by Eric Fulton
From 1983 to 2001, the University of Miami (Florida) Hurricanes were the best team in college football. They won five national championships with four different head coaches. Many times they did it with a ton of controversy. However, what made “The U” the most dominant team in that era were the players that came from the program. Many of them went on to become superstars in the National Football League (NFL). Some already have busts in the Pro Football Hall of Fame with many more of them joining suit one day. Now the program is in dark times, which makes people wonder if Miami can get back to the level that made them great.
On Saturday, the Hurricanes suffered their worst lost in the program’s great history. They were defeated at the hands of the Clemson Tigers, 58-0. Thirty years ago it was Miami that was doing the dominating thanks to great coaches and players. Most of the stands were completely empty last Saturday. For a program that has not been a national championship contender in over a decade, Saturday’s loss was the latest chapter of a setback at Miami.
The next day, head coach Al Golden was fired. Amid the NCAA investigation and fallout caused by the previous coaching regime, Golden went 32-25. However, the Hurricanes were just 17-18 in Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) games. Miami has yet to win the ACC since joining the conference in 2004. They have not won a bowl since the end of Larry Coker’s tenure in 2006. Coker was the last coach to lead the Hurricanes to a national championship in 2001.
So now that the Hurricanes are turning the page in search of their next head coach, where do they go from here? Can this once dominant program return to the elite of college football? I believe they can. There is too much pride and tradition at “The U” not to. Opponents respect the team in green and orange. They once put fear and intimidation into the hearts and eyes of their opponents.
For that to happen again, they must find a coach who can bring back the swagger and attitude they once possessed. They need a no nonsense coach who will work hard like Jimmy Johnson. Johnson was a businessman but he got the best out his players when he was coach at Miami from 1984-1989. Candidates have surfaced from once head coach Butch Davis to former player Ed Reed. Even though they have not won on a consistent level for a while, it is still a great job. However, they must hire the right person who can get them back on track.
Another thing they should do is keep local players from leaving for other places. Florida is a great football hotbed when it comes to adding talent to a college football roster. Usually the best players come from the Miami area. When the Hurricanes were dominant in the ‘80s, a lot of players stayed home and Miami coaches had an advantage other schools didn’t because the players were just down the street. The best players want to be a part of a program with national exposure and is a championship contender every year. Miami is nowhere near that level right now and so the homegrown talent goes elsewhere.
The third may have been the worst of them all. Right now, they don’t have a true place to call home. The Orange Bowl was the best place to watch college football for years. The main reason why is because Miami was really good. They had a 58 game winning streak at home that is still an NCAA record to this day. The city of Miami ended it, tearing down the Orange Bowl and gave that area to the Miami Marlins of Major League Baseball. To me, it is awful and sad. Now the Hurricanes play their home games at Sun Life Stadium, home of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins. At the end of Saturday, the television cameras showed an aerial view of Sun Life Stadium and it was about 95 percent empty. This is a bad image for recruits to see if they want to play college football for Miami.
So Miami has hit rock bottom. For a football program who has carried a rich tradition coming from out of nowhere, it is time for Miami to pick up the pieces and start all over. It is not going to take just one person to clean it up. It has to be a collective effort. The Hurricanes can be great again. The question is will they be “The U” again?