Greatest Coaches at The U
The Miami Hurricanes has arguably been the most storied college football program in the past 30 years, winning five National Championships in a span of 25 years.
And through the past three decades, the program can only be described as a roller coaster, with UM being at the pinnacle of the college football world, as well as down deep in the depths to on life support on the verge of extinction more than once. The administration nearly killed the program in the 70s because it was losing the school money, and then there was the Pell Grant Scandal which hindered the team for years.
Still, the history lives on, as the Canes provided great rivalries, first round picks every year, and a 58-game home winning streak just to name several accomplishments.
And while the aura of Canes alumni shines on in the NFL (most active players from any school), many forget about the captains who pilot the vessel and its crew.
The head coach turnover rate is extremely high at the U, but Coral Gables has seen its fair share of great coaching. However, four leaders in particular are well above the rest in Miami's history: a pipe smoker, a psych major, a Cougar, and a Cowboy.
No. 4 Dennis Erickson
The lone coach to win two National Titles at The U in 1989 and 1991 is lower on this list because of the Pell Grant Scandal which rocked the program, nearly giving it the death penalty altogether.
Erickson was previously the head coach at Washington State University, traveling all the way across the country to lead the Hurricanes in 1989. It was during his six years as head coach at UM that gave the program some of its more memorable moments on the field.
The 58-game home winning streak, which started four years prior to the arrival of Erickson, was extended until 1994, when Washington defeated the Canes in the Orange Bowl.
There was also the infamous 1991 Cotton Bowl, a game that saw Miami crush Texas 46-3 but is remembered more for the way in which the Canes played throughout the game, accumulating over 200 yards in penalties. The media afterward would chastise Erickson, saying he had lost control of his team. The game would give the Canes an image that the university is still trying to drop.
He left UM in 1994 amid much criticism over the way the team was being run and the many arrests that surrounded the program. While Erickson is the only coach to win the National Championship game twice at Miami, the state of the program at and following his departure drops his rank.
Erickson became the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks after leaving Miami, and also led the 49ers before being fired and returning to college, coaching at Idaho for one season and then moving moving on to Arizona State, where he remains.
No. 3 Butch Davis
While he never won a National Championship, it was the players that he recruited that won it all the year after he left for the NFL in the 2001 Rose Bowl, and fell a late pass interference call from winning a second the following year.
Davis was an assistant with the Dallas Cowboys before coming to Coral Gables, and helped rebuild a bleeding program that was put on probation and stripped of 31 scholarships by the NCAA just after Davis' arrival. Many, including Sports Illustrated who had a very memorable cover, believed the program should have been given the death penalty instead.
The penalties forced the Hurricanes to get creative with their scholarships, as well as to make sure there were no busts in their signing classes.
The players recruited by Davis reads like an NFL roster: Ray Lewis, Edgerrin James, Ed Reed, Reggie Wayne, Jeremy Shockey, Andre Johnson, Bryant McKinnie, Willis McGahee, Sean Taylor, Jerome McDougle, and Jonathan Vilma, to name a few.
In 2000, which turned out to be Davis' final year at the helm, the Canes went 11-1, losing only to Washington, and finished second in the polls behind Oklahoma. The Sooners defeated the Florida State Seminoles in the title game, who the Canes had beaten, which caused many Miami fans to call foul on the BCS system.
He also was recognized nationally for a high graduation rate at the university during his six years in Coral Gables, which is a huge plus in these rankings.
Davis left Coral Gables to become the head coach of the Cleveland Browns, but later resigned in 2004 after a 24-35 career stint and is now at fellow ACC school North Carolina building up yet another strong program.
No. 2 Jimmy Johnson
While much has been made about his hair, this psychology major, who always seems to push the right buttons with his players, has had many successful jobs throughout his career, including at The U.
Taking over after Miami won its first championship in 1983, the former Oklahoma State coach was able to win a National Championship of his own in 1987 and was able to show that Miami's first title was not a fluke, and a sign that the Canes were there to stay.
His first season at UM in 1984 ended with a 8-5 record, with many questioning the hire after several embarrassments, including losing a 31-0 halftime lead to Maryland, and losing on the infamous Doug Flutie Hail Mary which continues to be cursed by Hurricane fans.
However, after 1984, Johnson lost only four games in the next four seasons, going undefeated during the regular season in 1986. The squad only lost to Penn State in the title game that year.
But in 1987 Johnson's squad was able to defeat the Oklahoma Sooners, a team he could not beat during his time at Oklahoma State to give the program it's second National Championship.
Johnson compiled a 52-9 record in his five years at UM, coaching legendary players including "Playmaker" Michael Irvin, and Heisman Trophy winner Vinny Testaverde.
He left Miami after accepting the head coaching job for the Dallas Cowboys from his former roommate at the University of Arkansas Jerry Jones and won two Super Bowls while in Dallas.
He also coached the Miami Dolphins for several years, retiring in 1999. He is now a NFL TV analyst for FOX and also participated in BCS game coverage for the network.
No. 1 Howard Schnellenberger
When the program was on the verge of extinction, it was Howard Schnellenberger who became the Canes' savior.
1979 was the year the coach, known for wearing suits on the sideline and smoking a pipe, arrived in Coral Gables, where the facilities were poor to say the least. Schnellenberger was a pupil of several coaching legends, as an understudy to Paul "Bear" Bryant at Alabama, and Don Shula with the Miami Dolphins, with Schnellenberger the Offensive Coordinator of the impeccable 1972 Dolphins.
Upon his arrival, he stated the program would win the National Championship in five years, with many thinking he was crazy. His strategy was selling his vision to recruits, telling them they could be a part of something great. He put up a metaphorical fence around South Florida shutting down the area's recruits from all other schools (calling the area the "State of Miami"), understanding just how good football players were in the area.
He also completely changed the way college football was playing, installing his pro-style offense at UM, which took advantage of the speed of his team over opposing defenses.
Schnellenberger accomplished his goal when the Canes won the National Championship in 1983, beating Nebraska 31-30 in the Orange Bowl in the final minute, with Kenny Calhoun deflecting a Turner Gil pass on an attempted two-point conversion.
Schnellenberger left Miami later that year, signing a contract to coach in the USFL after there were disagreements between Howard and Miami's administration which included the debate of an on-campus stadium.
However, he never coached in the USFL and coached at the University of Louisville, where he was able to turn around yet another struggling college football program. He also coached a year with the Oklahoma Sooners, going 5-5-1. Schnellenberger now coaches at Florida Atlantic University, a program which he built literally from the ground up and only an hour's drive north away from his most successful job.
Many feel that had Howard Schnellenberger stayed at UM, he would be the greatest college football coach of all-time, over his mentor in "Bear" Bryant, as well as Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden.
Without Schnellenberger, the program could very well have died, which makes him the greatest to ever coach the Miami Hurricanes.