Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

New Swaggerless Miami Back on Top

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

New Swaggerless Miami Back on Top

Article excerpt

Listen to the big talk in college football.

You can hear it from the Nebraska Cornhuskers, surprise winners of the BCS championship game lottery, desperately trying to act like they belong in the Rose Bowl.

Coach Frank Solich, with a straight face, said his one-loss team got where they are with "no lucky bounces."

You can hear the talk from Oregon (10-1) and Colorado (10-2), who were left out of the title game because of computer rankings and certainly have reason to be upset. "It's hard to be gracious at this moment," said Colorado Coach Gary Barnett, shortly after his team was passed up for the championship in the Rose Bowl and wound up in the lesser Fiesta Bowl.

His opponent in that game, Mike Bellotti of Oregon, likened the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) rankings, which determined the matchups, to a "bad disease."

But what about the Miami Hurricanes, No. 1-ranked and undefeated, the favorites to win in Pasadena, Calif., Jan. 3?

Not a peep.

These are the new 'Canes, the ones who do their talking on the field. They don't have the swagger of the Miami teams we're used to seeing. They don't wear camouflage; they don't do elaborate dances in the end zone. And they don't make weekly appearances in the local police blotter.

Could they actually be good guys?

"People say the swagger is back, but it's not," says Jim Martz, the team's unofficial historian. "These are not the same old Hurricanes. Their character has really changed."

While few outsiders have noticed, the Miami football team has completed a transformation that has taken it from the depths of athletic impropriety to respectability - at least by the modest standards of big-time college sports.

Miami's comeback over the past five years is perhaps more dramatic than that of any other major college football team that has been punished with serious NCAA sanctions. Most of the "seniors" on this year's team are expected to graduate - or already have and are taking graduate courses. Furthermore, in the most recent statistics provided by the NCAA, from the freshman class of '94-'95, Miami football has a respectable 57 percent graduation rate, compared with 50 percent at Nebraska during the same period.

On the field, the 'Canes aren't exactly mamma's boys - but they aren't thugs either. It's hardly the Miami football program people are used to. In the '80s, the 'Canes played with bravado and success under coaches Howard Schnellenberger and Jimmy Johnson, winning national championships in '83 and '87 - and rubbing it in everyone's face. That tradition continued under Coach Dennis Erickson, who won it all in '89 and '91 and compiled a 63-9 record while at Coral Gables.

'Half a death penalty' from the NCAA

The 'Canes thrived on a black-and-blue image that was characterized by taunting opponents on the field and brushes with the law off the field. …

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