The Miami Hurricanes have been a tradition rich college football team which only recently established itself among the best in college football. Even though Miami started playing football back in 1926 and had various ranked seasons in the 1950s and 1960s, the Hurricanes didn’t become a football powerhouse until the 1980s when Howard Schnellenberger took over and layed down the groundwork for Miami to be known as the U.
Coach Schnellenberger was main builder of the Hurricanes program. When he first joined the Hurricanes back in 1979, the football program was on the verge of being cancelled. To rall up support for the weakened program coach Schnellenberger made appearances all over the city of Miami. Schnellenberger and his coaches went around to south Florida high schools to recruit top football players, this tactic would be known as recruiting the state of Miami. While doing this Schnellenberger said that the Miami Hurricanes would win a national title. Most people thought he was crazy but in the end he proved his naysayers wrong by winning the 1984 Orange Bowl against the heavily favored Nebraska thus earning their first National Championship ever. In that game nobody gave Miami a chance against the so called best team in college football history. But after that game Miami shocked Nebraska by stopping a two point conversion. After that game Coach Schnellenberger left the Hurricanes to go to the USFL. I believe he is the godfather of the football program.
Needing a new coach the Hurricanes had to go all the way to Stillwater to find Oklahoma State head coach Jimmy Johnson. However, his tenure at Miami started rough at the beginning with 8-5 record in his first season including a loss in Flutie miracle game. But his fortune would change the next season with Miami winning 10 games. But his next three seasons (his best) helped established the Hurricanes as the predominate football powerhouse in NCAA by leading them to three consecutive top two seasons including the 1987 national championship. During that 1987 football season the Hurricanes ended up with their first undefeated season with a victory over Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl. After the 1988 season, Jimmy Johnson left the Hurricanes to coach the Dallas Cowboys, where he continued his winning with two super bowl championships. The legacy of Jimmy Johnson at Miami was that he created the culture of the U. He encouraged his players to show boat, trash talk, and run the score up. He allowed the players to express themselves (in the image of the city of Miami) regardless of what other people said. He thus created the most unique football program in terms of winning and the bad boy image.
Once again Miami had to replace a coach and that Coach Dennis Erickson did not disappoint in the terms of winning. In his first season as the head coach the Hurricanes won their third national title with a victory over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. His second season the Hurricanes where ranked third. His next season in 1991 Erickson had his best season by going undefeated. During that season Miami beat four top #11 teams including beating #1 Florida State at Doak Campbell stadium in the Wide Right 1 game, and Miami ended up winning the Orange Bowl against Nebraska. But after that season Miami started to go downhill by losing three bowl games the next three seasons including losing two national championships, also in 1994 Miami lost its 58 game home winning streak (NCAA record). After 1994 season Miami faced three year probation and Erickson left to become the Seattle Seahawks head coach. Dennis Erickson’s legacy at the University of Miami is that he continued what Jimmy Johnson did, winning and swagger. At Miami, Erickson had the best winning percentage of any coach in school history .875 with a 63-9 record, and the most national championships two.
Miami faced three year probation with the loss of 24 scholarships and one year post season ban. This complicated the search for a new football coach but in the end Miami had found the best person for the job, former assistant Butch Davis. When Davis took over, Miami had major problems off the field with players getting arrested. Davis helped cleaned the program up by suspending numerous players that broke rules. With the reduction in scholarships Davis was creative by finding track stars that could play football (Santana Moss). However, nothing was easy in 1997, where the program hit a low point with a 47-0 loss to Florida State, and a 5-6 season. But after that season Miami would get increasingly better each season. In 1998, Miami upset #2 UCLA at home 49-45, finished 9-3, and finished in the top #20. In 1999, Miami finished in the top#15 with a Gator Bowl victory over Georgia Tech. But in Davis’s last season (2000) at Miami would be his best. In 2000, the Hurricanes would finish 11-1, which included victories over #1 Florida State and #2 Virginia Tech. Despite Miami at the end of the season being ranked #2 in both human polls, and head to head victory over Florida State, Florida State not Miami was selected to play in the national championship game against Oklahoma. But instead Miami had to play Florida in the Sugar Bowl, were the Hurricanes would win 37-20, and finished #2 in the country. Miami still could have won a share of the national title if Florida State won but Oklahoma won. After that season Butch Davis left the Hurricanes to become the head coach of the Cleveland Browns. His legacy at Miami would be known for cleaning up a program that was corrupted. With his creativity in recruiting, Davis was able to find hidden gems such as Ed Reed, Reggie Wayne, and dozens of other players that would be pro bowlers and 1st round picks. He also made Miami NFL U instead of just quarterback U. And the season after he left in 2001, new coach Larry Coker would guide the Miami Hurricanes to their fifth national championship and third undefeated season. That 2001 team in my opinion is the greatest college football team ever and almost all players were recruited by Butch Davis.