Jumping the Shark: The Moment It All Went Bad—Miami Hurricanes

Kristofer GreenSenior Writer IMay 18, 2009

According to the Urban Dictionary, the term "Jump the Shark" is used to describe "a moment when something that was once great has reached a point where it will now decline in quality and popularity."

The origin of this phrase comes from a Happy Days episode where the Fonz jumped a shark on water skis. The Fonz and Happy Days were never the same again.

Over the next few weeks, I will pinpoint the exact "Jump the Shark" moment for several prominent teams from all over the sports world. 

We begin with college football.

MIAMI HURRICANES—January 3, 2003

To win 34 games in a row requires an abundance of talent, a bevy of good coaching, and catching a few breaks here and there certainly helps. 

Heading into the 2003 Fiesta Bowl, the entire college football world expected the Hurricanes to have a relatively easy time defending their National Title.

Instead, on an electric Friday night, in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State, and with the National Championship on the line, 34 games of good karma went up in smoke for the Miami Hurricanes.

A team that had avoided major injuries most of the past three seasons lost its star running back, Willis McGahee, for the Fourth Quarter and overtime, and saw its venerable quarterback, Ken Dorsey, get banged up on the last drive of the game.

A team that had avoided turnovers coughed it up five times, one of them coming immediately after the Hurricanes intercepted the Buckeyes.

One play after Craig Krenzel hooked up with Chris Gamble for a 57-yard pass that put the Buckeyes on the brink of going up two touchdowns, Miami safety Sean Taylor picked off Krenzel in the end zone, seemingly getting the 'Canes out of danger.

But in a questionable move, Taylor ran the ball out, getting to the 28-yard line before a conspicuous defender—star Buckeyes running back Maurice Clarett—stuck his hand in and stripped Taylor of the ball.

And then came the play that Hurricanes everywhere will remember forever.

The Buckeyes were facing a fourth down from the Miami five yard line.  Ohio State had to score or the game would be over.

The Buckeyes called a timeout and Krenzel called the play—a five-wide formation, Gamble going on the fade-stop route on the right side of the end zone.

The 6'2" Gamble was going against 5'11" freshman cornerback Glenn Sharpe.

Gamble started to run the fade toward the side, stopped in his tracks, and turned for the pass from Krenzel. There was some jostling going on between the two as the play started, but it seemingly was nothing major.

Sharpe, arms by his side, put his chest into a leaping Gamble as the throw arrived and the ball bounced off Gamble incomplete. The line judge, just feet from the play, made no move toward his flag.

Cameramen and photographers ran onto the field thinking the game was over. Many people on the Miami sideline did, too. But the field judge, Terry Porter, who started to throw his flag then hesitated, finally went ahead and chucked it.

Pass interference in the end zone.

Game not over.

The Buckeyes got a fresh set of downs from the two yard line and scored the tying touchdown three plays later on a Krenzel sneak from a yard out. They scored to start the second overtime, too, then held Miami on a fourth-down play from the one yard line to snag the title.

Game now over.

When college football classics are debated in years to come and when critical calls are remembered and debated, No. 1 on the list will most certainly be that pass interference call on the Hurricanes.

Undoubtedly, that play, that call, is what cost Miami a second straight national title and maybe a place as the game's greatest team. It ended a 34-game winning streak for Miami and enabled Ohio State to win its first championship since 1968.


"The loss was, without question, devastating," coach Larry Coker told Sports Illustrated about 12 hours after his team's 31-24 double-overtime loss. 

"Especially when you're down, you come back and have a chance to win, think you have it won and then you don't. It's one of those things that will take a long time to get over. You may never get over it."

Those words turned somewhat prophetic for the coach who began his head coaching career with 24 straight wins. 

Coker was fired after the 2006 season despite winning more games in his first six seasons than any other Hurricanes coach except Dennis Erickson.   

"There were a lot of issues, but certainly the direction the program was going was certainly one," Miami Athletic Director Paul Dee said.

"I wouldn't say that was totally it, but if you want to look in that direction, that was one. There were disappointments. There were opportunities, I think, to play better and we didn't. It all comes to the head coach."

Although Coker had accumulated 59-15 record, it wouldn't be enough to save his job after things spiraled out of control in 2006.

The Hurricanes lost 31-7 at Louisville on Sept. 16, falling to 1-2 and out of the national-title mix, needed a last-second interception just to beat win-less Duke, and then matched the school's longest losing streak in nine years.

Senior defensive lineman Bryan Pata was shot and killed outside his apartment complex on Nov. 7, adding more torment to a team already reeling from its on-field issues.

Miami was also involved in a brawl with Florida International on Oct. 14, a sideline-clearing melee that led to the suspension of 18 FIU players and 13 Hurricanes players. It was something "that took a lot of heart out of our team," Coker said.

"We have suffered disappointments and tragedy off and on the field," Miami President Donna Shalala said in a statement. "We can and will do better for our student-athletes and our community...We need a new start."

Two weeks later, the Hurricanes got that fresh start when former Hurricanes linebacker and current defensive coordinator, Randy Shannon was named head coach.

Shannon is entering his third season as Miami head coach and many consider this season's Miami team the best the program has fielded in close to five years.  The program seems to be moving in the right direction and the talent is starting to return for the Canes.

But there is still a long way to go. 

Miami's NFL-record run of developing a first-round selection in each of the last 14 years came to an end this year when only one Hurricane was drafted by an NFL team.

The streak began in 1995, after Tampa Bay chose Warren Sapp with the 12th overall pick and peaked in 2004 when six Hurricanes—another NFL Draft record—were plucked in the first round.

But as Miami's football fortunes have sagged, so has its reputation with NFL talent scouts.  UM's talent drain was apparent during the school's Pro Day on Feb. 27, when just 10 NFL teams and approximately 25 scouts showed up on campus to test the Hurricanes' draft-eligible players.

According to NFL.com's Gil Brandt, that was the same number of NFL clubs that were at Florida Atlantic's Pro Day the following week.


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