The Miami Hurricanes are 3-0 after hitting the ground running to start the 2023 football season.

Unlike other seasons in recent memory, “The U” is truly passing the smell test and actually looks the part year two under head coach Mario Cristobal—who realized halfway through year one that a soft roster of broken-down betas and resolve-lacking quitters were not going to put in that foundational work to start building a championship-caliber program.

As a result, the handful of alpha dogs on board doubled-down and got back to business, while the weak-willed took their ball, put in their transfer papers and took their talents elsewhere—much to the chagrin or nobody.

A season-opener at HardRock on a Friday night against Miami of Ohio weeks back ended any speculation as to what kind of team Cristobal would field in year two.

Critics were fast with their edgy “upset alert” picks—pointing g back to last year’s home loss against Middle Tennessee State as an easy dig against a once-proud program that had gone off course over the past couple of decades.

The Redhawks and their little lippy, sound bite-delivering quarterback dropped his one-liner about who would be “the real Miami” when the clock hit 0:00 and thankfully the Hurricanes showed up ready for business against the feisty little MAC program; 243 yards passing, 250 on the ground and a definitive 38-3 victory while holding the “other” Miami to a measly 215 total yards.

Tyler Van Dyke looked the part—healthy and back under center—while the Canes’ offensive line was a revamped forced, a bevy of running backs made their mark and the receiving corps looked reborn. As did a swarming defense that still has a few holes, but is playing with enough passion and purpose that will help make up for any shortcomings.

There was also that sigh of relief and necessary exhale after seeing Shannon Dawson and Lance Guidry making their debuts as first-year offensive and defensive coordinators for Miami.

Sending the inept Josh Gattis packing and feeling no love lost when Kevin Steele was poached by Alabama—addition by subtraction was only half the battle. Cristobal hitting on their replacements was the bigger piece of that puzzle and the play-calling and preparation by both new coaches and their improved units—the change was palpable and the year one to year two growth looked undeniable.

Of course, the other Miami was the appetizer and the main course was a rematch against Texas A&M in another one of those early season-defining games that would set a precedent.


A win against the Aggies wouldn’t ensure success in 2023 anymore than last year’s loss in College Station had to dictate how 2022 would play out—but one would be remised to admit Miami never bounced back after falling 17-9 on the road last fall.

The offense went into a shell, the Canes couldn’t score in the redzone and a winnable game slipped away, which resulted in lost faith and hope going into a bye week—before a half-assed effort two weeks later against Middle Tennessee State; a few Miami players admitting post-game they weren’t ready for the Blue Raiders and felt they were good enough to go through the motions against a lesser program.

Tyler Van Dyke has thrown for 822 yards, eight touchdowns and one interception in three games this season.

Miami looked to bounce back against a North Carolina program that’s had their number—but the comeback fell short, 27-24—because that’s what a losing mindset does; it reinvents ways to lose and causes teams to step down instead of up.

Weeks later, a slow start against Duke before getting big-headed after grabbing an early third quarter lead—taking the foot off the gas and unraveling defensively—before the Blue Devils put up the game’s final 24 points in an embarrassing 45-21 loss.

It was lather, rinse repeat from that point on.

Eke out an ugly win over Virginia. Get rolled at home by Florida State. Show up defensively at Georgia Tech. Forget how to stop opposing offenses against Clemson and Pittsburgh.

By the time 5-7 was officially in the books, it would’ve been hard-pressed to find a Miami fan who actually clamored for a sixth win for bowl eligibility as nothing about last year’s Hurricanes team was going to soak up those post-season practices and set a tone for 2023.

Put this bitch out to pasture; 2022 was a wrap.

Miami wasn’t even out of the month of November before the rats start abandoning the ship, as 24 player transferred out—some by choice, while others were “encouraged” to take their talents elsewhere.

From there, it was out with the old and in with the new. Miami pulled in the 15th-best portal class with 11 new players this season—and those instant-impact upgrades are paying dividends one month in, as are a handful of hit-the-ground running true freshman.


All that to say, probably a good time to give the disclaimer that no matter what a build-’em-up-to-knock-’em-down media tries to sell, the Miami Hurricanes are nowhere near “back”—and won’t be—until competing annually for conference and national championships.

A dominant win over a loaded, talent-heavy SEC roster like the one Texas A&M boasts—that simply put Miami on a good early track and set a tone that carried over to last week’s clean, concise, all-business approach in doing what it was supposed to against Bethune Cookman.

Score fast and early, finish drives, eliminate penalties, stay healthy and sit the first stringers after the opening drive of the second half—getting back-ups valuable playing time, with an on-to-the-next energy after proving there was no Aggies hangover or lethargy when playing to a virtually empty stadium on a rainy Thursday night against the Wildcats.

Next up; a road trip to Temple and Miami’s first road game of the season, before a bye week and opening Atlantic Coast Conference play at home against Georgia Tech the first week of October.

All that win over Texas A&M did was keep Miami focused and hopefully undefeated before a season-defining road trip to Chapel Hill on October 14th, where the Canes will look for their fourth-ever win against the Tar Heels since joining the ACC.

Kenan Memorial Stadium has been a house of horrors for Miami these past two decades; ever-since Larry Coker and the third-ranked Hurricanes were upended in 2004 on a last-minute field goal, 31-28.

Randy Shannon couldn’t get out of the shadow of former mentor Butch Davis, losing on the road and at home three times in a row before his lone win at home in 2010 months before he was sent packing.

Al Golden was able to steal a couple road wins during his tenure (2011, 2013), while Mark Richt and the lucky-bounce Canes held on for a late win in 2017; one of many games that could’ve broken either way during that unexpected 10-0 start.

Hanging on against the likes of the Tar Heels, Yellow Jackets, Seminoles and Orange that season; it got the Hurricanes to 7-0 which resulted in back-to-back, prime time home games against No. 13 Virginia Tech and No. 3 Notre Dame, where Miami rolled and was hot shit for a few minutes—which wound up sparking some all of the undeserved “back” talk, which ended soon as it started up.

After a Senior Day win over Virginia, Miami rolled up to four-win Pittsburgh and laid an egg before getting clobbered by Clemson in the ACC Championship—which set up a consolation-prize Orange Bowl against a Wisconsin squad that outlasted the Canes in their own backyard.

The 0-3 finish dampened what felt like a promising season and from that 10-0 start through Diaz’s final game in 2021—Miami amassed a 28-24 record and is now on its third head coach over a five-year span—Richt going 7-9 down the stretch, while Diaz went 21-15 over his three-year run.

The focus on how bad it got; a reminder why 2022 played out as it did—and why those who felt all the “culture” chatter was a cop-out are now seeing first-hand what it’s like when a program is rebuild from the ground on up.

Cristobal obviously came in from Oregon hoping for some cosmetic changes to his alma mater, but under further inspection he fast realized it would take stripping Miami down to the studs and foundation for a full-blown renovation.

Hard to believe how bad it actually got; Miami a different program this fall, opposed to the frauds rolled by MTSU.

Many pointed to Southern Cal and a fast turnaround for Lincoln Riley, which had the opportunity to be turnkey as he is his own play caller and brought both his own high-octane offense and Heisman-worthy quarterback with him to Troy—all of which allowed him to pull the Biletnikoff-winning wide receiver out of the portal—making for a hell of a sales pitch to a slew of other transfers and a solid inaugural season.

Cristobal wasn’t afforded that same instant-fix luxury at Miami as culture has been embedded in this program’s DNA since the ’80s. When the culture is shit, the Canes are an utter disaster—but when the program top-to-bottom is on the same page, you see what you’re seeing early this season and have authentic reasons to believe winds of change are blowing in Coral Gables.


A quote from Dawson is blowing up on social media this week as the first-year coordinator’s late-fourth quarter back-and-forth on 3rd-and-8 is making the rounds.

Miami led 41-33 with 4:51 remaining and after a Henry Parrish run netted 13 yards on first down, the back was stuffed for three on the subsequent fresh set of downs. Van Dyke quickly found Xavier Restrepo for a five-yard gain, setting up a third-and-long.

According to The Atlantic article by friend-of-the-program Bruce Feldman, Cristobal let Dawson know he didn’t believe Miami would be able to run the clock out, to which the fiery coordinator dropped a line that will probably make its way into The U: Part III should that day ever come.

“Run the clock out? I’m trying to end this motherf**ker right here. If they match-up. we’re gonna throw the vertical,” Dawson retorted.

The response to the aggressiveness was understandably favorable, as the new coordinator delivered one final message as the offense took the field.

“We gotta go score again. We can’t put all the pressure on the field. We gotta help them out and give them a comfortable lead.”

One throw, reception and 64-scamper later, Van Dyke found Jacolby George in one-on-one coverage—the receiver bouncing back from his earlier muffed punt to haul in his third touchdown reception of the day—spinning off some lazy A&M tackles and scampering for the go-for-the-throat score and “comfortable” 15-point lead with 2:37 remaining.

The Aggies drove 65 yards over 14 plays, but the comeback was thwarted on 4th-and-Goal from the 10-yard line when Te’Cory Couch picked off Conner Weigman, setting up victory formation for the Canes.

Skeptics will say that it’s too early to believe, while others are simply too burned by two decades of trash football in Coral Gables to let themselves feel anything other than doubt—even when there are enough moving parts, actions and behaviors that should have even the harshest critic considering letting their guard down.

Three games in, a case can be made regarding the brand of football Miami is playing, as well as the energy and attitude surrounding this program.

A fully-revamped offensive line; the perfect mix of transfers, newbies and a few hold over veterans has this unit looking as purposeful as any Canes unit over the past couple of decades—while the result of this type of precedent being put on the line—it’d obviously paying dividends in giving Van Dyke time to dissect offenses, while every running back on Miami’s roster has been absolutely feasting when given their moment in the sun.

The energy has also turned around a receiving room that looked like a liability last year.

Outside of Restrepo being healthy, and George looking the part—Colbie Young and Isaiah Horton are breaking out, while Brashard Smith is being put in position to succeed as both a wide out and returner—breaking off a 98-yard kick return early in the third quarter against the Aggies.

Resolve is also another culture-related piece of the puzzle missing last year, but front and center year two of this new regime.


Compare and contrast the adversity last fall when miscues defined Miami’s first quarter against Middle Tennessee State, versus how it handled some early rough-sledding against Texas A&M weeks back.

Van Dyke’s first pass from scrimmage was intercepted by the Blue Raiders, resulting in a field goal—and his next snap saw him throwing a pick-six and the Canes fumbled four plays into their next drive.

Miami’s defense folded on back-to-back touchdown drives and a few minutes into the second quarter the Canes were in a 24-3 hole—never getting closer than 14 points for the duration of the contest.

Any proof that Miami was a fragile, undisciplined, lost and broke program—that was sussed out by the time 45-31 was in the books and a glorified high school from Mufreesboro, Tennessee took selfies and team photos all over HardRock.

Fast forward a year and it’s another crack at a revamped Texas A&M team—with an even deeper, more-talented roster—as well as offensive guru Bobby Petrino in the booth and expected to pick apart Guidry’s new defense.

Miami opens with a three-and-out and sees its brand-new punter stuffed—the Aggies taking over on the Canes’ 15-yard line and hitting pay dirt three plays later.

Facing a 3rd-and-10 a drive later, a holding call keeps aTm’s drive alive and six plays later, a 24-yard field goal makes it a 10-0 deficit.

The Canes respond with a clean, seven play, 75-yard possession—Van Dyke spreading it around to three receivers—highlighted by a 48-yard connection with Restrepo and finding Young for the score, making it a ball game.

Trailing 10-7, Miami stuffs Texas A&M on a 3rd-and-11 only to see George muff the punt on the Canes’ on nine-yard line. Two plays later, the Aggies go back up 17-7 and there’s the sense that UM is going to fold—the moment too big and the adversity too much to overcome.

Miami was all business in dismantling Miami (OH) and Bethune-Cookman by a combined score of 86-10.

Instead, a five-play, 75-yard drive—Van Dyke hooking up with Horton for the 52-yard score and it’s 17-14.

Both sides missed late second quarter field goals, but in a yet-discussed, balls-on-the-line moment with Dawson—Miami took over possession with :44 remaining and went to work.

After years of seeing the Canes run out, or mismanage the clock just before the half—a methodical, well-crafted, six-play, 75-yard drive.

Parrish runs for 18, Van Dyke to Young for a 32-yard gain—and then to Restrepo for a 19-yard pick-up—before the o-line bought the quarterback time to scramble, where he found George open in the back of the end zone.

A first half that absolutely almost got away from Miami saw the Canes leading 21-17 at the half, before holding the Aggies to a field goal to start the third. Momentum slowly shifting in a 21-20 ball game—Smith housed the kickoff and Miami was immediately back in control.

Texas A&M felt the heat, a receiver bit the dust and Kam Kinchens reeled in an interception—Weigman’s first of his career—returning it 28 yards and setting up a Miami field goal, a 31-20 advantage for the good guys.

The Aggies pulled to 31-26 and after a Canes’ punt, the pressure was back on Miami’s defense to respond. In poetic fashion on 3rd-and-1, Oklahoma transfer Jaden Davis got a hat on the ball and removed it from Amari Daniels, which Kinchens hopped on it as the quarter expired.

“Four Fingers” went up as the final quarter was set to start—as always at HardRock, thought it’s been meaningless since the glory days at the Orange Bowl.

Instead, new-look Miami capitalized on the field position and found the end zone five plays later and took a 41-26 lead after a field goal.

The Aggies made it 41-33 after a spirited drive, where the road team woke up and their 5-Star talented started playing up to their potential—but it was met with 3rd-and-8 and a culture-shifting team statement from a revamped staff that wanted to end that motherf**ker right there.

Game, set, match—and detailed account why buying into Miami early this 2023 season isn’t fool’s gold.

Lots of football left to play, but this fan base can finally let its guard down that things absolutely look and feel different three weeks into Cristobal’s second season—and that in itself is reason to believe.

Christian Bello has been covering University of Miami athletics since the mid-nineties. Getting his start with CanesTime, he eventually launched allCanesBlog—which led to a featured columnist stint with BleacherReport. He’s since rolled out the unfiltered, where he’ll use his spare time to put decades of U-related knowledge to use for those who care to read. When he’s not writing about ‘The U’, Bello is a storyteller for some exciting brands and individuals—as well as a guitarist and songwriter for his Miami-bred band Company Jones, who just released their debut album “The Glow”. Hit him on Twitter for all things U-related @ItsAUThingBLOG.


Raise your hand if you’ve heard this one before. The Miami Hurricanes lost another late-game heartbreaker to the North Carolina Tar Heels.

Despite dealing with this reality and reading a similar headline countless times since the University of Miami joined the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2004—a whopping five head coaches ago—a disgruntled fan base remains unable to wrap their collective heads around two decades of irrelevance and incompetence that have defined “The U”.

In defense of long-time supporters of this one great program—yes, a 2-3 record five games into the Mario Cristobal era absolutely stings.

No, Miami shouldn’t have lost to a glorified high school from Murfreesboro, Tennessee a few weeks back.

Yes, a home win over the Tar Heels was absolutely within reach and squandered away via a handful of boneheaded plays.

No, these coaches didn’t singularly piss away this football game—and yes, lambasting the staff weekly in knee-jerk fashion year one of their tenure is rather ridiculous considering this program has been a dumpster fire for almost two decades.

While these treks down a not-so-memorable Hurricanes Lane feel repetitive and burn like gasoline on an open wound, too many are still spitting nails while not letting the numbers, or hard-to-digest facts penetrate their thick and stubborn skulls.

For those of you still stuck in the 80’s, early 90’s or even the rebuilt early 00’s—knee-deep in what was, instead of what-is—a few greatest misses regarding the past two decades of Hurricanes football for the delinquents in the back.

Miami entered this football season 118-85 since getting crushed 40-3 by LSU in the 2005 Peach Bowl. When that number is divided by 16 seasons, the Hurricanes have averaged 7-5 every year since—while only reaching double-digit wins once since the 2003 season.

Cristobal is now UM third head coach in five seasons and sixth since Larry Coker was sent packing after going 7-6 in 2006—Miami’s worst season since 1997—Coker slowly bleeding out the powerhouse Butch Davis handed over to him in 2001.

Regarding the lack of balance and inconsistency moving the football, the Hurricanes are also on their third different offensive coordinator and system in four seasons.

Add it all up and it’s hardly a model of stability or consistency in Coral Gables since that last national championship season.


Equally as bad, a series of low-rent, poorly-vetted, cheap hires—including Randy Shannon and Al Golden back to back—pissing away nine rebuilding years at Miami. An on-fumes, big name alum was handed the keys in 2016—a clean resume with 15 close-but-no-cigar seasons at an SEC power that chewed him up and spit him out.

Mark Richt dazzled with his 10-0 start and upset of third-ranked Notre Dame in 2017, while his behind-the-scenes efforts regarding UM’s football infrastructure definitely put things in motion. But his miracle little “Cardiac Canes” run in year two was a house of cards, built on a few last-second, miracle wins that would’ve had Miami at .500 if everything that needed go right, didn’t.

The Canes were fast-exposed after a regular season-ending loss to a four-win Pittsburgh squad, a no-show in Miami’s first ACC title game appearance—a five-touchdown ass-beating handed out by Clemson—followed by a double-digit, fade-late showing against Wisconsin in the Orange Bowl.

Given a mulligan and No. 8 ranking to start the 2018 season, Richt’s Canes were wrecked by No. 25 LSU in the opener, smacked around a few nobodies over the next month and then lost four in a row—barely eking out bowl eligibility and getting a low-rent rematch against the five-loss Badgers in the Pinstripe Bowl, with an even uglier result than the NY6 showdown a year prior.

Exit Richt, enter Manny Diaz—after a rushed, lazy “search” process—which ended 21-15 and the second straight do-over after a three-year run. Diaz managed to lose to a commuter school year one, face-planting against a former UM head coach (Davis) and a rag-tag Florida International commuter college, followed by a double-digit loss at Duke and a bowl shutout at the hands of Louisiana Tech.

For those quick to dismiss the notion of “culture” issues inside UM’s walls—a reminder of a recent report from former players, that teammates would hype up minor injuries to skip practice with no fear of losing their jobs.

Story continued that Diaz was quick to let things slide—everything from minor team rules violations, to in-game penalties and missed tackles. Unless it was drug-related where the university got involved, the head coach was content sweeping the rest under the rug, in effort to be a a liked and accepted, friend-of-the-players’ coach—opposed to a feared and respected, alpha-male leader of men.

These weak and limp beta-style character traits defined the program and fueled the broken culture narrative, as the rookie head coach was under immense pressure to win and feared losing his most-talented players to the transfer portal, or NFL Draft.

Miami is less than three years removed from an FIU upset where its quarterback Jarren Williams missed curfew, but still started.

Then-starting quarterback Jarren Williams even broke curfew the night before the FIU debacle, yet was still allowed to start, as Diaz had created a consequence-free environment—one where players feared nothing and scoffed at rules, regulations or repercussions for their individual actions.

For lack of a better saying, the inmates were running the asylum as recently as this time last year—yet Miami fan’s still can’t wrap the their heads around a lethargic effort, or inability to close out football games?

All of these aforementioned events happened less than three years ago—with Diaz at the helm the next two seasons, which included last fall’s 2-4 start and an embarrassing November loss that ultimately ran him out of a job after the 2021 season—yet so many remain bewildered that five games into the Cristobal era, years of a cancerous ways are yet to be flushed from the system?

In the wake of an ugly loss to Middle Tennessee State, left guard Jalen Rivers talked about Miami overlooking their lesser opponent and admittedly coming in “unmotivated, kinda slow” before trying and failing to respond after getting “punched in the mouth”—while center Jakai Clark talked about the Canes not being “locked in” during pregame and called his team’s attitude “lethargic”.

Tyrique Stevenson—who muffed a crucial punt in a loss at Texas A&M weeks back—shared in a recent blog posting that when pressed by Cristobal about what took place against the Blue Raiders, the cornerback had no answer.

“I don’t know, coach, we just have to get back to work”—players now with their own say-nothing version of coach-speak.


There’s zero attempt to compare modern era Miami football to all that Nick Saban is accomplishing at Alabama; the iconic head coach racking up five national titles over the past 16 seasons in Tuscaloosa. Though there is a discussion to be had regarding player awareness, attitude, confidence and football IQ for a moment—especially in light of comments from Rivers, Clark and Stevenson.

This recent article by Michael Casagrande—beat writer for the Crimson Tide, who used to cover the Canes for the Sun-Sentinel—is built around a game-changing, heads-up moment by cornerback Terrion Arnold in Bama’s close-call against Texas A&M on Saturday afternoon.

Arnold was a 5-Star prospect out of Tallahassee—the second-best safety in the state of Florida arguably staying home had one of The Big Three been more impressive recently.

Instead, Saban reeled him in and the defensive back stepped up big in a gave-saving moment—Alabama’s back to the wall, up four with three seconds remaining and Texas A&M—ball at the two-yard line and one play from a colossal take down of No. 1 for a second straight season.

Not on Arnold’s watch. The redshirt freshman not only catching Aggies’ head coach Jimbo Fisher tipping off where the plays was headed, the safety was also in position to keep A&M receiver Evan Stewart out of the end zone, even if he had caught the well-guarded pass from Haynes King with that final attempt as time expired.

Alabama, 24, Texas A&M 20—disaster averted.

Crimson Tide safety Terrion Arnold (#3) knew where the ball was going and stopped a goal line stand as Alabama survived aTm, 24-20.

Winning has a way of curing all in sports. Alabama survived and is now 6-0 halfway through their 2022 season. Had they fallen to the Aggies, the fact they were without starting quarterback Bryce Young would’ve been the first attempt at reasoning—but the oddsmakers still saw the Crimson Tide as a 24-point favorite, to an underachieving Texas A&M team that was upset by Appalachian State in early September, and an 18-point loser at Mississippi State last weekend.

Translation, Alabama had no business being in a position where Texas A&M had the ball on the two-yard line, down four, with a shot to cap off a 69-yard game-winning drive—yet that’s precisely where they were when championship-caliber DNA kicked in and the Crimson Tide made another season-defining play.

Disaster was also averted weeks back when No. 1 Alabama trailed unranked Texas, 19-17—the Longhorns playing most of the game with a back-up up quarterback—before Young kept the drive alive with his wing and wheels, setting up a 33-yard field goal attempt with :10 remaining, escaping Austin with a one-point victory.

It’s a tried and true, age-old formula. Winners and winning programs win, while losers with losing muscle memory lose—until something eventually gives and a tide is turned.

This adage is also why Cristobal and this first-year Miami staff work tirelessly to break these Hurricanes of deep-rooted bad habits, with an emphasis on process—because once the correct process is in place and a team learns how to win, the victories follow.


Going into this latest annual match-up, North Carolina had beaten Miami three in a row—and if delving deep into the heads and subconscious of every player on that field, it was the visitors riding the win streak, with the history of winning the close ones, who believed to their core they would emerge victorious—as losing to “The U” wasn’t part of their muscle memory; most of these Tar Heels nowhere near the program the last time the Canes notched a win in this series, back in 2018.

Recent history tells the entire story and the record books will show that Miami has reinvented ways to piss games away against North Carolina.

After digging themselves a 17-3 hole in 2019, Miami went ahead late third quarter via a Will Mallory touchdown, but failed on a two-point attempt—trying to make up for a missed PAT earlier in the game.

Clinging to a five-point lead with 2:55 remaining, the Canes followed up a clutch third-down sack by allowing the Tar Heels to convert on a 4th-and-17 attempt that could’ve ended the game. Five plays later North Carolina was in the end zone and after converting their two-point attempt, took a 28-25 lead—which proved to be the final score after a Miami game-tying field goal attempt sailed wide.

A year later, with Coastal Division title hanging in the balance on Senior Day in Miami—North Carolina scored 34 unanswered in the first half, taking a 34-10 lead into intermission, before falling 62-26 and surrendering 554 rushing yards—the Tar Heels proving that at home, or on the road, they had Diaz’s and UM’s number.

Last fall, another slow start for Miami on the road—North Carolina up, 31-17 at the half—while the Canes finally pulled within four going into the fourth. UNC pushed their lead to 11 points, UM scored and converted and it was now a three-point game with just over three minute remaining.

Miami’s defense forced a three-and-out, giving the Canes’ offense and Van Dyke their moment to shine—one week after a potential game-winning field goal attempt doinked off the goal post in a home loss to Virginia.

Van Dyke—who threw for 264 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions up to that point—saw his third-down attempt from the UNC 16-yard line batted into the air and into the arms of a Tar Heels linebacker, ending UM’s final attempt to win it, which also blew a fourth down attempt at a game-tying field goal and push for overtime.

Defeat snatched from the jaws of victory in 2019 after Miami gave up a 4th-and-17 at North Carolina, the Heels prevailing, 28-25.

All of which bring us to the misery surrounding this latest missed opportunity and chapter in the rivalry’s history—the Heels now with an 11-8 record against the Canes since 2004, the win-streak now pushed to four in a row.

True to form, Miami scrapped back late, but it wasn’t enough. Down seven early in the fourth quarter, the Canes saw a 65-yard, game-tying drive come to a screeching halt when running back Jaylan Knighton converted a 4th-and-1 with a nine-yard run, only to get half-heartedly stripped as he didn’t secure the football.

What should’ve been 1st-and-10 from the UNC 17-yard line, with momentum—it was Tar Heels’ ball, followed by an 81-yard, clock-chewing drive and conservative field goal attempt, pushing their lead to 10 points with just over four minutes remaining.

Van Dyke responded with a clutch 63-yard drive and 16-yard touchdown to Colbie Young, which set up an improbable miraculous and acrobatic onside kick recovery—negated as Al Blades Jr. stepped out of bounds, without reestablishing himself before touching the ball. Still, the Miami defense forced the three-and out, took possession with 1:08 remaining and again needed a field goal to force overtime, just like their last-ditch effort in Chapel Hill last year.

The Canes made it as far as midfield, before another amateur-hour mistake—Jaleel Skinner not getting out of bounds after a six-yard reception—which set up a clock-running, frazzled 3rd-and-4 attempt. Van Dyke rushed his throw, which in a deja vu moment was again tipped and intercepted to end a football game and another three-point loss.

While Knighton’s fumble was an inopportune brain-fart at a momentum-killing time, it didn’t lose the game anymore than Van Dyke’s interception sealed Miami’s fate. Same for an early 53-yard field goal attempt from Andres Borregales sailing wide—which could’ve had a different outcome and the Canes not giving up a five-yard sack on third down.

The mistakes were occasional and spread out, starting with blown coverage on the first score of the game—Kam Kitchens not providing safety support to Stevenson, allowing J.J. Jones to break free—hit in stride by freshman quarterback Jake Mayes for the 74-yard touchdown.

No, this was another death-by-a-thousand-cuts, collective loss by a football program cloaked in failure for almost two decades; the type of game Miami has lost a variety of ways for too many years—and when that negative muscle memory kicks in, the struggle indeed becomes real.

Alabama had its back to the wall at Texas and again this weekend against Texas A&M and what happened with their championship-caliber players and plug-and-play coaching staff—as well as a fan base used to winning big? All of Bryant-Denny Stadium had their, “Chill, we’ve got this” moment and the Crimson Tide prevailed. Conversely, the Aggies again showed their true choke-job colors—snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, slipping to 3-3 in a season that started with them ranked No. 6 in the pre-season.

Winners win. Losers lose.


Miami used to be Bama-like in their ways during championship-caliber ways of the 1980’s, early 1990’s and even the 2000-era rebirth—breaking back through with that late comeback against No. 1 Florida State in 2000, after five consecutive losses to the top-ranked Noles. Miami’s 17-0 halftime lead slowly evaporated, and with a minute and change remaining, the Canes—down 24-20—mounted a game-winning drive, capped off by a “wide right” field goal attempt, for the 27-24 victory.

Weeks later the Canes ended another five-game losing streak, taking out No. 2 Virginia Tech for the first time since 1994—and then closing strong with a Sugar Bowl rout of No. 7 Florida, proving Miami was the best team in the nation and should’ve had their crack at No. 1 Oklahoma for the national championship—not the Seminoles squad they beat head-to-head months prior.

A year later, the eventual national champions hit the ground running—before everything almost derailed after a four-interception outing at Boston College and late game fumble put the Eagles in position to end a 17-game win-streak, while also derailing the Canes’ title-game plans.

Ed Reed wasn’t having it. Not after suffering though 5-6 as a freshman in 1997, including that 47-0 massacre at Florida State. The senior safety had his own, “Chill, we’ve got this” moment as he tore an intercepted ball from the hands of teammate Matt Walters and scampered furiously towards game-sealing pay dirt.

Well-built, mentally-tough, physically-superior Miami football teams were hard-wired to step-up—while the brand of football on display the past almost-two decades leaves players, coaches and fans physically feeling the failure in the air and disaster on the bring the moment things start going south. The battle is literally lost before it’s even begun.

Had every Hurricanes fan been miked-up the moment Knighton coughed up that ill-timed fumble, it’d have been some version of, “Here we go again… this one’s over.”

We’ve all watched this movie on repeat for the last couple hundred games and we know how it ends.

It took Butch Davis until year six for a program-defining, “signature win”—beating FSU in 2000 after five straight losses against the Noles.

North Carolina and their spirited little four-game win-streak aside, stepping up and sealing the game late—the theme is all too common; this loser-driven, lactic acid needing to get pushed out and worked out of Miami’s aching muscles by a first-year staff. Another new crew of well-intended coaches—with zero ties to the losing ways over the past 16 seasons, or the type of failure that’s hovered over this program since the waning years of the Coker era.

Fact remains, Miami hasn’t been right since joining the ACC—the third-ranked, undefeated Canes inexplicably gifting the Tar Heels (3-4 at the time) their first-ever win over a Top 5 program back on October 30th, 2004.

North Carolina racked up 545 yards against a slipping Miami defense—279 yards on the ground, mostly from a third-string tailback—before one final defensive collapse set up a game-winning 42-yard field goal.

A week later Miami blew a 17-3 halftime lead against Clemson, shutout in the second half and falling 24-17 in overtime. By early December, a conference title was left on the table when falling to Virginia Tech, 16-10—the first ACC season for both Big East defectors.

To date, Miami is 0-for-18 regarding ACC championships—winning the Coastal one measly time (2017) and getting whooped by five touchdowns in the title game. Conversely, the Hokies won the ACC four times between 2004 and 2013 and took the division six times, before their backslide began.

Miami has been a broken, beat and scarred program since joining this “basketball conference”—unable to even get through the weaker division for a shot at glory—when originally invited to the ACC to improve it’s football pedigree; visions of the Canes and Noles teeing it up in December with big implications on the line.

All for naught.

Miami has seven more one-game seasons on deck and fans have a choice to make; either accepting what-is and buckling in for a rebuild, or living in the past—expecting Hurricanes’ ghosts to win football games, with some foolish belief that the “U” on the side of the helmets and a glorious past win football games, instead of these current players who just did three years under Diaz and staff.

The Miami Hurricanes many of you root for, talk about and believe in—that program is dead and buried, while this new version is experiencing it’s fifth rebuild in 15 years.

Tired as some of you are of “rebuilding”, time to face the hard fact that the last handful of do-overs were nothing more than homes built on bad foundations—which results in a disaster. Cracked walls, uneven floors and moisture damage causing wood rot and mold, which results in a complete tear down and rebuilding on a new foundation—which is where Cristobal and staff sit halfway through the 2022 season, whether you can accept that or not.

Winning has a way of masking inefficiencies—Alabama cheating death against Texas and Texas A&M could expose weaknesses at year’s end—while losing tends to expose all warts, while killing any ability to extract any positives or steps forward by young teams working towards getting better.

Cue the “there are no moral victories” crowd and those old schoolers talking about “lowered expectations”—as if the product on the field hasn’t hit rock bottom several times since the glory days—but there were signs of life against North Carolina last week and things for Miami to build on as the head to Virginia Tech this weekend.

There are mistakes to clean up and players must continue growing up fast and weekly, while  learning on the fly—but them’s the breaks in year one of yet another coaching regime change.

Deal with it.

Christian Bello has been covering University of Miami athletics since the mid-nineties. Getting his start with CanesTime, he eventually launched allCanesBlog—which led to a featured columnist stint with BleacherReport. He’s since rolled out the unfiltered, where he’ll use his spare time to put decades of U-related knowledge to use for those who care to read. When he’s not writing about ‘The U’, Bello is a storyteller for some exciting brands and individuals—as well as a guitarist and songwriter for his Miami-bred band Company Jones, who just released their debut album “The Glow”. Hit him on Twitter for all things U-related @ItsAUThingBLOG.


Three years ago then-Hurricanes head coach Manny Diaz stood in the bowels of Marlins Park on “a very, very dark night”.

Miami had just been upset by Florida International—a crosstown, commuter school rival—on the hallowed grounds where the beloved Orange Bowl once stood, playing host to a 58 home-game win streak that took place a lifetime ago.

“One of the lowest points ever in this proud program’s history,” Diaz told reporters, followed some coach-speak about taking responsibility and what not, before going out and losing to Duke a week later.

29 games and a coaching change since, the Hurricanes are again reeling from the type of loss that theoretically should never happen to a program of it’s nature; Miami beaten-up by Middle Tennessee State a week after coming up short in a mistake-filled, low-scoring affair at Texas A&M.

Only this time it was the $80-million dollar man on the sidelines for “The U”, with a hand-picked, highly-paid coaching staff that supposedly ensured embarrassing games of this nature would no longer be the norm in Coral Gables.

That’s not to say Mario Cristobal was ever expected to change two decades of a broken culture overnight—but this was the kind of setback that just blew ten months of hope and goodwill right out the window; the honeymoon officially over as soon as the 45-31 loss was in the books.

Rest assured Cristobal will get back to work and will die trying to resurrect his alma mater. The first-year head coach is known as one of the most-tireless workers the sport has seen in some time, though there are two battles being fought as Miami slips to 2-2 on the season, with ACC play kicking off October 8th when North Carolina heads south.

How does Cristobal work towards his long-term goal of rebuilding his version of a competitive, talent-rich powerhouse over the next half decade—while making changes on the fly?

Futhermore, how does Miami’s newest leader figure out how to get the most out of the personnel he has—not the personnel he expects to field after a few more recruiting cycles—as the head coach won’t be given a mulligan or any breathing room by an impatient fan base?

It’s been a quandary past Miami leaders have failed to solve; Cristobal the sixth new Hurricanes head coach in 17 seasons and third in the past five years—putting even more pressure on UM to start winning winnable football games immediately.


Taking over a squad that went 21-15 under Diaz the past three years, as well as a 28-24 run dating back to the 10-0 start Mark Richt posted in 2017—before going 7-9 and abruptly retiring after a 2018 bowl loss—Cristobal inherited a broken program in need of a complete overhaul and a serious culture change.

Of course this isn’t what a pent-up fan base wants to hear. Not after roughly two decades of incompetence, underachieving and a slew of false starts.

Every new Miami head coach—after Larry Coker—has been saddled with the baggage of the failed regime that’s come before him; each new fresh start bring more pressure than the guy who previously walked the path, as the last four coaches have failed the Hurricanes, the program slipping further into mediocrity and irrelevance as a result.

In the wake of this embarrassing upset—where Middle Tennessee State outplayed, out-toughed and out-coached Miami—a ridiculously entitled attitude and mindset from some in the fanbase regarding “lowered expectations” and the Hurricanes having “no business” losing to a team like the Blue Raiders.

All of which begs the question, says who?

The University of Miami entered this season 118-85 since the 2005 Peach Bowl debacle against LSU. When divided by the 16 years it took to accumulate that ugly number, it averages out to 7.4 wins-per-year and 5.3 losses.

For context—and to help explain some of the long-time Canes’ fans deep-rooted entitlement—Miami amassed a 107-14 record between 1983 and 1992, where it won four national championships (1983, 1987, 1989, 1991), left three on the field (1985, 1986, 1992), got screwed out of playing for one (1988) and screwed themselves out of playing for another (1990).

The average season for Miami during that “decade of dominance”—10.7 wins-per-year and 1.4 losses.

Since joining the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2004, Miami has won the lesser Coastal Division once and is 0-for-18 in ACC titles.

In contrast, Virginia Tech—who also bailed the Big East when UM left—picked up six division titles and four conference championships its first 13 seasons in the ACC, before falling on harder times.

Miami’s 30-24 loss to FIU in 2019 was followed with losses at Duke and a bowl-shutout to Louisiana Tech.

Miami closed out the 2019 season with an inexcusable late season loss to Florida International, followed by a double-digit loss at Duke and a bowl game shut-out at the hands of Louisiana Tech.

A handful of players on this current roster were part of that dismal inaugural 6-7 season under Diaz—yet this loss to Middle Tennessee State remains such a head-scratcher?

Again, for what reason—outside of ancient history and too many with their heads in the sand—still living in long-gone glory days for a once-great program?

Fact remains, this is a below-average football program and has been for the better part of two decades. Middle Tennessee State took full advantage of that lethargic attitude and half-ass effort, in the most-recent showdown where UM just assumed it could go through the motions to beat another “lesser” team.

Sure, there was an era a lifetime ago where a dominant Hurricanes program pulverized teams like the lowly Blue Raiders. The type of nobody who lost before even getting off the bus—dead and buried behind the West End Zone by sundown.

That was then, this is now and another little brother-type program just cleaned slipping big brother’s clock.

The uniforms may look similar and the “U” on the side of that helmet evokes memories of championship ways, but the DNA is nowhere near the same and the caliber of players representing this program aren’t worthy of the accolades, belief and trust that past Miami greats fought for and earned.

In short, these current Hurricanes players haven’t done shit and deserve no benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise.


The biggest mishap over the past 10 months is the false bravado a fan base exuded the minute a native son head coach returned home to a huge payday; a 10-year, $80-million contract and a budget for a top flight coaching staff, as well as the administrative swap out of a pretender-for-contender when Clemson’s Dan Radakovich took over as athletic director.

Cherry on top, Miami even added Alonzo Highsmith in the previously-discussed general manager-type role that almost took place under Diaz, before the insecure head coach stopped that move from taking place.

Overzealous fans took these upgrades to the bank and ran with them—ramping up the trash talk with rivals and quick to proclaim that Miami was “back”—which made for a fun offseason, followed by a harsh reality when Cristobal and the Canes rolled out the remnants from last year’s 7-5 squad.

This attitude that a staff upgrade would result in some just-add-water approach to rebuilding “The U”—nonsensical and moronic for any who have paid attention to the product on the field since Miami joined the ACC. Cristobal and staff were expected to instantly overhaul a program that brought in classes ranked 11th (2021), 17th (2020) and 27th (2019) the past three years, turning the Canes into a sleek and jelled unit four weeks into year one?

Same to be said by the fans and media making much ado about a sophomore quarterback with only nine starts under his belt.

Starved for the next great hope at a program that hasn’t lived up to its ‘Quarterback U’ moniker in two decades, the legend of Tyler Van Dyke got underway last fall after some unintentional trash talk as four-loss Miami prepped to host No. 18 North Carolina State.

The Canes hung in there for a 31-30 victory and stole another nail-biter at No. 18 Pittsburgh a week later, 38-34—the newest option under center throwing for seven touchdowns and 751 yards in back-to-back upsets of ranked teams, as the narrative began to write itself for a desperate fan base.

By season’s end, Van Dyke went 5-1 down the stretch—throwing for 300-plus yards all six games, with 20 touchdowns to three interceptions—leading to a slew of off-season articles and preseason accolades that are now looking somewhat overblown.

Van Dyke managed to shine brightly when expectations were low as he replaced an injured D’Eriq King, but after an offseason with a slew of hype—ACC’s-best accolades or chatter about future NFL Draft status—when the lights came on for game one in the Cristobal era, undefeated with a lot to prove, it’s been a deer-in-the-headlights reaction ever since.

Glaring weaknesses for the revered quarterback and warts exposed in a new offensive system, without a few next-level receivers who helped bail him out and mask flaws last fall.

Prior to this new season, NBC Sports talked up Van Dyke’s “encore performance” back in August, while ESPN wrote earlier that the Hurricanes had been “waiting two decades” for a quarterback like #9.

Lost in the storybook hype, the fact that Van Dyke had the luxury of stepping in for King when Miami sat at 1-2, throttled by Alabama and outlasted by Michigan State—the Canes losing those two games by a combined 52 points, while barely holding on at home against Appalachian State.

After a few bad-luck breaks against Virginia and North Carolina had Miami and Van Dyke both 2-4 and 0-2 in ACC play—the pressure and the wheels completely off.

The legend of Tyler Van Dyke started against North Carolina State in 2021, but is fizzling out fast in early 2022.

Expectations were low for the rest of 2021 and then-offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee had Van Dyke letting it rip in a one-dimensional offense—defined by shoddy offensive line play and virtually no running game—and for the most part, it worked as the quarterback played out of his mind and the Canes had some close-call games go in their favor.

Miami beat North Carolina State, Pittsburgh and Georgia Tech by a combined eight points, before a disastrous outing at Florida State. Bounce-back wins followed against Virginia Tech and Duke; the Canes going 7-5 on the season, which could’ve easily have been 4-8 without some unexpected, next-level quarterback play.

A similar storyline in 2020 as King hit the ground running and willed the Hurricanes to an 8-3 season that was also the product of some unorthodox quarterback play, a yeoman’s effort from the energetic signal caller and three more narrow wins.

Miami outlasted Virginia, North Carolina State and Virginia Tech by a combined nine points late in the season—before routing Duke, getting throttled at home by North Carolina (62-24) with a Coastal Division title on the line and falling in a bowl game against Oklahoma State.

Anyone who watched the Diaz era with an honest and discerning eye over those 36 games—the slow starts, sloppy play, games given away, or blowouts against any real competition Miami faced—what was honestly expected year one of the Cristobal era?

“At least doing enough to beat shitty a Conference USA team like Middle Tennessee State!!”

Fair enough, but that statement is also based on Miami as a once-successful program and not this current crop of Hurricanes players, known for playing down to competition for decades—and with the parity in today’s game, good teams simply can’t no-show or half-ass it against “lesser” competition.


Look no further than preseason No. 5 Notre Dame getting upended at home by Marshall, sixth-ranked Texas A&M getting stifled by Appalachian State or UTEP smacking around Boise State the first month of this season. The Hurricanes are the most-recent (and definitely not the last) victim of an entitled generation of players who show up expecting to beat formidable foes, even when they haven’t even put in the work.

Don’t believe it? Dig up a few post-game quotes from a few Miami offensive lineman in the wake of last week’s upset.

“We… I say we, everybody, because we’re all in this together. We looked at that team ‘Oh, we’re gonna win this game’,” said offensive lineman Jalen Rivers postgame. “So we came in obviously unmotivated, kinda slow and we had to ramp things back up when we got punched in the mouth.”

There was also center Jakai Clark, who stated, “We weren’t as locked in as we should have been pregame. During the week we had a good week of practice, but pregame…me personally, I feel as though we weren’t as locked in as we should have been,” while also calling his team’s attitude “lethargic”.

Without naming names, the trend also continues with current Miami player quick to post images or video clips to their social media platforms—glamorizing individual plays they made in a game the Hurricanes collectively lost as a group.

If the Getty Images coming across the feed are legit, toss ’em up on the ‘Gram with some caption about hustling, grinding and getting back to work—a faux attempt at motivation, when reality it’s an immature, self-absorbed practice common for the current generation featuring its share of attention-starved, me-first athletes.

The team losing comes secondary to individuals celebrating a captured moment where they looked good—converting it to social media currency and the endorphin rush of likes, or ass-kissing fan comments.

All that to say, social media isn’t the culprit—a pretender’s and loser’s mentality is, as well as a lack of leadership and veterans in that locker room not having the stones to call out the destructive behavior.

You’d think the level of disgust, embarrassment, frustration and anger would be palpable around Greentree since Saturday’s laughing-stock loss. Things getting thrown around, or at minimum some serious soul-searching.

The aforementioned Clark was a freshman on Miami’s 2019 team that lost to FIU—yet he’s giving quotes about players not being locked-in pre-game, rolling in unmotivated and slow—getting “punched in the mouth”? Where was any conversation from upperclassmen on this roster who took it in the shorts via the Golden Panthers three years back?

“Don’t sleep on these Blue Raiders. I’m telling you. Look at that shit that happened to us three years ago when FIU took us out. Need to keep that guard up as these cats are coming to play and believe they can win.”

Miami’s mostly non-alum fan base is doing opposing teams a solid with their no-show game-day efforts; a lot of blue seats watching MTSU.

Does anybody really believe Cristobal and staff didn’t have a collective foot up the ass of this team all week after that loss at Texas A&M? The first-year head coach talked postgame about his team coming up short, needing to improve and eliminating issues that hurt Miami in the loss.

“We’ve got to get better. Playing a tight game doesn’t automatically make you more successful next week. We’ve got to go to work. We’ve got to look in the mirror and face reality. We gave up some opportunities that you just can’t give. And we did that. That’s upsetting,” said Cristobal, postgame in College Station.

“It should burn. It needs to burn. It needs to feel really, in a way, motivational knowing we could be a good team but becoming a good team is not just going to happen. We’ve got to keep working. We’ve made some progress, but we could have coached better tonight. We could have played better tonight. We could have executed better tonight. We’ll get back and we’ll get back to work.”

The only thing that burned the following week was Miami’s secondary getting torched for passes that went 69, 71, 89 and 98 yards, respectively—three of which went for touchdowns, the other leading to one.


How does a hot-and-cold player like D.J. Ivey look like he’s turned a corner at Texas A&M, with a pretty-good showing—only to revert back to burnt toast-mode and that same dude who got torched on a fake punt and a late touchdown in an overtime loss to a one-win Georgia Tech squad in 2019?

How does Tyrique Stevenson—who for a minute looked like he was going to declare for the NFL Draft earlier this year—write in a recent CaneSport blog post that when pressed by his head coach as to what happened the day prior, he had zero answers?

“I talked with coach Cristobal on Sunday before a team meeting, he just ran into me. He just asked me, `What happened? What do you think happened?’ I said I don’t know, you just have to get back to the drawing board and see the holes that we’re missing and we just have to start plugging them in with the right players and the right mindset. He thought I had an answer, but the answer is `I don’t know, coach, we just have to get back to work, figure out what went wrong, where the holes are and keep working and try to improve in those areas.’”

The phrasing of the head coach’s questioning is important here; “What do you think happened?”—to which Stevenson had nothing.

Don’t doubt for a minute Cristobal couldn’t have answered it for his cornerback.

A two-time national champion at Miami, recruited by Jimmy Johnson and spending four years under Dennis Erickson, on a 44-4 squad, loaded with superstars and future NFL’ers—who parlayed that experience and knowledge into a coaching career, instead of going his original route of joining the Secret Service.

Grad assistant under Butch Davis, position coach and recruiting head after following Greg Schiano to Rutgers—and then back to Miami, before getting his shot to cut his teeth for six years as a bottom-feeder program like FIU, before getting picked up groomed by Nick Saban when originally on his way back to Coral Gables under Al Golden in 2013.

Four years in Tuscaloosa and the four years as head coach at Oregon, where he went 35-12 and won the Pac-12 twice—Cristobal knows that the teacher isn’t teaching if he’s feeding the pupil the answers. It’s a learning experience for his cornerback to figure out and articulate what went south and why.

Who knows if Stevenson even picked up on any of that, or if the majority of this current roster even truly comprehends all the hell that just took place?

Plus, how do these players even get “back to work” when to a man they can’t even identify what went wrong?

First-year head coach Mario Cristobal fast in a 2-2 hole; the honeymoon over after UM was recently-upset by MTSU.


Fans don’t want to buy into the whole “culture” argument—quick to cite the massive payday and coaching staff upgrade, as if it equates to a turnkey solution and immediate buy-in from the 100-plus players on this roster.

Unfortunately life doesn’t work that way—no matter how salty you are that this program sucked for the past almost-20 years.

Fat and want to lose weight? It comes off one pound at a time. Skinny and want to bulk up? Start lifting and prepare for incremental results. Want to become a guitar player? Get ready to suck for a few years and to shred your fingers in the process.

Planting a garden as it feels like the apocalypse is coming any day now? Drop those seeds, water away and wait patiently while seeds become seedlings, before they flower, fruit and ripen, giving you some tomatoes … in half a year.

Everyone knows this by now; nothing good comes easy, success takes time and hard work is the cornerstone of everything. Progress can’t be fast-tracked and the only thing that can be controlled right now is the infrastructure—which despite the 2-2 stumble out the gate, it still where it needs to be for this program’s long-term future, minus a few tweaks here and there if this first wave of coordinators and position coaches don’t fit the bill.

All that to say, Cristobal must quickly figure out how to parallel path and build for tomorrow, while solving the problems of today. It simply can’t be a long-term vision with an “Under Contruction” sign at the front door of Hecht Athletic Center with some “Project Complete — January 2025” declaration, while a fan base sits around waiting for three years.

The quarterback solution everyone felt was a strength going into this season; welcome to a full-blown conundrum before even getting out of September.

Whether that’s all on Van Dyke, this loss of his two go-to options to graduation and his top new target sidelined with a foot injury—or the scheme that first-year offensive coordinator Josh Gattis is running—something has to give, and fast.

Miami wideouts struggled to get open against Texas A&M’s third-string secondary, while the Canes defensive backs got absolutely torched in man coverage against Middle Tennessee State, after looking halfway decent against the Aggies.

Doesn’t take Canestradamus to predict that combo is no recipe for 2022 success.

The result entering the ACC portion of the schedule; every coach’s nightmare—a loose-playing back-up quarterback looking more comfortable than the starter. Jake Garcia has just entered the chat and now the one position on the field that looked like Miami’s biggest strength entering the season—while salvaging last year and making 2020 look better than it was—it’s seemingly entered train wreck-mode.

Even worse, the wrong decision could absolutely destroy psyches and fast send the 2022 down the drain; coaches giving up on Van Dyke too quickly, Garcia underperforming and then going back to the starter that the staff showed they had no faith in by making the switch.

Fun times ahead.

While the overhyped yahoo fan either seriously, or jokingly woofed about “15-0!!” when Cristobal was hired—fact remains this current crossroads is where the first-year coach needs to earn his paycheck; problem-solving on the fly, as the wrong moves set the program back and ultimately push the turnaround timeline further down the road.


Fans love to mock the annual, “Coastal is still within reach!” narrative when year after year fall apart for the Canes, but as far as Cristobal’s inaugural season goes,  Miami did lose the two of the most “meaningless” games on the schedule—despite the fact one was a glorified high school team that hails from a place called Murfreesboro.

North Carolina. Virginia Tech. Duke. Virginia. Florida State. Georgia Tech. Clemson. Pittsburgh. The result of those eight showdowns will write Miami’s 2022 season narrative; not the last two weekends.

Of course if one shits the bed against the likes of a Middle Tennessee State, the odds of beating half of those teams—let alone all eight—is an uphill battle, but then again so is life. Welcome to Cristobal’s and his staff’s challenge for the rest of this football season. Figure it out, gents.

Xavier Restrepo’s injury depletes a receiving corps that already lost Charleston Rambo and Mike Harley to graduation last year.

Outside of Clemson, the rest of these teams are absolutely pedestrian—and even the Tigers are a shell of what they’ve been the last decade.

Cristobal knows what’s at stake; the same dilemma his last few predecessors faced—winning big enough with what he has, in order to land the kids he needs to ultimately win bigger—which feeds off itself, attracts more talent over the next few recruiting cycles, putting Miami in position to be a true contender in the next three to five years.

Whether this team has the guts, heart and character to scrap its way into the Coastal Division hunt year one, we’ll see— but anything less than obvious improvement over last year’s 7-5 debacle is an indictment on this staff for not figuring out how to get the most out of these kids.

An fortunate and opportune time for a bye week as this program needs to stew on this loss a little longer; especially when players are offering up media quotes about not being ready to play, while others can’t answer the simple where-it-all-went-wrong question for the coaching staff.

Safe to say back-to-back losses are keeping this coaching staff up all night, during this 14-day lull before Miami takes the field again—but what about these Hurricanes players? Are they stewing and ready to take the frustration out on North Carolina, or are they in that dangerous it-is-what-it-is state of mind?

Fans can bitch about high-priced coaches all they want, but these players can’t be immune to the same harsh criticism.

Not at Miami, not when they’re very vocal on social media and not in an NIL era where amateurism has gone out the window and college athletes have pretty much reached the semi-pro ranks. Everybody is fair game once you take a check for services rendered.

Miami’s football history is rich, distinguished and hangs over the head of anyone who puts on that “U”-adorned helmet—but until enough current Hurricanes realize heavy is the head that wears the crown, nothing is going to change. These kids have to want it—and if they don’t, then the next few recruiting classes will push them aside, as the ones ready to rebuild this thing the right way.

Rest assured, every class Cristobal brings in from ’22 on out will fast-understand what it means to be a Mi-am-i Hurr-i-cane—authentically; not in some nonsensical, “It’s All About The U” marketing department, t-shirt, schedule poster verbiage or hashtag.

The question over these next eight games; can this coaching staff drill pride, winning ways and next-level effort into the heads of the last three classes—or are Diaz’s kids too far gone?

There’s still time to write your history, Miami.

Sky’s the limit, but you best clean it up fast if you don’t want to be a footnote in this disastrous chapter for the Canes.

Christian Bello has been covering University of Miami athletics since the mid-nineties. Getting his start with CanesTime, he eventually launched allCanesBlog—which led to a featured columnist stint with BleacherReport. He’s since rolled out the unfiltered, where he’ll use his spare time to put decades of U-related knowledge to use for those who care to read. When he’s not writing about ‘The U’, Bello is a storyteller for some exciting brands and individuals—as well as a guitarist and songwriter for his Miami-bred band Company Jones, who just released their debut album “The Glow”. Hit him on Twitter for all things U-related @ItsAUThingBLOG.


First-year Miami Hurricanes head coach Mario Cristobal at the ACC Media Days in June 2022. (Photo credit unknown.)

The Miami Hurricanes prepare for their 2022 season opener this weekend—making this the perfect time for the UM fan base to take a breath to reflect on all that’s happened during this nine-month whirlwind.

Without a slew of off-season mini-miracles last December, UM is preparing to take the field in year four of the Manny Diaz era this weekend—which would’ve been both disappointing and fitting when summing up how things have played out in disappointing fashion for “The U” these past 15 years.

Instead, every luck break, fortunate bounce, calculated behind-the-scenes effort and serendipitous act that needed to happen to turn things around—it all incredibly came together through optimal timing when Miami welcomed home native son Mario Cristobal, who his alma mater poached from Oregon in complete underdog, upset fashion at the end of the 2021 regular season.

Miami fans will have the rest of 2022 to talk the ins and outs of Hurricanes football, but with the new season underway this Saturday at HardRock, a moment of reflection and a quick look back at everything that went right for UM over the past nine months—as well as the bevy of disasters that put the Canes in such a hole in the first place.


Even the most ardent supporter of the University of Miami couldn’t have seen this one coming; UM elbowing its way back to the high-stakes table with a fat stack of chips—ready to play big time football and to again chase championships.

The masses had resigned themselves to Miami’s morph into the low-rent, small-budget program it’s been the past 15 seasons. Instead, the Hurricanes miraculously rose from the ashes and is putting together all the necessary pieces to make a big run again in the near future.

With real change taking place and authentic optimism now in the air, loyalists can officially let down their guard—transparently admitting what a farce this wash-rinse-repeat process has been for Miami these past two decades.

Larry Coker was a stopgap hire and fumbled the dynasty he was handed—slowly destroying all that Butch Davis built over a six-year span. With Davis leaving the cupboard full, Coker saw a 35-3 run, a national championship and back-to-back title games.

From there, wheels were off; a 25-12 stumble over the next three years—everything crashing down in 2006 during a brutal 7-6 season leading to Coker’s dismissal.

Randy Shannon was a solid defensive coordinator when he had a loaded two-deep and could out-talent the competition—but he was a cheap and lazy hire by UM, as the program wasn’t far-removed from greatness in 2006 and the administration should’ve been more aggressive to right the ship while things were fixable.

This also would’ve been an ideal time to have brought Davis back into the fold, but the opportunity was fumbled—North Carolina bringing in the former Miami dynasty architect two weeks before Coker was canned.

Another swing and a miss for “The U”.

When another promoted-from-withing experiment tanked, a supposed up-and-comer in Al Golden fast-proved to be an off-brand, empty suit who was swallowed whole on the main stage—sent packing midway through year five—the day after a 58-0 home loss to Clemson in 2015.

Butch Davis’ dynasty officially put out to pasture by Larry Coker after this Peach Bowl beat-down, 40-3.

Mark Richt might’ve been the right guy in a different era, but he showed up a decade too late. He was followed by Manny Diaz, who proved to be a better politician and poker player than head coach; lurking around after the out-of-nowhere retirement of his boss and forcing the hand of Miami’s administrators who hired him within hours or Richt’s departure.

UM fearing Diaz would stick with his new Temple opportunity if they didn’t make a decision before he headed back to Philadelphia; as if he wouldn’t have left the Owls in the dust two weeks later if Miami conducted a search and landed back on him.

Donna Shalala neutered the football program and ran it into the ground during her tenure at UM’s president, while Blake James was a lame-duck hire at athletic director—the university settling for stability after Kirby Hocutt and Shawn Eichorst both used the office as a pit stop and stepping stone to bigger opportunities.

A dead fish always stinks from its head down and when one throughly inspects every misstep the University of Miami’s top brass has taken since Davis took his talents to the NFL—there was zero reason to believe the Hurricanes would ever truly compete again in this modern era of college football.

Money talks, bullshit walks and while other programs began pouring hundreds of millions into building powerhouses, UM resigned itself to a lean budget—living off adidas and ACC television revenue, while its marketing department relied on nostalgia—propping up the good ol’ days and ancient history as the present-day Canes were nothing to write home about.

The old game plan for returning to greatness was laughable. Hire a second-rate coach and hope he could find a way to win big enough with the talent he had on the roster. This would theoretically allow him to lure in some bigger names during the next recruiting cycle—and then he could attempt it again, after a slightly better season. Win another game or two, pick tip another solid kid here or there—painstakingly building the program back one brick at a time.


The closest this ever came to fruition was 2017, when Richt’s squad kept eking out wins en route to a 7-0 start—setting up back-to-back prime time showdown against No. 13 Virginia Tech and No. 3 Notre Dame, which the momentum-riding Canes won soundly.

Prior to those showdowns, nail-biters against Florida State, Georgia Tech, Syracuse and North Carolina were all one play from going the other way—where a few losses would’ve kept games against the Hokies and Irish out of coveted prime-time slots, or at minimum had HardRock barely rolling.

Exposed by a four-loss Pittsburgh team in the regular season finale, Miami was boat-raced in it’s lone ACC title game appearance—Clemson up 38-0 in the fourth quarter before Richt opted for a field goal to simply not get shut out.

Fun as it was to slap around the third-ranked Irish, Mark Richt went 8-9 at Miami after that 2017 upset.

Weeks later, an Orange Bowl homecoming spoiled by a Wisconsin squad that out-toughed a Miami team that went up 14-3 and fell 34-24.

The three-game losing streak carried over into 2018 as well—Richt finishing 8-9 after that miraculous 10-0 start—which led to his stepping down after another bowl loss to the Badgers; the rebuild of his alma mater proving too much after a grueling 15-year run in the SEC, where he got Georgia close, but never over the hump.

Consensus was that the Diaz hire was absolutely rushed and knee-jerk, but denial and anger soon led to some form of acceptance—fans trying to rally around a defensive coordinator who seemed to understand the brand and came across like he had the passion to get things turned around.

Diaz was a Miami native who grew up going to the Orange Bowl during the Decade of Dominance-era and a diehard supported of the Canes—but could he rebuild a UM program in the mold of the ones he grew up watching up close and personal?

Fast, hard-hitting defenses with electric offenses and game-changing special teams—better conditioned than any opponent, with true swag on display by way of on-the-field success and next-level effort put in at Greentree—followed by roping off The State of Miami and keeping the best South Florida talent home?

It might’ve sounded good on paper for those who sold themselves on the pipe dream, but in reality the three-year experiment was the complete opposite.


A smoke-and-mirrors effort followed with Diaz—all bark and no bite, starting with his cigar-chomping gangster-moment as he floated into a booster outing on an 88-foot yacht—prefaced by as a WWE-style practice facility event in January 2019, where “7-6” signs were slapped on tackling dummies and the new head coach joined the player meleé in cringe-worthy fashion.

Since Diaz’s departure, reports of cultural issues, playing favorites and opting not to discipline top players, out of fear they’d transfer—which is precisely the disastrous recipe for how a team like cross-town, commuter-school rival Florida International upset Miami and its curfew-breaking quarterback on that dismal November night at Marlins Stadium, where the beloved Orange Bowl one stood.

Three years with a liked-accepted man-boy at the helm, instead of a feared-respected alpha male—Diaz went 21-15 in three years at ‘The U’.

As has been pointed out here for years, Diaz wanted to be liked and accepted, opposed to feared and respect—something Barry Jackson exposed in a Miami Herald piece in late July:

“My educated theory is that the lack of discipline, the fact that Diaz let things slide, boiled down to one issue: Diaz wanted players—at least his best players—to like him, because he feared losing them—figuratively—or literally, to the Transfer Portal or to the NFL,” wrote the longtime columnist.

While the loss to FIU was the beginning of the end, a 2-4 start in 2021 proved to be the final straw for the decision-makers—while fans were split between praying for 8-4, while those who’d seen enough were ready for 3-9.

Beat lowly Florida State, lose to everybody else and be gone.

Of course Diaz did the opposite; winning out—except for a must-win game in Tallahassee where Miami gave up a crucial 4th-and-14 late, falling to a Seminoles program that had only won six of it’s past 18 games—including a home loss to Jacksonville State earlier in the year.

Whatever was accomplished with a midseason, three-game win-streak—both sides were out for blood after an inexplicable loss to a putrid FSU squad—yet even with that, Diaz looked to remain at UM, if not for a perfect storm that began brewing mid-season, coming to fruition the first weekend of December.

Had it not been for a few billionaires taking matters into their own hands—reaching out cryptically to a hometown son at a fork in the road career-wise—Diaz would’ve most-likely seen year four in Coral Gables.


Instead, all roads ultimately led to Cristobal—always hiding in plain sight as a head coaching option for UM, though the timing wasn’t optimal until here and now.

The fourth-year Oregon leader also had a good thing going on in Eugene—and he wasn’t trekking back to his alma mater for anything less than a perfect scenario, where demands had to be met, championship intentions laid out and the University of Miami committed to making Hurricanes football great again.

In short, UM needed to prove it had its shit together or Mario wasn’t coming home.

As for the resume, a two-time national champion (1989, 1991) and a grad assistant under Butch Davis from 1998 through 2000—Cristobal spent the next two decades climbing the coaching ladder and proving his worth.

When Davis bailed for the NFL after the 2001 Sugar Bowl, Cristobal followed Greg Schiano to Rutgers, after the UM defensive coordinator accepted the head coaching gig for the Scarlet Knights.

Three years later, Cristobal was back in Coral Gables under Coker, where he coached tight end for two seasons and offensive line for one—before taking the teeth-cutting, doomed-to-fail head coaching opportunity at Florida International—where he achieved a winning record by year four and the Golden Panthers won their first-ever bowl game.

Run off after year six, Cristobal had a six-week run at UM where he joined Golden’s staff, before Nick Saban came calling with a career-changing opportunity. It was a move that riled Miami fans up in the moment, while those leaning on logic over emotion knew was the only path if Cristobal was ever going to be in position to take the top job at UM down the road.

Love of UM aside, Cristobal would been a complete fool to stay on at Miami under Golden—in the midst of an NCAA investigation, no less—instead of saddling up next to Saban at Alabama.

The next four seasons saw Cristobal in an assistant head coach, recruiting coordinator, offensive line coach hybrid role in Tuscaloosa—where he picked up a national championship ring (2015), as well as slew of wisdom and knowledge from arguably the greatest college football head coach of the modern era.

Cristobal’s return to UM in December was his fourth stop at Miami; including a brief six-week stay in 2013.

What difference would Cristobal have made in Coral Gables from 2013, through Golden’s mid-season firing in 2015? Outside of an extra recruiting battle won here or there, zero would’ve been done to advance his coaching career—sitting under a lame-duck Miami head coach, versus being plugged into a modern-day powerhouse at Alabama. This was the only logical step and a career-defining moment.

Period, full stop.

The next opportunity to ladder-climb revealed itself in Eugene when Willie Taggart tapped Cristobal to be his offensive coach, co-offensive coordinator and run-game coordinator at Oregon for the 2017 season—which created another game-changing, college football-defining moment after Taggart left for Florida State in December and the Ducks promoted Cristobal to head coach for 2018; a four-year run that had him ready to either take Oregon to the next level, or to channel that energy into his alma mater.

Cristobal built on Taggart’s 7-6 run in 2017, going 9-4 in 2018—followed by a 12-2 run, a Pac-12 title and Rose Bowl victory in his second season.

COVID-19 caused a quirky season for Oregon—the Pac-12 starting the season in November, after original plans to cancel—but the Ducks still won the conference, before falling in the Fiesta Bowl to No. 10 Iowa State.

In his final year at Oregon, Cristobal reached 10-1 before getting clobbered in back-to-back games by a solid Utah team—the final regular season road game, as well as in the conference championship—where plans to solidify his return to Miami came to life the first weekend of December.

Regarding this return to Coral Gables—made official on December 6th, the Monday after Friday’s Pac-12 title game—money no longer an issue, after a regular season full of Oregon fans, Miami rivals and college football pundits all swearing up and down that the Ducks head coach would never leave his current position—or personal Nike contract via Phil Knight—for a notoriously-cheap, non-contender that was the modern-day University of Miami.

While the Diaz-led Hurricanes were losing on the field, Miami faithful were working tirelessly behind the scenes—well-aware it would take more than just tugged heart strings and the lure of home to get him to take the road less traveled—walking away from what he’d spent four years building at Oregon.


Jose Mas, Jorge Mas and and other wealthy, influential Miami fans, alumni, natives or friends of the program began throwing the only type of weight around that mattered—big dollars—which ultimately moved mountains. (Same to be said for local billionaire John Ruiz, whose LifeWallet efforts are turning the NIL game on its collective ear.)

Regarding all the knocks on Shalala for her lack of interest in athletics, her investment in the medical program wound up with the school’s hospital system bringing in record dollars during the pandemic; some of which was diverted towards athletics by way of current UM president Dr. Julio Frenk.

The result, a 10-year, $80-million deal was offered to Cristobal—as well as a promise to invest in a staff and infrastructure; plans for a football operations center underway—while Cristobal virtually had a blank checkbook when luring assistants to Coral Gables.

Cristobal plucked offensive coordinator Josh Gattis from Michigan and veteran SEC defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, while bringing his Columbus High, sidekick offensive coordinator Alex Mirabal back home—as well as defensive line coach and associate head coach Joe Salave’a.

The moment this photo hit Twitter, days after the Pac-12 title game—college football was put on notice.

Cristobal was also was Sabanesque in selling Miami as a stepping-stone coaching environment; a way for a Charlie Strong to get back to something bigger, with the former Louisville, Texas and South Florida head coach signing on to coach linebackers, as well as co-defensive coordinator duties. Frank Ponce is also taking a step backwards to go foward; leaving an offensive coordinator position at Appalachian State to coach quarterbacks for the Canes.

Bryan McClendon was also set to follow Cristobal from Eugene to Miami, but his alma mater called and he took a passing-game coordinator position with Georgia. Cristobal got the last laugh, though—poaching secondary coach Jahmile Addae from Athens; also the national champion Bulldogs’ top recruiter.

Administration-wise, there was also the massive hire of Dan Radakovich at athletic director—poached from his perch at Clemson, Miami went from having the equivalent of a substitute teacher running the department, to a proven, heavy-hitter who will lead Hurricanes sports into an insanely bright future.

Miami also brought Alonzo Highsmith back home; something that’s been kicked around within the program for years—nixed by Diaz in a beta move years back, opting to hire Ed Reed in a motivational-type role—knowing that Highsmith would’ve come in like a wrecking ball, exposing the smoke-and-mirrors campaign Diaz was running.

Again, another moment for pause after rattling off a who’s who list of names like the one above.


A message to old school fans—relive Miami’s coaching staffs between 2004 and 2021 and the type of names the Canes were landing, settling for and trying to get excited about.

Recall an era of Miami football where a 5-Star prospect like Kyle Wright showed up on campus, ready to follow the path of fellow California quarterback Ken Dorsey—only to spend 2003 through 2007 with four different offensive coordinators attempting to coach him up.

A redshirt season with the capable Rob Chudzinski before two seasons with Dan Werner and then throwaway season where Rich Olson and Todd Berry were shoehorned onto Coker’s dead-men-walking staff, before a senior year with a new head coach in Shannon and Patrick Nix calling plays.

Coaching carousels and a revolving door of sub-par assistants killed many a player’s career at Miami.

UM should’ve given Wright a severance package for the way the program was shoddily run during his five-year tenure.

Miami fans deserve some kind of penance, as well—as a program that racked up five national titles in less than two decades (while leaving a few more on the field and having one stolen) has morphed into a shell of itself. The “U” was still on the side of the helmets, while players ran through the smoke and held up four fingers at the beginning of every fourth quarter—but it was all a charade as UM leaned on what the brand once was in effort to hype the present-day hot mess it’d become.

For those keeping score, Miami amassed a 118-85 record, between the 2005 Peach Bowl debacle (a 40-3 loss to LSU) and Diaz’s final win in 2021 (a 47-10 victory at Duke). Divide that number over 16 seasons and the Hurricanes average out annually as a 7-5 football program.

Compare and contrast that to the decade-long run where Miami won four championships games (1983, 1987, 1981, 1991), lost three (1985, 1986, 1992), were robbed at a shot of playing for one (1988) and were still the best team in the country in a year they choked away a road opener, blowing their shot of playing for it all (1990)—”The U” going 107-14 between 1983 and 1992, which averages out to 10-1 over that dominant era.


Rarely in the modern era has a program feasted, only to live through the type of famine the University of Miami has endured he past two decades—which is why so many forced themselves to buy into every false start over the years.

The lies we sold ourselves on to white-knuckle our way through season after season. A few of those greatest hits:

— “Coker is the guy to keep this thing rolling. All he has to do is maintain what Davis built. Keep winning, keep recruiting well and follow the blueprint. Tis thing can be foolproof.”

— “Shannon wasn’t our first choice, but he might just be able to pull it off. Long-time defensive coordinator ready for his shot. Played for the Canes. Miami native. Understands the brand. Solid recruiter. If he can just surround himself with some veteran assistants to show him the ropes, he may be able to turn this thing around.”

— “Golden isn’t a Miami guy, but he did turn Temple around and looks like a real an up-and-comer. Did you see the press conference and that 300-page binder with all the motivational stuff? Psychology background like Jimmy, too—he can get into guys heads and get the best out of them. Got the Owls to 9-4 and a bowl game. We’ll see.”

— “This might just be the late-career shot in the arm Richt needs; coming back home after a grueling run in the SEC. Laid back guy and solid coach who could have one final run in him to resurrect his alma mater—this is the best coach quality-wise Miami has seen since Butch.”

— “Sucks that UM didn’t do a full search here, rushing to bring Diaz back from Temple, but he did a decent job with the defense the past few years and maybe he can be a shot in the arm for the program—local guy who knows the brand and young enough to relate to players—if he builds a solid staff around him, he might surprise.”

Paraphrasing as everyone’s personal bargaining stories are slightly different, but these were the type of things so many Canes fans told themselves with every new regime change—after all those first-, second- and third-choice wish-list coaching hires never came to fruition, forcing the fan base to rally around some new lesser hire.

All of that changed in December 2021 when Cristobal returned; a guy that checks off pretty much every box for the unique program that is “The U”—a private university nestled in a suburb of a large, diverse, metropolitan city, where most fans aren’t alum and each new season of college football has to compete with professional sports and countless other forms of entertainment.

Eugene and Tuscaloosa are college sports towns; Miami is an entertainment-driven city—so the Hurricanes better fast find a way to captivate if they want to garner the attention of local sports fans and restless alumni.

However this new season plays out, Miami fans can finally rest assured that a winning infrastructure is getting put in place, while a Cristobal-led program will certainly pass the eye and smell test immediately; especially in comparison to what this program has looked like over the past 15 years.

UM finally has a hard-nosed alpha back atop the program for the first time since the 2000 season when Davis went 11-1 before bailing for the NFL—which is a must at a program with such rich tradition, in a city with so many distractions.


It’s been a long run of Miami teams full of guys who missed the message that ‘swagger’ comes when the work has been put in all week and the score is being run up on an overmatched opponent on Saturday afternoon. That’s the attitude that built this program the first time, brought it back in the mid-nineties and remains the recipe for success in 2022 and beyond.

Mugging on the sidelines while routing Central Connecticut State—Miami 1-2 after losing to Alabama and Michigan State.

To think that a year ago this month, the Hurricanes sat at 1-2 after getting throttled by Alabama, surviving Appalachian State and getting outlasted by Michigan State—only to mug for cameras on the sideline after each score—posing with hardware while blasting a glorified high school (Central Connecticut State) in a 69-0 rout. (This event also took place hours after ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit went scorched earth on a broken-beyond-repair, Diaz era Miami program.)

And some wonder why the Turnover Chain and Touchdown Rings were done away with in the Cristobal era—the antithesis of authentic swag past Hurricanes earned the right to put on display to the world, only after winning big.

All this to say, even with the addition of Cristobal, a top-flight staff and with millions of dollars being poured into revamping the program—this will not be an overnight fix for the Hurricanes. Outside of some cultural issues and bad habits that will take a minute to fix, this new coaching staff needs time to put its fingerprints all over this Miami program—while stacking depth and recruiting like madmen over the next couple of seasons.

Upside; Miami will take on an average Coastal Division in the ACC this year—with a few home tune-up games against Bethune-Cookman and Southern Miss these next two weeks, before arriving on the main stage for a primetime road showdown in College Station against sixth-ranked Texas A&M.

One more scrimmage against Middle Tennessee State takes place after a showdown with the Aggies—and then it’s off to there races with conference play, starting at home against a North Carolina program that’s been a thorn in the Canes side since UM joined the ACC in 2004.

Quirky road games at Virginia and Virginia Tech are sandwiched between home showdown against Duke and Florida State—before heading to Georgia Tech and Clemson and then closing at home against Pittsburgh.


Fans immediately want to define year one by wins and losses, but most-importantly the Canes need to pass the eye test when they run out the tunnel this fall. Get back to playing up to the level of competition, instead of down. When that fourth quarter hits in College Station on September 17th—will those strength and conditioning gains kick in, or will Miami wilt late like it did against Michigan State last fall?

Looking at this current schedule, the temptation to say best-case scenario, 11-1 and a worst-case 9-3—it seem feasible—but it’s been a lifetime since Miami proved anything real or lived up to expectations.

Wins at Texas A&M and Clemson are doable, but are they reasonable? And will Miami have the moxie and maturity to endure road games in Charlottesville and Blacksburg, where the Canes have run into buzzsaws at times—even in years where UM had the better team on-paper? Time will tell.

The only given going into the 2022 season is the fact that coaching-wise and program-wise—Miami is officially back on track and is no longer pissing in the wind.

There is an infrastructure in place and a right-fit head coach with the skills-set and blueprint to make the Hurricanes a true contender in a matter of years. The recruitment and development of players that has been sporadic (at best) over the past 15-plus years—fans can let down their guard, finally trusting this process in a way they couldn’t with the last five head coaches.

Get excited, Hurricanes faithful—but don’t run ahead of the cloud, tempting as it might be.

Saban’s ace recruiter at Alabama and a beast at Oregon—Cristobal attempting to re-lock down ‘The State of Miami’.

Again, this time last year Miami was days away from getting its teeth kicked in by Alabama in the season opener—a 44-13 rout, while UM was shamed nationally for busting out a silly prop chain when a turnover was called back, as well as rocking dumb rings after finally getting in the end zone mid-third quarter, after finding itself down 41-3.

To wind up punting on Diaz months later, reeling in Cristobal and heading back into the lab for nine months to rebuild this thing—savor that and don’t allow yourself to take it for granted, as you already know others will.

Everyone has seen this show before; if Miami walks out of Texas A&M with a loss in two weeks, the mouth-breathers and mental midgets will take to social media, calling for Cristobal’s head—taking out two decades of frustration as they clamor for 15-0 the Canes to sit atop the college football world again year one.

Find the balance this fall; cautiously optimistic where things are headed in year one—but with full belief that building block are being laid for a better tomorrow. This is no longer a throw-shit-at-the-wall-and-hope-it-sticks brand of Miami football; second rate coaches in fake-it-til-you-make-it mode—needing to get luck to survive.

It’s time to believe in ‘The U’ again. Miami isn’t back, but it’s officially on the mend and every new week is a step towards future greatness and a building block to the return of championship ways.

Chris Bello has been covering University of Miami athletics since the mid-nineties. Getting his start with CanesTime, he eventually launched allCanesBlog—which led to a featured columnist stint with BleacherReport. He’s since rolled out the unfiltered, where he’ll use his spare time to put decades of U-related knowledge to use for those who care to read. When he’s not writing about ‘The U’, Bello is a storyteller for some exciting brands and individuals—as well as a guitarist and songwriter for his Miami-bred band Company Jones, who just released their debut album “The Glow”. Hit him on Twitter for all things U-related @ItsAUThingBLOG.


There’s an old adage in journalism about a focus on being right, opposed to the empty calories that come from being first and risking getting it wrong.

Unfortunately, old school sportswriting processes don’t exist when everyone has a voice, platform and take via social media—the constant race to break news, or to offer scathing critique with limited information—with emotion besting logic and common sense.

If someone isn’t giving their hot take on Twitter within minutes of reading a rumor on a message board—don’t even bother playing the game or attempting to enter the chat, as you’re too late.

Before this rant goes all “old man yells at cloud”, let’s cut to the chase and make sense of the past almost-three months in Hurricanes history.

Former Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal lost the Pac-12 title game on Friday December 4th and by Monday morning he was announced as the University of Miami’s 26th top dog—returning to his alma mater after a strong run with the Ducks, and four career-building years in Tuscaloosa, where he drafted his blueprint on how to build a juggernaut while studying every move Nick Saban made.

That in itself should’ve been the only storyline and national focus.

Instead, a hot mess of Miami supporters frustrated with the timeline—while critics, attention-starved talking heads and garden-variety haters piled-on UM in regards to process, or leaving it’s current head coach out to dry for 48 hours—as if he didn’t pull his own shady moves two years prior.

The story wasn’t about Cristobal’s homecoming; instead a focus on how he left Oregon, or how Miami worked under the radar to land the architect for a return to glory. If the same storyline surrounded any program outside of the University of Miami, the narrative would’ve been everything and it’d have been the feel-good story going into the off-season.

For any out-of-the-know, Cristobal is a Miami native who played for local Christopher Columbus High and stayed home to play for the hometown Hurricanes–where he won two national championships under Jimmy Johnson and Dennis Erickson—before joining the program as a grad assistant under Butch Davis, which he parlayed into an invite to resume-build by join Greg Schiano at Rutgers, when the former defensive coordinator was named head coach in 2001.

Three successful years in Piscataway sent Cristobal back to UM for a three-year run coaching tight ends and offensive line—before nearby Florida International gave him his first shot as a head coach, cutting his teeth with the Golden Panthers for six seasons.

Cristobal took the underfunded, poorly-run program to its first bowl game—and first post-season win—before the experiment prematurely crapped out and he was off to Alabama to learn from the best in the biz, which paved his way to Oregon and a spot with the Willie Taggart-led Ducks—where he was promoted to head coach when Taggart bailed for Florida State.

Cristobal looked in for the long-haul with Oregon—a 35-12 run over four seasons with the Ducks, highlighted by a 12-2 season and Rose Bowl win in 2019—as well as three division titles and two Pac-12 championships.

It’s this point of the story where Miami most take pause, as Cristobal-to-the-Canes couldn’t have been more far-fetched as 2021 came to a close. The on-the-rise head coach was building something special in Eugene—all the money, all the resources and his own Nike contract from Phil Knight to help sweeten the pot. Life was good for Cristobal and arguable a 99% chance he would settle in for a lengthy run with a Pac-12 contender.

All that to say, one-in-a-million shots are discussed for a reason—because sometimes the 1% wins out and the improbable actually happens when stars align perfectly.

While all was well in the Pacific Northwest, a story was brewing downs south as Miami continued its lengthy run of underachieving under Manny Diaz—the Canes’ fifth head coach in 14 seasons—seismic shifts fast-taking place with new, big-money, billionaire boosters coming out of the works and hellbent on bringing Cristobal home to build a winner. (Not to mention, influential 305-bred moguls like John Ruiz and family on a mission to get ‘The U’ it’s own near-campus stadium at Tropical Park, or elsewhere.)

If not for Diaz’s early face-plant this past season—digging a year-three hole impossible to crawl out of—the final six weeks of 2021 don’t play out in miraculous fashion for ‘The U’—and even now, its still somewhat impossible to fathom just what the f**k happened to reverse this brutally-bad course Miami had been on; UM crying poor for decades, not making a financial commitment to building a winner and settling for low-rent, knee-jerk, safe hires for years.

Cristobal-caliber coaches were forever out of reach for ‘The U’—until one day they weren’t; a fact that when combined with daily noise on social media, via a fan base that’s been as off-track as this program itself the past two decades—it helps make sense of the chaos witnessed the past 76 days since a program-defining changing of the guard that still doesn’t feel real.

These new ways, big moves and monstrous off-season victories have even proven too much for some to grasp—tripped up every step of the way, with no ability to let things play out before coming in hot.

Kevin Steele was hired as Miami’s defensive coordinator just over two weeks ago—February 3rd and one day after National Signing Day, where Cristobal worked his magic over a seven-week span to turn Diaz’s disastrous 60th-ranked class into the 15th-best in the nation—an all-killer, no-filler haul of 14 players, with a few late-in-the-process surprises.

In vintage Miami fan fashion, the narrative remained focused on those who got away—some blaming a lack of a defensive coordinator when highly-coveted defensive end Shemar Stewart stuck with Texas A&M, instead of focusing on the fat NIL bags Jimbo Fisher and staff dropped, en route to what on-paper is the most-talented recruiting haul of all-time—packed with seven 5-Star ballers, including Stewart.

The second half of December and all of January was nothing but a bitch-fest regarding the timing surrounding assistant hires; digs at Cristobal “striking out”, dragging his feet or being in over his head—while any who praised his thoroughness or process was immediately mocked as the Miami Miserables relied on old muscle memory—expecting things to go south or quickly blow up, as has been the case since 2005.

In a matter of weeks, Cristobal took Diaz’s 60th-ranked class and finished with a punch-packing No. 15 group.


In mid-January, defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson was poached by Alabama—many unable to grasp that when Saban calls, smart coaches answer, take the promotion and haul-ass to Tuscaloosa to further their careers—just as Cristobal did post-FIU, after temporarily agreeing to join Al Golden and staff in 2013—sticking around a matter of days before he was called-up to Bama’s big leagues.

At the same time, there were also leaks that Arkansas offensive coordinator Kendal Briles supposedly turned down Cristobal in the Canes—when in reality, it appeared to be a textbook negotiating move to shake down the Razorbacks for more cash. (According to Miami, no offer was ever made—and per Cristobal’s hiring history, offers aren’t extended to assistants not legitimately committed to getting on board.)

Cristobal was attacked for “losing” Robinson—fans in sky-is-falling mode again. The ace recruiter and former secondary coach who called Miami his “dream job”—it was now and indictment on Miami’s new leader for “T-Rob” wanting to beef up his resume by working for the best-run program in the sport.

The perceived “hits” continued days two weeks later when co-offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon—who followed Cristobal from Eugene to Coral Gables—got a shot to return to his alma mater and trekked north to Georgia to work under Kirby Smart and the defending national champs. The topic resulted in an all-over-the-place, 72-page thread on CanesInSight—one that went as far as attacking McClendon’s wife’s looks as why she didn’t feel comfortable in Miami—prompting his barely-got-to-know-you stint at UM.

Not for nothing, but Charlie Kelly and his “Pepe Silvia” evidence wall on a fan-favorite episode of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia comes across more logical than some of these current message board threads and Twitter Spaces rants.

Robinson and McClendon jumping ship, no assistants hired by NSD—too many refusing to let things play out; chastising Cristobal and prematurely playing that here-we-go-again card—negativity was quickly replacing all new goodwill surrounding the program, and for what? These self-imposed timelines by overly-aggressive fans who want to make up 15 years of incompetence in 15 minutes?

Whatever self-imposed dark skies fans chose to hover under for two months—clouds finally parted after the Steele hire and February has gone gangbusters ever since for Cristobal and his Canes.

Three days after landing a veteran defensive coordinator, Cristobal poached Michigan offensive coordinator Josh Gattis—the 2021 Frank Broyles Award Winner also a masterful recruiter who runs a balanced offensive attack and is a massive addition to the staff.

Next up, the Robinson void was filled—and improved upon—when Cristobal poached Georgia’s defensive backs coach Jahmile Addae from Smart’s staff. Addae was ranked by 247Sports as the nation’s No. 2 recruiter for the Class of 2022—the Dawgs No. 1 in scoring defense, No. 1 in red zone defense and No. 2 in total defense during their 2021 title run.

No McClendon? No problem, as Cristobal reeled in Appalachian State offensive coordinator Frank Ponce in a quarterback coach and passing game coordinator role. Ponce is another ace recruiter and was a successful head coach at Miami Senior High, where he also played—these deep local ties set to pay dividends with local high school coaches on the recruiting trail.

For good measure, to add a little more beef to the defensive side of the ball regarding experienced position coaches, it was announced Friday night that Cristobal is adding Charlie Strong to his staff as linebackers coach.

The former longtime Florida defensive coordinator—and top-flight recruiter—parlayed that success into a four-year stint as Louisville’s head coach, before getting hired away by Texas and then a run at South Florida in the same role. One year as an Alabama assistant lead to a one-year role with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2021—and now he’s on board with Cristobal’s Canes.

Another sneaky little pull during this February to remember—former Michigan State staffer Andrew Rodgers took his talents to Coral Gables two weeks back. One big storyline from 2021; how the Spartans and Mel Tucker dominated the Transfer Portal with two dozen new players—including former Wake Forest running back Kenneth Walker Jr.—it was Rodgers who creates lists and compiled the info for Tucker regarding these transfers.

Add these key pieces to staff that already saw Joe Salave’a (defensive line), Alex Mirabal (offensive line), Aaron Feld (strength and conditioning) and Jeff Eaton (assistant strength coach) following Cristobal from Eugene to Coral Gables—this might’ve just become the best top-to-bottom coaching staff in the ACC in a matter of weeks.

Translation; Cristobal and Miami are going to go ham on the Portal in the coming month, in a way that should even supersede Diaz’s impressive three-year off-season run.

Highsmith in a much-talked about GM-type role; the final piece to the infrastructure puzzle Cristobal is building.

Lastly, for context- and narrative-sake—chatter surrounding Alonzo Highsmith returning to Miami in the oft-talked about GM role many wanted him in a year ago—balls seem to be in motion. Manny Navarro of The Atlantic–and former Miami Herald UM beat writer—guested on the a recent “Wide Right” podcast and worked in the Highsmith tidbit (around the 53:35 mark) when discussing if Ed Reed will continue in his Chief of Staff role under Cristobal.

All of this recent movement playing to the hyperbolic title of this piece—the Maximus Decimus Meridius quote from Gladiator—after the former Roman general makes mincemeat of a few well-armed opponents. Cristobal remains fueled—by his Cafecito scuba tank and desire to build a winner—to hear, or give a collective shit about any critique or outside noise.

Not delivering on superfans’ timetables? No one gives a shit. Questioning the resume of guys he thoroughly interviewed through a rigorous process? That’s why Cristobal pockets a reported $8,000,000 annually and has a monster budget to bring on who he deems the ideal fit—while critics furiously peck away online, getting Doritos dust all over their keyboards.


Incredible to think that three short months ago Miami was shuffling out of Doak Campbell Stadium as losers, dropping a must-win game to a joke of a Florida State program that had won six football games dating back to October 2020—upset at home by Jacksonville State two months prior, and sitting at 3-5 when the Hurricanes rolled in.

Fans were at their wits end with Diaz—the 1-2 start to open his third season at the helm; demolished by Alabama (mocked for celebrating with silly jewelry while getting manhandled) and outlasted by Michigan State (outscored 21-3 in fourth quarter after holding up “four fingers”)—while almost upset by Appalachian State in-between the two (a late field goal to escape victorious).

The chase for a Coastal Division title was even all but out the window by mid-October—sitting at 0-2 in conference after gut-wrenching, slow-start, last-second losses to Virginia and North Carolina.

The unexpected emergence of Tyler Van Dyke and a Heisman-like performance from the new quarterback helped Miami go 5-1 from that point on—but it also masked a dismal defensive performance as Diaz’s unit underperformed, regressing as the year rolled on.

There was zero hope going into 2022 had this madness continued; Diaz set to lose offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee—by way of Van Dyke’s emergence and SMU wanting their former play caller to return in a head coaching role—while Diaz stubbornly stuck to his self-imposed dual role of program CEO and maligned defensive shot-caller.

Recruiting was a disaster and a 7-5 run killed any improvement narrative had Diaz returned for year four—but everything changing when a few rogue Miami boosters went big game fishing and set out to  in Cristobal.

The act itself nothing more than a pipe dream and ultimate long shot before pressure ramped up by way of the slow start to a new season—resulting in a few difference-makers building off the shots fired by ESPN College GameDay’s Kirk Herbstreitwho took UM to task on the September 25th broadcast.

University of Miami football had legitimately been irrelevant since the 2005 Peach Bowl—when No. 9 LSU waxed No. 8 UM, 40-3 on New Year’s Eve—and it’s been a rinse-wash-repeat disaster ever since.

Larry Coker gutting his staff for a lame-duck 2006 season before getting canned—leading to the low-rent hire of defense coordinator Randy Shannon, who was never ready for prime time—going 28-22 over four seasons. Meanwhile, Golden was an empty-suit and nowhere near the up-and-comer he was tabbed as coming out of Temple—going 32-25 before canned in the middle of his fifth season, on the heels of a 58-0 ass-kicking Clemson laid on Miami at home in 2015.

Mark Richt was the right guy at the wrong time; the Canes needing the 2006 version of the former Georgia Bulldogs head coach—not the 2016 guy leaning towards retirement with too many miles on the odometer after a 15-year run in the SEC—temporarily reignited when his alma mater called.

As for Diaz, that show was over before it started—former athletic director Blake James with a career-defining gaffe—paying Temple a reported $4,000,000 to bring his defensive coordinator home as head coach, 12 days after he’d agreed to taking over the Owls program and signed less than a day after Richt stepped down.

Due diligence and any legit interview and hiring process, be damned—which thankfully helped lead to James’ departure and the off-season hiring of Clemson’s Dan Radakovich—who Miami has since made the highest-paid athletic director nationwide.

Those who followed this program for decades—defeated is an understatement. The OG’s saw the top of the mountain in the 80’s and early 90’s, suffered through the probation era, saw Davis rebuild this program against all odds—only to capture that fifth national title in 2001, with Miami set up to dominate for years to come.

Instead, Davis’ extension was mismanaged and he bailed for the NFL payday—leaving the wheels to fall completely off in matter of years. Still, hope remained as no true college football power emerged—until Saban turned things around at Alabama and captured his first championship with the Crimson Tide in 2009.

At that moment, Miami was stuck hoping it could fail upwards—relying on past glory, and hoping it could keep enough local talent home to compete—which didn’t happen as the likes of Alabama, Georgia and the others started throwing millions of dollars at recruiting budgets, in effort to lure South Florida’s best out of state.

Wheels fell off New Year’s Eve 2005 in Atlanta and have never been put back on—until now—as Cristobal will change everything.


Each new hire brought a modicum of home to Miami faithful—if Shannon could just lock down local talent, if Golden could create something out of nothing like he appeared to do at Temple, if the proven and experienced Richt could do with the Canes what he did earlier in his career with the Bulldogs—or if Diaz could find that 2017 defensive energy, coupled with bringing a prehistoric offense into the modern era.

All those “if” moments never panning out—while the Hurricanes put together a pathetic 118-85 run, starting that gut-wrenching night in Atlanta on December 31st, 2005.

Hope is what keeps college football fans coming back for more—albeit expectations vary on the respective program one pulls for. Some hope it’s the year they can simply beat a rival, others hope to win a division and to get a crack at a conference title—while the elite aim for conference championships, College Football Playoffs berths and playing for national championships.

Miami used to be a title-or-bust program back in the day; where a 10-2 run in 199o—capped with a 46-3 beatdown of No. 3 Texas in the Cotton Bowl and No. 3 rank in the final polls—was seen as a “down” season; an opening-season loss at No. 16 BYU getting the Canes off to a bad start, with title dreams ending in South Bend late October went falling to the sixth-ranked Irish.

To go from that, to only winning the Coastal Division one time since joining the ACC in 2004—boat-raced out of the stadium by Clemson, 38-3 in Miami’s lone ACC Championship Game appearance? The logical Cane learned to make peace with history, to appreciate the glory days and to hope for a resurgence—but to expect the worst, as 7-6 seasons were the new norm and 9-4 seasons were the new benchmark for a step-foward season.

All of this is what makes the Cristobal hire so hard to wrap one’s head and heart around less than three months in. These kinds of big-money moves happen at other programs—not at the University of Miami—highlighted in an October 2019 deep dive we did at regarding the University of Georgia’s $200,000,000 investment in their program; the “Do More” campaign designed to help them make up what little ground their was between the Bulldogs and the University of Alabama Crimson Tide.

Two years later, the investment paid off and Georgia took home its first national championship since 1980. Could Miami legit be on a similar trajectory with Cristobal and the financial commitment the university is now making in its efforts to again become a contender?


Cocky as Miami fans come across, 16 seasons of being a pretender took a toll—that loser’s muscle memory real—which causes many of the negative reactions to any perceived setback; the time it took to assemble a staff, an assistant bailing for a bigger program or a 5-Star the Canes started chasing late in the process going elsewhere.

It’s almost as if many supporters of ‘The U’ don’t know what to do with any level of prosperity—while unable to “trust the process” of a real head coach, as so many previous frauds spouted the phrase and never delivered.

The tide as finally turned for Miami and before going into spring football, some Portal robbing and some spirited fall practices that set the stage for Cristobal’s inaugural season at his alma mater—a quick reset and acknowledgement of all that’s taking place.

Diaz is gone, Cristobal is home—and while the process of assistant-hiring didn’t fit the self-imposed timeline of many—the gangster, Saban-like moves of Miami’s native son are all that matter right now.

Months back, this program was on track for a Ponce to replace a Lashlee as offensive coordinator, while fans could only hope Diaz focused on his CEO role and brought someone like Strong run his defense. Instead, it’s Cristobal in charge, a head-coach-caliber offensive coordinator like Gattis in the driver’s seat, a salty veteran like Steele running the defense—and ballers like Ponce and Strong both stepping into coordinator-like roles, simply to be a part of something special that is brewing.

If that doesn’t get the orange and green juices flowing, check your pulse to make sure you’re alive.

Everything has changed overnight in Coral Gables—which is part of the reason it’s so hard for some to digest all that is taking place. That being the case, it’s time to exhale, sit back and enjoy the ride—because for the first time in a long time, there is a process that be trusted and a total pro in the driver’s seat—confidently on the move and chasing that sixth ring.

Chris Bello has been covering University of Miami athletics since the mid-nineties. Getting his start with CanesTime, he eventually launched allCanesBlog—which led to a featured columnist stint with
BleacherReport. He’s since rolled out the unfiltered, where he’ll use his spare time to put decades of U-related knowledge to use for those who care to read. When he’s not writing about ‘The U’, Bello is a storyteller for some exciting brands and individuals—as well as a guitarist and songwriter for his Miami-bred band Company Jones, who just released their debut album “The Glow”. Hit him on Twitter for all things U-related @ItsAUThingBLOG.