The most dynamic, forceful and unapologetic modern day college football dynasty is officially on life support. Seeing how far the University of Miami has fallen is pretty painful for anyone who remembers their reign atop the sports hierarchy while winning four national championships between 1983 and 1991.
This Saturday’s 58-0 loss to Clemson, a beat-down that was on par with the one that Nicky Santoro gave Tony Dogs in Casino, was the Hurricane’s worst loss in school history. The last time they took a similar beating was during World War II, when they lost to Texas A&M 70-14.
Things haven’t been this bad, with morale this low, since head coach Lou Saban resigned after the 1978 season and the Board of Trustees held a vote on whether to eliminate the football program altogether.
Clemson outgained Miami on Saturday, 567-146, and the Tigers are looking like the best and most complete team in college football.
It was a perch that was once thoroughly enjoyed by Miami during the Jimmy Johnson era, when their teams were so good, so arrogant, so vicious and so dominating that it was a perverse aversion to what everyone else in the game was doing at the time.
Their reign of terror had its last hurrah in 2001, when they survived the Pell Grant and pay-for-play scandals that tainted the program as a lawless band of renegades in the ‘80s to rise again and produce the most talented team in the history of college football.
It doesn’t seem like that long ago when Larry Coker benefitted from Butch Davis’ rebuild and outscored their opponents 512-117, thumping the competition like Sonny Corleone did Carlo.
That legendary 2001 squad produced 17 future #1 NFL Draft picks en route to demolishing their challengers by a ridiculous 43 points per game. I can still see Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee, Jeremy Shockey and Andre Johnson obliterating defenses and Ed Reed, Jonathan Vilma and D.J. Williams crushing opposing offenses.
That run was also interrupted by scandal, one in which the program has yet to fully recover from.
If you study college football and the product life cycles of dynasties in the game, you know that things invariably vacillate between prominence and renown to pedestrian mediocrity. Things look terrible now, with the firing of Al Golden mid-season and the embarrassing loss to Clemson.
But cycles of boom and bust are not the sole province of Wall Street. It happens to the best programs in college athletics as well. Miami has been exterminated before. But just like Chucky, just when you think they’re done, they come back to destroy again.
For all of the Hurricanes fans celebrating the firing of Al Golden, don’t forget that he steered a clean ship through the storm of NCAA penalties that resulted from rogue booster Nevin Shapiro’s illegal largesse.
With the taint of that shameful chapter a thing of the past, Miami can now set its sights on returning to an elite program.
Whoever thinks they’re a bloated carcass is highly misinformed. Sitting in perhaps the most fertile recruiting area in the country, it’s not a question of if the Hurricanes will win another national championship, but when.
The coaching vacancy is right up there with USC’s as the country’s most desirable. If Baylor and TCU can turn their programs into elite playoff contenders, why would anyone think that Miami couldn’t do the same with the right coach?
It wouldn’t take much to dominate the ACC Coastal Division, perhaps the weakest division in major conference football. It’s mind-boggling that they have yet to win, or even play in the conference title game.
There’s a lot of work to be done in Coral Gables, from upgrading facilities to funding their own stadium to shelling out the kind of money that Southern Cal and South Carolina will for its next head coach.
Fret not, fans of The U.
The Canes are down, but they won’t be for long. Hurricanes, after their most destructive periods, eventually die out. But they invariably keep coming back to wreak more and more havoc.