ESPN blogger Heather Dinich on Thursday, ranking the ACC’s facilities and of the twelve conference programs, Miami ranked eleventh. Dinich wrote:
“The Canes use the Greentree Practice Fields, which were good enough for five national title teams, and work out in an 11,500-square-foot weight room that was completed in 2001 and is more than double the size of the previous room. The Hecht Athletic Center got an $8 million facelift in 2001 that included a players lounge, an outdoor terrace overlooking the practice field, an expansion to the football equipment room; and a posh office suite for the head coach.”
Maryland ranked dead last, but ahead of Miami, in order from first to worst, NC State, Florida State, Clemson, North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Boston College, Wake Forest and … Duke.
There’s been a lot of talk about the facilities at the University of Miami over the years. Not a big deal in the 80s and 90s when the playing field was much more level (and the Canes were winning at a ridiculous page), but it’s 2012 and the college game is changing by the day. It’s about ‘wow’ factor, flash, cash and dash.
Our own Brian ‘The Beast’ London touched on the state of the facilities and the Dinich report in a recent CanesFix and as a diehard fan and alum, his plea is understood; step up your game, Miami.
Yes, the building of the Schwartz Center For Athletic Excellence is underway, but Beast is quick to point out how that facility, brand new and cutting-edge as it may be, still can’t hold a candle to some of the larger athletic departments nationwide. For ‘The U’ to compete at the highest level, continuous upgrades need to be made across the board.
On one level I absolutely agree with this. While the University of Miami doesn’t have the budget or booster money that comes with bigger state school and football factories, more can be done in regards to an athletic department facelift. Funds can be allocated. Leveling the playing field – as much as possible – has to always be the goal.
Miami will never be one of the big boys on this level – and that’s fine. This is a small private school aspiring to do more than win ballgames, much to the chagrin of some fans.
This program has succeeded despite the odds and with more money pouring into college football, it will be difficult for UM to accomplish what it did in the past. As Beast mentioned, winning helps cover flaws and when Miami was on top, it was easier to cut some corners. But after a 41-35 run the past six seasons? Makes it harder to justify not doing those little things which can make a big difference.
It goes without saying, but Miami is a unique university in a unique situation and to find success without and endless supply of money, this program will have to play smart, get creative and do some shucking and jiving along the way.
Some choose to focus on the ‘have not’ aspect of this and if that’s the case, so be it. I prefer playing to one’s strengths, accentuating the positives and finding a way to succeed by out-thinking the other guys.
Dinich ranked Miami eleventh in the twelve-team ACC because her definition of “facilities” is strictly the concrete building and turf that makes up the practice field. On that level, UM can’t complete in it’s own conference, let alone nationwide. Such is life.
But what about the intangibles?
Beast mentioned the likes of facilities at Oregon, Alabama, Oklahoma and Ohio State in his recent podcast and yes, all four universities have stellar set-ups.
That said, all those buildings and fields reside in Eugene, Tuscaloosa, Norman and Columbus – none of which hold a candle to Coral Gables, South Florida, the City of Miami and South Beach.
Step outside either of those four aforementioned athletic departments, look around at what you see and then do the same at ‘The U’ and tell me what you see?
If an ESPN blogger wants to rate the programs and facilities sans the intangibles, that’s on her – but that certainly isn’t how Al Golden and his staff are going to sell UM’s brand. Miami is an entire package and needs to be judged as such.
Hitting the weight room in Oregon might mean more flat screen TVs and DJs in the locker room, whereas at Miami it might mean lifting next to Ed Reed in the off-season, getting a pre-workout speech from Ray Lewis or getting stopped in the halls and coached-up by Michael Irvin.
There is something, dare I say, “holy” about the U of Miami experience. To see those names and faces on the walls. Heisman Trophies. National Championships. Legendary NFLers. The ghosts of Hurricanes’ past are always within reach, hovering over you or breathing down your neck.
For high school athletes hoping for a college experience that readies them for the next level … Miami is the place as the moniker NFL U wasn’t made up without reason.
A special place needs a special coach and UM finally got that in Golden. Larry Coker and Randy Shannon lacked that ‘it’ factor – the former, unable to maintain the level of success he was handed, while the latter proved unable to restore past glory.
When both were fired, few were willing to take on the challenge of coaching the unique situation at UM. As it’s always been, win and you write your ticket anywhere. Just ask Jimmy, Howard, Dennis and Butch. Fail and you fade into obscurity. It could be highest-risk, highest reward job in college football.
Same goes for incoming talent. Roll in highly-rated, or even middle of the road, succeed and you’re part of an elite football fraternity. Come in with five stars, yet entitled and not willing to work and you’ll be beat out and forgotten.
The University of Miami mirrors the city it calls home. It’s a tough town – a town with both flash and grit. Work harder than the other guy, keep your head on straight, have some fun and you’ll enjoy the ride. Slack, get distracted, make a few wrong turns and you end up in a bad place.
Oregon. Alabama. Oklahoma. Ohio State. Those programs, universities and cities need the fancy weight room and top-of-the-line athletic departments because frankly, that’s all they have.
I lived in Tuscaloosa. I did two years in Gainesville. Drive a few miles away from the university and you’re truly in Nowheresville, USA – strip malls, gas stations, fast food chains and nothingness. People in those cities dream of the beach and work their asses off all year hoping to take a winter trip to South Florida while an elite few get to call it “home”.
UM will never compete on that rah-rah level for kids who want to be that big fish in a little pond. King of a college town and rock star status as the only channel for everyone to watch.
Come to ‘The U’ and you’re not only competing against past Hurricane teams – specifically 1983, 1987, 1989, 1991 and 2001 – but you’re also in the shadow of the Heat, Dolphins, Marlins and Panthers.
LeBron. D-Wade. Marino. J-Taylor. Shaq. Ramirez. Reyes. There have been some big-time professional greats who stole headlines for years – and will continue to do so.
The Canes’ 2001 championship was widely celebrated and that team is considered one of the best to ever suit up. That said, in a “what have you done for me lately?” city like the 305, it was old news as soon as the Marlins took it all in 2003 and the Heat got their first ring in 2006. If anything, all eyes are back on UM with an unspoken, “it’s your turn again, guys”.
No sports program or franchise has had more success in Miami than Hurricanes football. The Dolphins have their undefeated season and their annual popping-of-the-bubbly every fall when the last blemish-less team goes down, but at day’s end, it’s a loser franchise that hasn’t won the big one in four decades.
The Heat? Star-studded and three wins away from ring number two, but a lot of basketball to be played and no guarantees that the Big Three will remain or get those not five … not six … not seven titles they were gunning for. When they’re gone, then what?
The Marlins? Nice stadium. Shady owners. Will succeed here and there, but aren’t a powerhouse and aren’t financially committed to succeeding.
The Panthers? Exactly.
Miami Football set the standard and how it’s time for Golden and staff to do everything within their power to re-right the ship. Beast mentioned days back that he’s never seen a staff at UM recruit harder and better than this one.
That’s not a slight on Davis, who was arguably the best evaluator of talent the Canes have ever seen, or Johnson, the most heady game-day guy, but the pace at which Golden and all his guys go – they’re men on a mission and they’re committed to bringing in Miami-style kids to makes the Canes a national player again.
And isn’t that what it’s all about – getting the right type of player for UM?
What real-deal Hurricane gives a shit about facilities, PS3s, heated toilet seats or whatever else other programs are selling as part of the package? Again, that doesn’t give UM a pass to ignore opportunities to upgrade, but it does give you some insight to what some of today’s athletes are all about.
Did facilities, or lack thereof of scare off five-star Tracy Howard. No. Even when opposing coaches trash-talked Miami, used the fear factor of pending sanctions and attempted to sell their brand, the number one corner in the nation chose his hometown Canes – because of that intangible and because of this staff.
Same with five-star running back Randy ‘Duke’ Johnson and four-star safety Deon Bush – guys who could’ve gone anywhere, but chose to stay home for the right reasons, instead of bailing for the wrong ones.
The sense of entitlement at Miami has been out of control the past few seasons and Golden is trying to change that culture by bringing in the right guys. The Canes need more Howards, Johnsons and Bushes — not more Bryce Brown-like divas and Willie Williams-esque head cases, overly-concerned with the recruiting game, facilities and all the ‘fun’ that goes along with college life.
It’s about getting an education, learning from great leaders of men, being developed properly and spending four years honing the craft with a shot at getting to the next level an while Miami might not have the fanciest weight room, it’s aces on all the above.
NC State may have topped the Dinich poll, but you look at the entire body of work and factor in everything … the University of Miami is tough to beat. Period. – C.B.