Everyone who is an avid sports fan remembers The University of Miami of the eighties and nineties. It was simply called “The U”. If anyone heard it referred to it by that name they knew what and where it was. Those were the years that this “elite” school had a powerhouse of a football program. It had its usual All-Americans, national title appearances and victories, celebrity access, and top-rated NFL prospects. Also with that came the drugs, NCAA violations, sex, women, arrests, and a host of blatant violations that no top flight university should have as an epidemic on its campus and in its sports programs. Nonetheless, the University of Miami prospered despite its bad image and recruited the best talent the country had to offer because it won and won regularly.
The list of talent throughout those years reads like a future NFL Hall of Fame induction ceremony. With the likes of Randal Hill, Santana Moss, Michael Irvin, Dan Morgan, Ray Lewis, Leon Sercy, Bennie Blades, and others, the University of Miami won an incredible five national championships in 15 years dating back to 1983 starting with head coach Jimmie Johnson.
But “The U” has fallen on hard times since moving to the Atlantic Coast Conference(ACC). Or have they? They have not played in a Bowl Championship Series(BCS) Bowl or won the ACC since joining on July 1, 2004. They haven’t been relevant in college football in the last 10 years.
On November 27, 2010, the University of Miami fired then head coach Randy Shannon, an alumni and former Miami linebacker. Shannon served as head coach from 2007-2010 and compiled a record of 28-22. This year the Hurricanes finished with a 7-5 record, which was a disappointment from the 9-4 record tallied the year before. With any “elite” program this would be a cause to terminate any coach’s contract, but what is the example that is being portrayed with these firings?
Those Miami teams of the eighties and nineties were known as the convict years. Miami was known then as the premier party school. They had ties with superstar rappers (Luther Campbell), politicians, and carte blanche to any entity in the Florida borders. This meaning drugs, women, alcohol, and acts of law breaking that included friends within the judicial system that could make things “right”. Every year during the eighties and nineties players racked up numerous arrests, thus, making “The U” also known as “Thug University”.
This didn’t make Miami a problem, it made it a model. All the negativity was overlooked and sometimes revered because Miami was winning national titles. Coaches at other universities no longer cared about the players’ background and history as long as they had the undeniable talent that would put their programs a cut above the others in search of that elusive national title. Miami’s pipeline into Dade County’s low economic regions became a model for other “elite” universities hoping to transform their programs into national title-contending teams.
It has to be an absolute shame that Randy Shannon was dismissed from his coaching position. What is considered hard times in college football? Not going to a BCS Bowl or winning your conferences’ title game? The picture is bigger than just Randy Shannon’s firing. The players and the schools’ reputations are no longer important unless they have the ability to produce. And that is to produce national titles.
Under Shannon’s four-year reign, he graduated 100 percent of his eligible athletes and only endured one arrest. Yes, a single noted breaking of the law. This is from the university known as “Thug University” in the eighties and nineties. And at the same time, these student-athletes managed to have winning seasons. They may not have been to BCS bowls or won national titles but they were winning on the field and in the classroom. This is unprecedented in high-profile schools with elite football programs.
Randy Shannon shook an image and rebuilt a program that was known for showboating, unsportsmanlike conduct, and thuggish behavior into a well-respected program that generated scholars, athletes, and men.
It is too bad that universities would rather have a chance at BCS Bowls and conference championships instead of molders of men that prepare their players for life after football. Only 1 percent of the talent in college football makes it to the next level, the National Football League. So it would be more important to develop these young adults for a future in the real world because this is where most of them will spend the remainder of their lives.
It has gotten so bad that academic elite schools, such as Notre Dame, have lowered their standards for entry so that they may recruit less academically strong players that are more talented in order to compete against other national powerhouses. Tyrone Willingham, who once coached Stanford University’s football team with success, was let go in 2004 after compiling a record of 6-6 that year and an overall record of 21-15. Notre Dame sited that Willingham’s record of 21-15 was relatively poor, a weak recruiting class (due to the strict academic standards), and three losses, each by 31 points, to rival USC. It did not matter that Willingham compiled a spectacular graduation rate of 88 percent during his tenure.
In the grand scheme of powerhouse college football programs, winning is the only way. And just having a winning season is not enough. These schools care nothing about the players’ education or their futures. They allow them to get away with lawlessness and scandals and academic cheating (sometimes with the aid of the school and its coaches) because they are the main cog in the pursuit of national championships and BCS Bowls. It is sad to see the message that is being sent. This is not good for the players, the universities, or society. These same individuals who are being sent the wrong message because of their football prowess and the idea that winning at all costs will someday make up the society we live in. And the protection and inexcusable privileges that are given and allowed to players while chasing titles and bowl games will be long gone. Then who will help them? Not men like Randy Shannon because what should be important is not important enough to the University of Miami to allow Shannon to maintain his coaching position and continue to build men with college degrees and character.