Miami Hurricanes Football: Top Coaches in the History of "The U"
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From the early 1980s on into the next century, the football program at the University of Miami had one of the most successful runs in modern college football history.
Seemingly out of nowhere, a once largely irrelevant program became a national powerhouse. From 1983 to 2001 the Canes racked up five national titles, and enough conference titles to fill a pickup truck.
Championships don't come by accident. They are won by great coaching and the Hurricanes certainly had plenty of that.
Construction the order of this list was difficult, and will likely draw criticism, but hopefully it makes for good discussion. Enjoy!
6. Larry Coker (2001-2006)
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There are a few reasons Larry Coker isn't higher on this list, even though he won a lot of hardware in a short amount of time. His 2001 national title still comes into question with a lot of people and is often credited to his former boss Butch Davis.
I contend that it's tough to win a championship regardless of whose players you have, but the issue remains. The other problem is that Coker probably dominated a Big East Conference, that, hindsight will tell us, wasn't very good. This might explain his drastic changes in fate that happened almost immediately upon entering the ACC.
Regardless of these questions, Larry Coker belongs on this list.
Six seasons, 60-15 overall, 34-11 in Big East/ACC, 4-2 in bowls
Big East Championships—2001, 2002, 2003
Big East Coach of the Year—2001, 2002
AFCA Coach of the Year—2001
Bear Bryant Coach of the Year—2001
5. Butch Davis (1995-2000)
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Butch Davis came to Miami with the expectation to fit into a long string of very successful head coaches. Davis replaced Dennis Erickson who had just left Miami under fear of NCAA sanctions, but had won two national titles and dominated the Big East Conference.
Coach Davis left the Canes for greener pastures in the NFL after the 2000 season, but probably forfeited a national title that came the next year under his offensive coordinator Larry Coker.
Six seasons, 51-20 overall, 33-9 in Big East, 4-0 in bowls
Big East Championships—1995, 1996, 2000
Big East Coach of the Year—2000
4. Andy Gustafson (1948-1963)
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Andy Gustafson gave the Miami Hurricanes program something it had never really had, which was long-term stability.
There is almost always a coach or two in a team's history that gets overshadowed by later accomplishments, and at Miami, that man is Gustafson.
He still has the longest tenure and the most wins of any coach in Hurricanes history, and deserves to be recognized as a key to the foundation of Miami football.
16 seasons, 93-65-3 overall, 1-3 in bowls
University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame—1972
College Football Hall of Fame—1985
3. Howard Schnellenberger (1979-1983)
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The Miami Hurricanes that became a national powerhouse in the 80s and 90s owe the majority of their success to Howard Schnellenberger.
Before he arrived at Miami, the Hurricanes were largely irrelevant on the national stage and had nowhere near the notoriety they have had in recent years. He won a national championship in 1983 and kicked off an incredible run that would last clear into the next century.
He would leave the Canes for a new USFL team supposedly coming to town, but when investors backed out, Schnellenberger returned home to Kentucky to take over a struggling Louisville program. Oh, what might have been.
Five seasons, 41-16 overall, 2-0 in bowls
Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year—1983
University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame—1993
2. Jimmy Johnson (1984-1988)
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Jimmy Johnson is perhaps best known as an NFL coach, but before he was Jerry Jones' right hand man in Dallas, he was doing a lot of winning in Miami.
Johnson came in directly following a national championship under Howard Schnellenberger and in his first four seasons, he would have some hardware of his own. The 1987 title legitimized Miami football as a perennial contender and helped to maintain an epic run of successful teams for years to come.
Five seasons, 52-9 overall, 2-3 in bowls
University of Miami record—36 consecutive wins
University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame—1996
1. Dennis Erickson (1989-1994)
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Having Dennis Erickson at the top of this list will likely be a controversial talking point for Miami football fans, as Jimmy Johnson is probably the most popular of the bunch.
Popularity aside, Dennis Erickson's success at Coral Gables is unmistakable. Like Larry Coker, Erickson's first national title can be debated as being the work of Jimmy Johnson, who left him with plenty of weapons, but Erickson soon silenced any debate by going and winning himself another championship a few years later.
The 1991 championship solidifies Dennis Erickson as the best coach in Miami Hurricanes history. This isn't a claim that he was the most talented, most popular or had the most potential, but Erickson stuck around long enough and won enough hardware to deserve this spot among Miami coaches.
Six seasons, 63-9 overall, 19-1 in Big East, 3-3 in bowls
National Championships—1989, 1991
Big East Championships—1991, 1992, 1994
Big East Coach of the Year—1991, 1992, 1994
Sporting News Coach of the Year—1992
University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame—2005