Josh Pate gets it… and I’m not just saying that because he dedicated an entire early episode of Late Kick to a comment I’d made on a Canes message board years back. I’m just a sucker for logic, reason, common sense, practicality and educated conversations driven by facts over feelings.
Tuning into these Monday morning breakdowns; it feels infinitely more-productive than the contingent of Miami’s fan base that heads over to WQAM 560—ready to pounce-on and dissect every word Mario Cristobal shares with Joe Rose, in the wake of another Hurricanes’ loss.
The obligatory weekly appearance by a head coach answering softball questions on the flagship station—fueled by coach-speak and back-to-the-grind soundbites—before heading over to Greentree to actually get back to said grind; what kernels of wisdom are people truly expecting from what’s intended to be nothing more than fluff?
Conversely, Pate’s latest six-minute segment—in the wake of an offensive-less 20-6 showing at North Carolina State— all killer and no filler as the on-the-ball host spits knowledge and avoids the type of hyperbole the knee-jerk fans pointlessly dissect with in the aftermath.
A true professional knows to avoid the tired, cliché ramblings about Miami’s staff getting out-coached, while demanding change at quarterback or other emotional, way-too-long, cold takes—rants rooted in authentic embarrassment that comes by way of unabashed fandom in this modern-day, all-encompassing, social media- and message board-driven vortex… which is a bigger societal issue to unpack at another time, but is a real trigger nonetheless.
The Late Kick’s platform is dedicated to an objective view of college football as a whole, with agenda-less, unbiased takes on match-ups, storylines and an in-progress season unfolding in real time—which isn’t something your average, everyday super-fan YouTuber is going to deliver from his orange and green man-cave—triggered after a loss as the trolls lay him out for predicting a Canes’ victory, resulting in a shoddy recap video driven by the visceral shame that comes from being an overly-dedicated fan, opposed to an unbiased observer talking shop.
DECADES OF IRRELEVANCE REPLACED DECADE OF DOMINANCE
The trajectory of the diehard Miami Hurricanes fan has been sheer misery over these past two decades—based on self-imposed expectations—and especially for those who lived through the rise-up moment of the ’80s, the rebuild in the late ’90s and what looked like an infallible dynasty in the early ’00s, which soon became a two-decade long drought.
Longtime supporters of “The U” grew up embracing Miami being the villain in the black hat—which was gratifying-as-all-hell watching this counterculture program not just dominate, but do so while turning the entire sport inside out—which is what’s makes the mocking, hate and rival laugher sting that much more after every new hiring, firing and rebuilding effort since the demise.
The only thing worse than being hated-on for once being dominant and great; constantly getting laughed at for becoming inconsistent and irrelevant.
It’s a sentiment that’s taken its toll over the years—resulting in false bravado and overconfidence with every new hire—which quickly results in a desire to burn-it-all-down a year or two in when the new regime hits a few speed bumps early in the rebuild process… which is also why the overemotional contingent of this fan base needs to find a way to self-regulate.
All good things take time and lest anyone expect another microwave dynasty, this is the wrong place and time as college football has become big business and cutthroat competition across the board for ultimate supremacy.
“Everyone that doesn’t properly study the history if these programs leaves themselves vulnerable to mis-defining, or ill-defining expectations—and that sets you up for failure and disappointment,” Pate shared on this latest Canes-themed episode of Late Kick, in regards to fans moving the goal post on Miami’s win total now at 6-3 with three to play—many now pushing back that 8-4 or 7-5 should be deemed progress in the wake of 5-7 last fall.
Pate went on to legitimately ask what business to fans have taking a program with one double-digit win season since 2004 and “just blindly expecting 10 wins to be the baseline” in this situation—rightfully calling the reaction and expectations “illogical”—because that’s precisely what today’s entitled fan behavior has become.
RINSE, LATHER, REPEAT—JADED FANS ALWAYS CLAMOR FOR CHANGE
It’s a point re-litigated here ad nauseam, but as the insanity reaches new levels—due to years of incompetence and irrelevance—and patience wears thinner and thinner, it will continue being brought up in some way, shape or form until is resonates with the masses.
Cristobal is Miami’s third head coach over a five-year span; one month from wrapping up year two after three short years after Manny Diaz assembled a 21-15 record—the former defensive coordinator taking over for Mark Richt, who was ready to hang it up after 15 long years at Georgia and the meat-grinder that is the SEC, but instead choosing to give his alma mater three years of his time—and $1,000,000 of his own money—to try his hand at a much-needed rebuild and infrastructure revamping.
That aforementioned 10-win season Pate referenced—Miami’s only double-digit win season since 11-2 in 2003—a fugazi of a 2017 campaign for the Hurricanes, who eked out miraculous early season wins which paved the way to two massive primetime night games against No. 13 Virginia Tech and No. 3 Notre Dame—before closing the season 1-3, struggling early before closing out Virginia, falling on the road to a four-win Pittsburgh squad, getting rolled by Clemson in Miami’s first-ever ACC Championship game and outlasted by Wisconsin in the Orange Bowl.
Richt wound up going 8-9 overall after the Canes’ old school beatdown of the Irish—Cristobal eventually taking over a team that was 29-24 since final stretch of 2017 and through the Diaz era, which ended in 2021—roughly a 7-5 annual average over that span.
Need to run it back even further for some bonus context?
Miami’s record between that 2005 Peach Bowl debacle against LSU—a 40-3 ass-kicking that extended from the field to the tunnel post-game—the Hurricanes were 116-85 prior to the Cristobal era; an average of 7.25 wins per season and 5.31 annual losses over a 16-year span.
Miami’s current senior class were freshman in the COVID-defined 2020 season—one where Diaz’s roster got a quick boost after nabbing D’Eriq King from the transfer portal—replacing Jarren Williams, who famously missed curfew in 2019 prior to an embarrassing “home” loss to Florida International—on the hallowed grounds where the Orange Bowl once stood.
King’s run ended three games into the 2021 season, prematurely launching the Tyler Van Dyke era—which was relatively pressure-free for the redshirt freshman quarterback as expectations were in the tank after the 1-2 start—and quickly 2-4 after close losses to Virginia and North Carolina.
Van Dyke threw it all over the yard in wins over North Carolina State, Pittsburgh and Georgia Tech—before his first real career implosion in a road loss at Florida State—rebounding with wins over bad Virginia Tech and Duke teams for a 7-5 run that sent Diaz packing and welcomed Cristobal as next coach up.
Rhett Lashlee took his offense to Southern Methodist when getting his first head coaching opportunity, while Van Dyke was saddled with one season of Josh Gattis calling the shots in 2022 and was looking for a rebirth under Shannon Dawson—his third offensive coordinator in as many seasons—while his short-lived comeback has crashed and burned miserably over the past several weeks.
DREAM SEPTEMBER, NIGHTMARE OCTOBER, UNKNOWN NOVEMBER
Week Two of the 2023 season literally feels like a lifetime ago; a long-gone era where Van Dyke looked flawless, slinging it all around HardRock for 374 yards and five touchdowns against Texas A&M—sitting at 11 touchdowns and one interception four games into the season and statistically one of of the best quarterbacks in the game after one month of football.
Three games later—and sidelined for a win over Clemson—Van Dyke has since throw five touchdowns, ten interceptions and fumbled twice the past two outings.
The most-important position on the field—evidenced by a successful program that once owned the moniker “Quarterback U”, en route to four championships over a nine-year span, with four different gunslingers—where would this current team be if Van Dyke was merely playing pretty good and somewhat protecting the football, opposed to next-level awful and morphing into a world-class liability overnight?
We’re literally talking the difference between the reality of 6-3 and what could realistically be 8-1, or even undefeated right now.
Knowing the weakest link with this 2023 is literally tied to a quarterback who lost his mojo—one has to have bigger picture clarity and look past the numerical value of 6-3 with three games remaining—recalling that this team was absolutely passing the eye and smell text before the wheels completely fell off for a third-year starter being praised for making NFL-caliber throws and heady decisions just over a month ago.
The Hurricanes’ improvement at offensive line, running back and wide receiver had this offense humming out the gate under Dawson, while a feisty Lance Guidry-run defense was making a difference before Miami started massively losing the turnover battle weekly and a unit that was bending was now officially breaking.
This most-recent loss at North Carolina State; a microcosm of the entire second act this season in four quarters of football—ill-timed misfortune resulting in field goal attempts and points left on the field when Miami had been driving and was in position to find the end zone—as well as turnovers that gifted the Wolfpack points, while the Hurricanes’ defense stood strong on most drives and continued getting the ball back in Van Dyke’s hands.
Late third quarter, Miami had gone a methodical 72 yards on 12 plays—eating up 7:35 and getting to the 9:47 mark in the fourth—when the Hurricanes faced a 4th-and-Goal from the three-yard line, trailing 10-6.
Had Miami not missed a 45-yard field goal on the opening possession of the second half, a safe bet Cristobal and Dawson kick it again—as the goal was for the Hurricanes to finally get a momentum-shifting lead.
Instead, a battle of wills as Miami ran Mark Fletcher into the teeth of the line and the back was expectedly stuffed for no gain.
While the focus was on the Canes going for it and not punching it in, the bigger issue was a non-threat, turnover-prone quarterback in the shotgun—everyone in Carter-Finley Stadium well-aware Van Dyke would handoff to Fletcher, as the odds of him rolling out to pass or run it himself were less than zero—which remains a philosophical issue for Cristobal and Dawson, leaving them deciding between a broken junior quarterback, a true freshman not quite ready to go, or an athletic, one-dimensional sophomore whose aerial attack leaves much to be desired.
The struggle is real, as all with ties to this program are painfully aware—but there has to be context within these three losses.
A flubbed kneel-down giving away the Georgia Tech game, while losing the turnover battle to North Carolina and North Carolina State—the Canes coughing it up eight times in those two contests—while the Tar Heels played clean and the Wolfpack had two turnovers.
They “why” in these losses couldn’t be more obvious, while the answer to solving the riddle remains murky—yet the second-year head coach and first-year coordinators remain the punching bags through this understandable, albeit misguided frustration.
CHAMPIONSHIP CONTENDERS BUILT FROM THE GROUND UP
Fans love to point at successful programs that are riding high, while often ignoring the arduous path that a successful team and coaching staff took en route to newfound, dominant ways.
Case in point, Georgia didn’t wake up one day as college football’s newest powerhouse.
The Bulldogs benefitted from 15 years of Richt running a very solid program that won two SEC Championships and six division titles during his 145 -51 run—averaging out to 9.66 wins and 3.4 annually. He simply couldn’t get over the hump and spent a big chunk of his career dealing with Urban Meyer and Florida dominating the SEC East, while Nick Saban turned Alabama around and began owning the conference halfway through Richt’s tenure in Athens.
Kirby Smart was handed the keys in 2016—another sign of the University of Georgia’s commitment to building a winner, along with dumping over $200,000,000 into their football program as part of their “Do More” campaign, aimed at outspending the likes of Alabama as their desire was to dethrone and replace the Crimson Tide.
By year six, Smart finally had the Bulldogs’ first national championship since 1980… nabbing another year seven and looking for a three-peat here in year eight.
Southern Cal and the Lincoln Riley narrative of 2022 was understandably compared to Miami and Cristobal, as both were hired around the same time and rolled up their sleeves to rebuild once-proud, private school football programs on opposite costs—Cristobal with a focus on culture and rebuilding “The U” in the mold he once knew as a former player and national champion.
Conversely, Riley brought his high-flying offense in from a powerhouse Oklahoma program; one that Bob Stoops built over 18 seasons, where he won 11 conference championships and one national title—amassing a 191-48 record that averaged out at 10.6 wins a year and 2.6 annual losses—which Riley maintained for five years before bailing and chasing a huge payday and rebuilding effort in Troy.
The only “culture” Riley focused on what implementing his high-flying offense—a system where he calls his own plays, poached his own Heisman-caliber quarterback from the Sooners and reeled in the transfer portal’s top-dog, Biletnikoff-winning wideout—all of which helped the Trojans air-mailed their way to 11-3 in year one.
Fast-forward to the follow-up and the old adage that defense wins championships; it’s rearing its ugly head for USC as Riley’s squad got rolled by Notre Dame, lost its third game over the course of a year to tougher-built Utah and was outscored in a shootout with Washington—while almost losing in triple-overtime to Arizona in-between.
Now USC gets Oregon and UCLA down the stretch—with Riley and the Trojans legitimately staring down the barrel of 8-4 or 7-5 in year two—which would be major backsliding and reason for concern after a strong opening act last fall.
Still, no other comparison is better-suited to what Miami fans just witnessed these past three-plus seasons at Florida State regarding the trajectory of Mike Norvell and roller coaster ride Seminoles Nation has been on since bringing on the former Memphis head coach in 2020.
Norvell went 38-15 with the Tigers—handed the keys to a program future Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente built—before getting the nod at Florida State; a program that was rolling and hit a wall in 2017 when strong>Jimbo Fisher bailed out when Texas A&M backed-up the Brinks truck; leading to a failed two-year run with Willie Taggart, only to settle on Norvell when some bigger names didn’t want to take on the job in Tallahassee.
Sound familiar, Miami fans?
Norvell’s first year was nothing short of a complete disaster; a 3-6 run during the COVID-defined 2020 season—including a 52-10 loss to Diaz at Miami. By year two, it was 0-4 out the gate—including a home loss to Jacksonville State, on the game’s final play—while stumbling to 3-6 before a 5-4 Hurricanes’ squad rolled north and choked away a late lead in Tallahassee; a season that ended with a thud by way of a road loss against rival Florida.
After two full seasons with the Seminoles, Norvell was 6-12 and any college football fan worth their message board weight saw Florida State faithful in full-blown meltdown-mode—doing that simpleton fan math and trying to figure out if and how FSU could even afford to buy Norvell out after paying Taggart eight figures worth of get-lost money.
It wasn’t a matter of “if” with Norvell those first two years; it was “when” as he was considered dead-man-walking in all Seminoles’ circles… until he wasn’t.
Somehow a No. 23-ranked recruiting class in 2021, No. 20 in 2022 and some moves made in the transfer portal—as well as the emergence of Jordan Travis at quarterback—and things finally got rolling for Norvell in year three and continue.
What a difference a confident and capable quarterback can make…
PATIENCE A VIRTUE FOR HATED RIVAL UP NORTH
A fast 4-0 start that was just as quickly 4-3 after Florida State lost to the only three ranked teams it faced in the 2022 season—N0. 22 Wake Forest, No. 14 North Carolina State and No. 4 Clemson—before bouncing back with wins over Georgia Tech, Miami, Syracuse, Louisiana and Florida.
Throw in a another fortunate bounce with big-named Oklahoma—despite the Sooners rolling into the post-season 6-6—and that eked-out victory in the Cheez-It Bowl had the Seminoles putting their stamp on a 10-3 season that ultimately set the tone for year four.
Since that mid-October loss to Clemson last fall, Florida State assembled a 15-game win-streak, is now 9-0 in and sits atop the ACC with a legit shot at the Playoffs this season—all while being led by the same head coach their fans wanted to run out of town two years ago, as well as a left-for-dead transfer quarterback who miraculously entered the Heisman conversation this fall.
None of this is any type of proclamation or guarantee that Cristobal will turn Miami into a championship contender, but 21 games into his tenure—it’s hardly enough of a sample-size to warrant any stick-a-fork-in-him, pull-the-plug chatter.
Especially in regards to the state of the program inherited, a broken culture needing to be stripped down the studs—fully rebuilt—and the fact that all three setbacks in 2023 have been mostly-tied to unprecedented quarterback regression, considering how good and successful Van Yips looked earlier this season.
Too much of the conversation around Cristobal still treats him like the former Florida International head coach of yesteryear, while leaving out a four-year stint under Saban at Alabama—where he earned Recruiter Of The Year honors in 2015—as well as what he pulled off at Oregon after replacing FSU-bound Taggart.
An impressive 35-12 run over four seasons, two Pac-12 championships, two double-digit win seasons, a Rose Bown win over Wisconsin and an upset over No. 3 Ohio State on the road in 2021—not to mention, recruiting like a beast and leaving the cupboard full in Eugene.
Lest not forget the last time Miami had an alpha dog head coach in this mold—who was also a tireless recruiter that was oft knocked for some game day blunders early in his career with the Hurricanes—fans always wanted to run him off, as well.
Butch Davis was lambasted from day one, up through an early year six loss at Washington—constant bearing the brunt of the blame for turning “champs into chumps” after a 1-2 start year three back in 1997, where a banner flew over the Orange Bowl before a loss to West Virginia and fans openly talked about his ousting.
That third-year Davis-led squad bottomed out with a 5-6 run that season and a 47-0 loss at Florida State, but the head coach continued recruiting like a beast, stockpiled talent, got Miami to 9-3 in 1998—including an upset of No. 2 UCLA a week after losing the Big East title at Syracuse, 66-13—before an improved 9-4 campaign in 1999, which featured some big-time moments (an upset over No. 9 Ohio State), a head-scratcher (blowing a 24-3 lead to East Carolina) and a few close-but-not-quite-there outings (No. 2 Penn State, No. 1 Florida State).
Still, the growth was obvious and the talent upgrade undeniable.
By year five in 2000, it was smooth sailing and an 11-1 run—including upsets of No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Virginia Tech, as well as a Sugar Bowl win over No. 7 Florida—which should’ve been an Orange Bowl match-up against No. 1 Oklahoma—but the glory eventually came in 2001 when the most-loaded roster in college football history rolled on to 12-0 and the Hurricanes’ fifth national championship… which never would’ve been the case if the savages had their way, running Davis off in year three.
In short, progress it taking place on a macro-level even if there are some micro-level setbacks that have ruined a handful of Saturdays this weekend—so buckle in for the bumpy ride and pray for smooth sailing over the next couple of seasons—as progress it taking place, even if it felt like one step forward and two steps back these past couple of weekends.
(Editor’s Note: Pate’s deep-dive into the history of “The U” and breaking down why Miami was hated in the ’80s and ’90s—a good use of one’s time—an informed outsider explaining what us veteran insiders and 305 natives lived through during that iconic era.)
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 withBleacherReport. He’s since rolled out the unfiltered, ItsAUThing.comwhere 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 released their debut album “The Glow” in 2021. Hit him on Twitter for all things U-related @ItsAUThingBLOG.