As the ball nestled harmlessly onto the Brazos Valley turf, carrying with it the Canes’ ill-fated comeback attempt, a calm settled over the Hurricanes.
Amidst the cultish cheering of the maroon clad zealots those of us resplendently dressed in ostentatious orange filed out of Kyle Field beaten but not defeated. The result was disappointing, but the effort was there. And the Canes looked the part under the premise that Texas A&M was a talented, high quality opponent that Miami had outplayed on the road.
The reality was far different. Both teams were headed to disappointing 5-7 seasons and a tumultuous offseason of change.
What we saw that day in Aggieland was two programs that were headed in the wrong direction. When two teams fight to the last play, the cliche that is often uttered is “it’s a shame there has to be a loser.” Last year, when these two teams met, it was a shame there had to be a winner.
Mario Cristobal 2.0
When Mario Cristobal constructed the 2022 Miami Hurricanes coaching staff, he did so in a very un-Miami way.
For all the glitz and glamour of Miami, for the misappropriation of the term “South Beach,” for the stereotype of sunshine and palm trees, Miami itself is a self-made, hard scrabble town built on the backs of immigrants. What people from outside of Miami don’t realize is that those from the neighboring counties of Broward and Palm Beach are much more Miami than the glitterati you see on TV and social media. And the University of Miami football program mirrors that reality as the school for all of South Florida.
And so it was with great excitement with which we greeted our new money overlords that showed up over the last 18 months. Finally, Miami could spend money rivaling traditional college powers. The all everything staff was assembled. The Offensive Coordinator? Stolen from Michigan. The QB Coach? Was an Offensive Coordinator in his previous role. The LB coach? Was previously the Head Coach of 3 FBS schools and a National Championship Defensive Coordinator.
As John Hammond famously said in Jurassic Park, we “spared no expense.” And this worked out as well as that did.
By the end of the Canes’ season, the only thing left of the rotting carcass of that season was the undeniable truth surrounding the failure of that approach.
The Canes finally flush with cash had the ability to not only attract top coaches but to also place them in positions beneath their station. And while the administration, and Mario, finally had that money to spend on these coaches, they “were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”
And so the reboot started this offseason. Slowly coaches that were celebrated upon their arrival left out the back door. Their replacements? Unheralded assistants looking for their big break.
Replacing those that felt Miami was lucky to have them with hungry assistants viewing Miami as the stage from which they can ascend up the coaching ranks is a return to the roots of the program.
And of the city.
Miami is not an easy place to play or win. In a crowded sports landscape, expectations abound. Despite 20 years of futility, there is still a championship or bust mentality.
This week’s opponent is the polar opposite. Texas A&M is tradition rich. While the Canes are often mocked for attendance (usually unjustifiably and with out-of-context images), the Aggies fill their stadium. The whole town (if you want to flatter it by calling it that) is centrally focused on the school’s football team.
So obsessive are the Aggies’ fans that they hold cheering practice called “Midnight Yell” the night before home games. The tradition of Yell Practice started in 1913, 12 years before the University of Miami even existed.
They have a chant for everything, with the crowd participation often detached from whatever is transpiring on the field. Their band is massive, spanning the entire field, executing maneuvers with military precision.
Famously friendly, they’ll greet you with a “howdy” and talk your ear off about traditions. Evangelists, the whole of them.
The Aggies mascot is a well-manicured, pampered female Rough Collie named Reveille.
They are everything Miami is not. And for that, I’m thankful.
The Miami Way
Cause amidst the pomp and pageantry, for all the traditions and revelry, do you know what’s missing? Winning.
Give me the half empty stadium, the searing humidity, the small private campus, the poor student in the bird costume trying not to pass out from heat exhaustion…part of Miami’s greatness is that the tradition doesn’t matter. The outlier school shall always remain the outlier school.
To the extent there are traditions: Running through the smoke, holding up 4 fingers at the start of the 4th quarter, and yes, the now defunct Turnover Chain, they are quickly co-opted by other schools.
Schools can copy those things, but they can’t copy what makes Miami unique, which is a local school where kids from the community go to make it big, lifting themselves and by extension the school and community.
The one tradition forged in the 80s, carried forward through to the early 2000s, that has been dormant for 20 years is the winning. And with it, the program has lost its swagger.
As the Canes enter this week, with the invaders from Texas coming to South Florida, it’s time to rediscover the famous Miami Pride. A program built on doing what it is repeatedly told is not possible has been overrun by a lack of self belief.
But I reject that premise. It’s time to be Miami again. When you go to College Station, they greet you with a “Howdy” in the parking lot and a warm welcome. And that’s fine for them.
In Miami? Win on the field, and if you want to fight in the parking lot (or in the stands, or in Publix), we’ll do that too. This is not about a resurrection, but a restoration.
We’re not to be intimidated, we’re the ones that are supposed to do the intimidating
First we deal with Jimbo, then Mack, then Dabo, then Mike. This year we start to settle all Family business.
And it is a Family. For all the differences between Miami and Texas A&M, Miami is a cult of its own. But the beliefs are not in centuries-old traditions, passed down from generation to generation, from back when Old Tex told his bull to skedaddle.
The only core belief for the Miami Family is a belief in Miami itself. We believe in each other. There is magic in the Magic City. Miami is simultaneously a noun, a verb, and an adjective.
It’s that belief in Miami’s otherworldliness that has brought it this far, and it is that belief that will carry it forward.
This program was built fighting and winning the battles that are categorized as impossible, often motivated by the mere statement that winning was not achievable.
And that needs to begin anew on Saturday. There will still be trials and tribulations, times when the team struggles, bad losses. Such is the nature of sport, such is the nature of a rebuild.
Saturday is not the end of the rebuild. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.
Vishnu Parasuraman is a show host and writer for @FiveReasonsSports. He covers the Miami Hurricanes for Sixth Ring Canes and Formula 1 for Hitting the Apex. He also co-hosts Buckets, which covers Miami Hurricanes Basketball. You can follow him on twitter @vrp2003