most. The video below covers it all. It’s actually fairly interesting and very well-made.
Well, the above was all news to me. I don’t remember throwing up The U when I was a kid. It wasn’t a thing for me until I watched wide receiver Ryan Moore do it after a touchdown against the rival Florida Gators in the 2004 Peach Bowl. Remember Ryan Moore? Anyway, he brought it back in a big way. I was throwing up The U every chance I got after that. And since Miami still had some big wins the rest of that decade, it happened quite often. Once Al Golden arrived, not so much. Yet, to this day, when someone asks who my college football team is, all I have to do is throw up The U and they know exactly who I am referring to.
Oregon, Oregon State, and Utah fans are the most blatant imitators of the two-hand team signal. They all look somewhere between close and almost exactly the same as throwing up The U. TCU fans make “frog fingers” with their hands now. Cool. Tennessee fans spell “Vol” with their hands. (Sigh). Also, props to Tennessee for being in here twice.
Sadly, I don’t see Miami Hurricanes football providing the college football world with any new and innovative traditions in the next fifty years. Although, who knows? Maybe something with NIL? I kid, I kid. Kind of. Just winning would be perfectly acceptable for Canes fans. Get back to winning and everything else will come.