As most of my articles here at BR and at my site, The College Football Place
, are about picking games—and most people relate that to betting—I often get the question, "What is the biggest bet you have ever won?"
While the answer to that is unsure if defined in pure dollar amounts, as I've been fortunate to cash some pretty large winners in my day, I know the best bet I ever won was on January 1, 1984.
In the fall of 1983, there was an improbable rise of a team, the Miami Hurricanes, who had lost their first game of the season to their arch rivals, the Florida Gators, and went on a roll that put them in the No. 4 ranking position. While the Hurricanes hadn't done anything of substance in their long history, this run had given them a date in the 50th Orange Bowl game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
Many consider that Nebraska team to be the greatest of all time; they had the Heisman winner (Mike Rozier), the Outland Winner (Dean Steinkuhler), the following year's NFL No. 1 overall drafted player (Irving Fryar), and were blowing teams out by an average of over 50 points a game. The Las Vegas odds makers had installed the Huskers as 18-point favorites over the upstart Canes.
Now, growing up in Miami, my friend Mike's father, Scott, dragged us to Canes games all the time, it was a Saturday ritual. Though the team wasn't too good and usually only 20,000 or so showed up in the 90-degree temps to watch, we were there every week from opening kick to final gun, never leaving early no matter what the score was.
Usually, we had other friends from the neighborhood with us, like Mark, who would get dragged along as well to help fill the empty seats.
On the way to the game we knew this night was different. There was a magic in the air. Howard Schnellenberger had a chance to make good on his five-year plan to bring a title to Miami (which was actually a laughable thought in the 70s when he took over, as three wins was a good year). The Canes had a freshman QB named Bernie Kosar, who was smarter than the average bear, and a team behind him who believed they could win.
Another way this night was different was parking around the Orange Bowl. Normally, it was $20, but on this night it was $3-5, which leads to another story for a different time.
But as we were driving around looking for a spot, Mike, Mark, and myself made a bet that lives with me to today: When Miami wins, whoever pats Howard Schnellenberger on the back after the game gets a case of beer.
While this seemed pretty far-fetched, given Miami's status as such a huge underdog and the likelihood we would not even get close to the Canes coach, we all were in.
The game is documented in history books, and every time there is a poll of the greatest game ever, this one hits it's rightful spot at No. 1. And while NY Jet fans may disagree, this game was the original "Miracle in Miami."
I really don't want to go too much into the detail of the game, but it came down to a missed two-point conversion with less than a minute to go, and the Bowl went wild.
While most fans were jumping up and down, the three of us were darting our way to the field. Many others followed and it was a true celebration. While many were high-fiving players, I remember being on a search for Howard Schnellenberger. When I finally found him, he was surrounded by state troopers...no such luck.
When I finally met up with Mike and Mark, Mike claimed to be the winner, that he had done it. While neither of us believed him, he swore up and down it happened. The next morning when I opened the Miami Herald, on the front page was Howard Schnellenberger shaking hands with Tom Osbourne.
Behind Howard is a fan jumping up and down, holding a giant orange foam "we're #1" hand and patting Howard Schnellenberger on the back.
I now own the game on video, and it's on ESPN Classic all the time, Mike jumping up and down behind Schnellenberger included. It gets mentioned every year, and every time I see Nebraska starting QB Turner Gill on TV, all I can think about was that night I lost the best bet I ever made.
It is a part of me and what makes college football such a huge part of my life today.