Typically, you'd expect something great to appear in the No. 1 spot on any “best of” list. Unfortunately, our selection as the very best college football cover in Sports Illustrated history is a stark reminder of the negatives surrounding the college game, and in particular at the University of Miami.
The article about the Hurricanes program, “Broken Beyond Repair,” is an open letter to the president of the university (then Ted Foote, II). The letter urges Mr. Foote to dismantle the football program, a national powerhouse program, in the hopes of salvaging the reputation of the university that was very much in danger.
The move would not have been without precedent. In 1939, the University of Chicago, a member of the Big Ten, canceled its football program due to its perceived detrimental effects on academics. Mr. Foote's father-in-law, the president of the University of Arkansas, believed Chicago had made the right decision and applauded the move.
Sports Illustrated even went so far as to call the Miami football program a “cancer devouring your institution.”
That wasn't far off the mark. Miami, a private university in Coral Gables is surrounded by sprawling estates in gated communities populated by the wealthiest Floridians. But contrary to that setting, Miami was now the school which had a football team that showed up to bowl games dressed in fatigues, failed drug tests (that were swept under the rug), so-called “hundred dollar handshakes” with boosters and every other scourge college football had seen.
The letter was a damning indictment of Miami, and the Hurricanes—again embroiled in an NCAA investigation—have never been able to really shake the stigma of being a “bad boy” program.
Combine this epic opinion editorial by Alexander Wolff with the stark, pictureless, simple typeface cover stating “Why the University of Miami should drop football,” and it's easy to see why this Sports Illustrated cover wins the top spot on our list of best college football SI covers of all time.