An Insider’s Perspective: Part 2- ESPN’s Bruce Feldman Talks Hurricane Football
Very unlike programs that won two, three, four National Championships, Miami was not a one coach program. The crazy part about the University of Miami is, it took off with Howard Schnellenberger.
Then Jimmy Johnson comes in, and they win big again. Then Dennis Erickson comes in, completely different style, and wins two National Championships. Then, the program collapses under its own weight. There were lots of issues off-the-field, and people had a hard time figuring out where the program was headed.
And then you have Sports Illustrated saying the program should be shut down. Paul Dee and Butch Davis, to their credit, said, “this is the way we’re going to rebuild the program.” They were under pretty hefty sanctions, scholarship wise. Davis assembled some of the best recruiting classes of all-time. Look at what Butch and Pete Garcia put together, with 15-16 scholarships. They brought in a tremendous amount of talent, and got a lot of production out of these guys. The Dan Morgan, Santana Moss, and Reggie Wayne group. They all grew into spectacular talents. And it kept growing. And seeing the rebirth of Miami football, after knowing the administration was ready to pull the plug on the football program… basketball was about to be discontinued. Schnellenberger was the last chance. He built the program from nothing. He took down a Nebraska team that was thought to be the best ever, at the time.
It’s an amazing story; a story about how the Hurricanes took down the college football establishment. It’s the subtitle on my book, Cane Mutiny. There was so much that played into it. There was the attitude on and off-the-field. There was the city that had changed. Miami did things differently than had ever been done in college football. Combine all those things, and I thought, “you know what, this story begs to be told. It has a life of its own.” I wanted to capture that. From the Howard’s to the Jim Kelly’s, and whatever else everyone has seen, it was a story that needed to be told.
That’s an excellent question. Just talking to the players about some of the stories they had to tell… I remember talking to Jim Kelly when he was in an airport, and he called me back. He told me about Miami beating Penn State. Not only did Miami put themselves on the map, but Miami was nothing like they had become. You have all these young kids. Penn State recruited Kelly as a linebacker, and Miami told him he was going to be the guy. It was a great moment for the growth of Miami. The whole Schnellenberger story is amazing. I remember meeting with Melvin Bratton, we were at a hotel for breakfast. They started to tell stories about the infamous Bosworth wake-up call before playing Oklahoma. Alonzo is another great story teller. That’s really the stuff I remember most vividly about the reporting process.
Miami is in a pretty good position. I was skeptical, last year. I thought they were going to be a good team. Last year I didn’t know how good. This year, I went down there to see them. Jimmy Johnson and a hundred former Canes (Ted Hendricks) were there. Former Miami players who had seen success at a lot of levels were there. Everywhere you looked, Miami has amazing talent.
The receivers especially. The defensive line, even the offensive line. The running backs were impressive. Potential is all over this team. Athletes, playmakers. There is a sense among the former players, the coaches, this team is special. This team is ripe. Jacory Harris, the maturity is there. Last year they felt like they were pretty good, they knew they had talent but they didn’t have the mental focus. Randy Shannon told me this: It’s hard for young guys to be consistently dialed in. The potential is here. Now, they are maturing: are 20, 21 years old. There’s a better sense on how to handle success.
I keep in touch with Eric Winston, he’s an interesting guy. I see Alonzo Highsmith at games, he’s an NFL Scout, so I see him periodically. He’s got a tie to the University, has a son playing for them now. I run into Bratton every now and then. Other than that, it’s sporadic. My brother ran into Ed Reed, at a golf tournament, who wrote the forward of Cane Mutiny. I spent some time with him at the Ravens facility. He’s always been a gracious guy. He’s a solid guy.
Well, the question was, a couple of years ago, how did it get so bad? How did Miami let it slide that far? Now, people are saying, “Miami is supposed to be good.” There’s too many reasons for them not to be a Top 10 team. The college football world feels like, it’s only a matter of time. There’s a curiosity factor with Miami. Until the Hurricanes win the ACC, there’s going to be people scratching their heads. It’s a long time ago since UM played Ohio St. in the Fiesta Bowl. People’s memories only go back a few years.
This is a huge year for Randy Shannon. He hasn’t had players get into trouble, and people are noticing that. You look across the board and most high profile programs have an epidemic of players getting into trouble. But yet, 7-5 and 9-4, at Miami, isn’t good enough. This year people are saying that he has to win, and I don’t disagree with that.
Stay tuned to the Eye for Part 3 of MiamiMike’s interview with Bruce Feldman!