I started a North Carolina recap weeks back and scrapped it, quickly realizing how pointless an effort it would be. A week later, a similar approach when it came to an Oklahoma State bowl game preview.

Why bother regurgitating the same post-game assessments or pre-game keys to victory when nothing has changed regarding Hurricanes football over the past 15 seasons?

When I covered Miami athletics to earn a living years back, the job was literally writing all those standard pieces. These days, after an overdue career change—sportswriting downgraded to a hobby—it all seems like such a waste. After a quarter century covering the Canes, I’ve learned to pick and choose my battles.

If Miami was still playing championship-caliber football, yes, this would be a different animal. Same to be said if I honestly felt the Canes were legitimately close to competing again.

Writing about this program win the late nineties, where tangible progress was made as Butch Davis guided the Canes through probation, back to the pinnacle of college football—a golden era for up-and-coming writers and message board early adopters.

Miami fans could feel change in the air, while ESPN pundits kept throwing dirt on UM’s casket—so using words and a deep knowledge of this program, to prove those clowns wrong—I felt like Canestradamus. It was exhilarating.

By 2000 Miami was officially back and for those along for the ride, it was four consecutive BCS games, two title game berths, a championship, a 34-game win-streak and a 46-4 run we all assumed would be the new-new—until it wasn’t.

Within a few years, the Hurricanes entered this Groundhog Day-negative time loop that like the Bill Murray weatherman character in the 1993 fantasy-comedy—and for several reasons, Miami hasn’t been able to shake it.

Murray’s character Phil Connors finally gets back to normal, after realizing the err in his ways and correcting the flawed behavior. It’s said he dwelled in that self-imposed purgatory for somewhere between 10 and 10,000 years—which is pretty much what Miami’s state of irrelevance feels like to anyone who bleeds for this program.

Like Connors, the University of Miami continues making the same mistakes over and over—while expecting different results. It’s Einstein’s definition of insanity—played out year after year in Coral Gables, with no end in sight as the powers that be simply aren’t football-driven at the level modern day powerhouses have adapted and accepted.


Last fall, I deep-dove the University of Georgia’s expensive revamping of their athletics department.

ESPN’s Mark Schlabach had recently written a piece which discussed the finances of the Bulldogs “do more” pledge—intended to help head coach Kirby Smart get closer to what Nick Saban has built in Tuscaloosa.

“As Kirby has mentioned a number of times, the difference in a lot of these games is a matter of inches,” Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said. “With his goal of doing more, we’re trying to make up whatever that little difference could be.”

That “little” difference; a $200M+ investment into Georgia’s football program.

The article went on to talk about Georgia’s alumni-fueled Magill Society and the $121M raised through donations—full of members that have pledged a minimum of $25,000 over a five-year period. McGarity mentioned over 1,000 donors had been added between 2018 and 2019.

Outside of facilities upgrades, these donations allowed Georgia to spend more money on recruiting than any other FBS program—$7M+ over three years; topping Alabama’s $6M+ and Tennessee’s $5M. It also allowed Smart to pay his assistant coaches more than $13M per season.

Each time I re-read Schlabach’s article, all I could envision was a half-empty HardRock stadium—sparsely packed full of Miami fans yet to upgrade from Nike to adidas gear—while a handful paid to fly a banner at high noon, voicing their displeasure regarding the current state of affairs.

In the big money world of college sports, it appears Georgia is playing chess—while Miami has an old Chutes & Ladders board game, chewed up by the dog and missing half its pieces.

It’s a top-down problem at Miami, it’s been this way for decades and whatever the process—it isn’t working.

Donna Shalala was too hands-on as a president—solely focused on the medical department of her university, but wanting to keep football—a necessary evil—on a short leash. Low-rent head coaches, guaranteed ACC money, Nike dollars and 8-4 seasons were more than fine, barring the Hurricanes stayed out of trouble.

Dr. Julio Frenk is the opposite; a hands-off president who puts all his trust into what his board of trustees suggests athletic director-wise—and Miami’s board seems content with Blake James as a fundraiser, despite Hurricanes football, basketball and baseball all underachieving as of late.

James’ hire of Mark Richt in 2016 was seen as a good grab, even though it proved to be the right guy at the wrong time—the long-time Bulldogs’ head coach ready to call it a career before his alma mater called. All that to say, the lack of a proper search for a head coach at the beginning of 2019 when Richt stepped down—unforgivable.

Even if Diaz turns out to be “the guy” for the Hurricanes, both James and the board failed in the process.

In one way or another, Miami struck out on every head coaching hire since Davis. For Manny Diaz to have UM over a barrel—after he’d just accepted the Temple opportunity—one would be a fool to believe he wouldn’t have come running to his dream job weeks later, if Miami landed back on him after interviewing others.

The rushed process was amateur hour—and indicative of Miami’s flawed hiring technique over the past decade-plus.

In stark contrast to Miami’s approach to building a powerhouse, UGA president Jere Morehead realizes the importance of football, empowers McGarity to run athletics—McGarity bringing on Smart and giving him the resources to build a powerhouse.

Toss in a football-focused board of trustees and a massive alumni base willing to write checks to fund a winner—Georgia has the infrastructure in place to be a national power. Whether they get there or not; it’ll be up to Smart, his staff and the football gods—but it couldn’t be more teed up for them.

To date, the Bulldogs are four decades removed from their last national championship (1980) but it’s not for lack of a proper foundation—so expect the poaching of top-quality recruits from Miami’s backyard to keep taking their talents to Athens, and other big money SEC powers.


Miami fans have voiced their frustration with Diaz—the 6-7 run last year and some poorly managed games, as well as the way the Hurricanes stumbled to 8-3 this season—dropping their final two in ugly fashion for yet another late-season collapse, which has been the norm for way too long.

The loss to North Carolina was abysmal—Miami falling 62-26 at home on senior day, while surrendering a program-worst 778 yards, and an NCAA record 554 rushing yards to a pair of running back teammates.

For the sake of laying everything on the table, it should be noted what the Hurricanes were dealing with personnel-wise as this season wound down.

The college football world saw Miami put its season on hold days after a November 14th comeback at Virginia Tech—riding a four-game win-streak after getting dismantled at Clemson a month prior. The Canes were 7-1 at the time, but wouldn’t see the field again until a December 5th makeshift showdown at Duke—due to a massive COVID outbreak within UM’s walls, as well as issues at Wake Forest which had the Blue Devils replacing the Demon Deacons.

While it was known that the program was in a tailspin, it didn’t come out until days after the the Tar Heels showdown just what was happening with the defensive coaching staff.

Utah State-bound safeties coach Ephraim Banda and recently “reassigned” defensive line coach Todd Stroud were both knocked down hard by the virus this season; to the point where neither were in the building for the home finale.

Maligned defensive coordinator Blake Baker was also said to be out for two weeks with COVID. In fact the only defensive coaches to not fall in this season were strikers coach Jonathan Patke and recently-departed cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph.

For those interested in more, CaneSport did a deeper dive on how the Hurricanes were rocked by this disease late 2020.

Does all that internal strife forgive a 36-point loss with an Orange Bowl berth on the line—as well as some career-worst, record-setting defensive failures? On some level, sure—but it doesn’t account for almost two decades of mistakes and a broken process that must be addressed if Miami will ever become a championship-caliber program again.


Even at full steam, it’s hard to argue that Miami would’ve played at the same physical level North Carolina rolls under second-year coach Mack Brown.

The Tar Heels seemed to out-tough, out-work and out-play the Canes much in the same manner Clemson did earlier in the year. There remains a lacking backbone regarding Diaz-lead teams—starting last fall before COVID had made its way onto the scene.

Based on the chaos of this pandemic-defined season, a lot of coaches and programs will get a mulligan—but that doesn’t mean bad traits, characteristics or repetitive flawed behavior can go ignored.

If the third-year head coach is going to find success at Miami—which feels less likely after the way this season ended—Diaz is going to have to take that long, hard look in the mirror and start addressing what-is, versus the filtered, coach speak-fueled version he’s been delivering since taking over in the wake of Mark Richt.

Certain stigmas have defined Diaz’s program after two seasons.

There is the much-discussed inability for teams to get up after bye weeks—a trend that started last season against North Carolina (bye week after Florida loss), continued against Virginia Tech (bye after Central Michigan scare) and popped up when Miami was embarrassed by Florida International two weeks after routing Louisville at home.

Diaz called the FIU loss “one of the lowest points ever in this proud program’s history” that November—stating that he took “full ownership and responsibility” for the loss, challenging his guys to respond—only to see Miami stumble at Duke the following week.

This season wasn’t much better. Miami rolled Florida State, but got crushed two weeks later at Clemson—and for the second year in a row under Diaz, the Canes weren’t bowl ready—falling into a 21-0 hole against Oklahoma State, before waking up in the second quarter.


Equally as scary, the message sent to the team when backs are up against the wall.

In the bowels of the old Orange Bowl after a commuter school delivered one of the most-embarrassing upsets in Miami football history, Diaz’s words spoke of desperation, fluff and delusion.

“What I did tell the guys in there, is two years ago, Troy went to Baton Rouge and beat LSU, who right now is the number one team in the country. Things can change, but it needs to change. It has to start with myself and the coaching. We have to do a better job of coaching our guys.”

Comparing LSU’s loss to Troy with Miami’s to FIU is meaningless—as it failed to point out all the work the Tigers’ program put into growing back into a championship caliber program it became two years later.

A week after being upset by Troy, LSU bounced back to beat No. 21 Florida in Gainesville. The following week, they took out No. 10 Auburn in Baton Rouge. The week after Miami was embarrassed by Florida International, it lost by double digits at Duke. The following game it was shutout by Louisiana Tech in a bowl game.

Diaz stated after that FIU debacle, that his player got big-headed after convincing wins over Florida State and Louisville that had them ill-prepared mentally and emotionally for the energy and passion the Davis-led Golden Panthers would bring in that program-defining match-up.

A program that struggles to handle prosperity and the up and down nature that comes with wins and losses—you’re going to fill these kids’ heads to what a loaded program like LSU was accomplishing—with an eventual Heisman-winning quarterback under center, future national champion and first pick of the NFL Draft?

Putting Diaz’s words through today’s entitled, teenage student athlete’s filter—who wouldn’t be hard-pressed to hear, “LSU got upset by a scrub team and two years later they were in the driver’s seat for a title!”—as if the transformation was that nonchalant.

Fans of the long-running animated comedy South Park might recall the vintage “Underwear Gnomes” episode—where the gnomes’ three phase business model was to collect underpants in phase one and to turn a profit in phase three—while their flow chart showed a giant question mark in phase two.

That second phase is obviously the actual doing and the only step of the business plan that means everything—and Diaz’s example is no different. Lose to FIU in phase one, but be championship caliber by phrase three—while phase two and the actual process of ascending to greatness has no defined plan.

For Diaz, the clock is ticking a little harder and faster than it might for other coaches or programs. Miami’s fall from grace the past 15 years gets harder to swallow as the years roll on—championship-caliber football feeling eons away.

Diaz now the Canes’ fifth head coach since the 2006 season. UM is now also 111-80 since the 2005 Peach Bowl blowout at the hands of LSU—numbers no one ever expected to see when Miami was such a dominant force at the turn of the century.


One of the key’s to the Hurricanes success over the year has been a stalwart defense, which hasn’t been the case since Diaz appointed Baker in 2019. Diaz’s defense made national headlines under Richt in 2017; a season the Turnover Chain was more than a prop—Miami playing well above its 2016 level.

Back to the earlier point regarding Diaz accepting what-is, opposed to his filtered version of reality—an honest look at UM’s current defense and what it will take to have that side of the ball look like it did in the era he grew up watching.

One sign of being a true leader; knowing how to let go of control in favor of being in charge. Diaz used to be in control of the Miami defense, while Richt was in charge of the program—Manny proving to be a successful manager of that one aspect of Hurricanes football.

Two years into this head coaching role, Diaz appears to have a hard time letting go of his defensive responsibilities—empowering a way-over-his-skis coordinator like Baker, who remains reliant upon Diaz to both help him game plan and to carry the slack.

When the Canes found themselves sitting at 2-3 in mid-October a year ago—fresh off a 42-35 loss to Virginia Tech—Diaz reinserted himself in coaching-up the defense as Baker was reeling. The short-term result was positive, as Miami clamped down in the red zone the following week in a dogfight with Virginia—but the writing was on the wall that the Hurricanes had a problem.

Fast forward a year and the Canes’ defense gave up 516 yards and 34 week two at Louisville—a game Miami most-certainly would’ve lost without transfer D’Eriq King under center, as well as the Cardinals’ defensive woes of their own.

Winning shootouts was never a staple of great Hurricanes teams—yet that’s precisely what needed to be done on a few occasions this year with Baker’s soft, poor-tackling, out-of-position and lost-way-too-often squad.

King’s heroic performance at North Carolina State saved Miami in a 44-41 high-scoring affair; the Canes racking up 620 yards—but on an afternoon where the offense sputtered against North Carolina, it was the Tar Heels who put up video game numbers against Baker’s bunch.

Much was made of the relationship with Brown and Diaz during the loss to the Heels; the teacher firing the student back in 2013 when Texas’ defense was rolled by BYU on Diaz’s watch.

The Longhorns gave up 679 total yards—550 on the ground—including 259 rushing yards to Taysom Hill, who also threw for three touchdowns on the 40-21 blowout; numbers that seem pedestrian compared to what Baker allowed on senior day.

Yes, it was a COVID-driven year and Miami’s defensive personnel was a hot mess—but will Diaz sell that in effort to buy his coordinator more time, or will be look at the larger body of work and realize that two years of Baker’s defense is enough of a litmus test to prove a change is in order?


Year four was the one that brought change during the Davis era—as a two-year sampling wasn’t enough during the probation-marred mid-nineties. Those first couple seasons were a throwaway as Miami’s roster was gutted and wasn’t fielding enough bodies to compete.

By 1998, the tide was starting to turn—Miami losing a close one in overtime to Virginia Tech, while narrowing the gap against Florida State; a 26-14 loss light years more competitive than 47-0 the previous season.

7-2 going into the unofficial Big East championship game—an Orange Bowl berth against Florida on the line as conference champs—and the Hurricanes are demolished at Syracuse, 66-13.

A week later, a rescheduled game against the second-ranked Bruins—where the Canes held on for the 49-45 comeback win. Miami’s defense surrendered 670 yards, but survived—amassing 689 yards on the afternoon.

North Carolina State dinged Miami for 498 yards, but the Canes rolled up 594 in a 46-23 victory and Davis had seen enough. Fourth-year coordinator Bill Miller was relieved of his duties—as a three-game stretch where 134 points and 1,566 yards were given up, was not going to make Miami contender again.

Davis tapped a then-relatively unknown defensive mind in Greg Schiano, whose mantra was, “attack, attack, attack”—bringing a more aggressive scheme, with tighter pass coverage and linemen whose mission it was to penetrate.

Schiano’s opening challenge; slowing the ninth-ranked Buckeyes in the Kickoff Classic—which Miami did, in a 23-12 upset.

Interviewed weeks before the 1999 season opener, Schiano shared the following.

“Kids have to believe what they’re doing is the right thing,” he said. “You can have a one-man rush, and if they believe it’s the right thing, they’ll do it well.

“They need to see how you can help them get better. It’s more prevalent in the NFL, but if a guy sees you as someone who can help them get better, they’ll listen to every word you say. If they see you as someone who’s full of it, they’re not going to listen to you and they’re not going to respect you.”

Prophetic words all those years ago which are still applicable today—players not respecting coaches who are full of it.

While an 8-3 run was nice enough on the heels of 6-7—Diaz is at that Davis-like crossroad when he must made the hard decisions to turn this program from pretender to contender.

Chest-thumping over eked-out wins against sub-par ACC talent and relying on grad transfer quarterbacks to mask defensive inefficiencies is not a long-term solution for Miami.

Winds of change must blow for Diaz this off-season—both in a defensive revamp, as well as his own personal approach to running this program. Two years being the liked and accepted guy—it’s not going to cut it.

There were understandable question marks in early 2019, when Diaz cruised into a booster event on an 88-foot yacht.

A few months earlier, the new head coach’s first team meeting not only featured a WWE-like spectacle—but tackling dummies featured “7-6” on their chests as some sort of motivation regarding how “The New Miami” would respond the following fall. (Spoiler alert; the Canes managed to backslide to 6-7—while the ridiculed TNM moniker disappeared for year two.)

Amongst the fracas, a then 44-year old Diaz mixing it up with his players and getting in on the body-slamming action in a sea of college student athletes.

Davis was a seasoned 42 years old when taking over the University of Miami’s football program in 1995—some hard miles on the odometer.

Davis did five years under Jimmy Johnson coaching-up the defensive line for the Canes in their heyday (1984-1988) before following the legend to Dallas for a seven-year stint as defensive line coach and defensive coordinator–picking up a national champion and two Super Bowls along the way.

The healthy dose of fear and respect the players of that era had for Davis—which was still on display all those years later when FIU looked more like “The U” than Miami in the upset of 2019—such a stark contrast to the the liked and accepted approach Diaz has taken his first two years as a head coach.

While the past can’t be rewritten, the future remains wide open—and after epic fails to end back-to-back season, the clock is ticking for Diaz.

Time to make some tough short-term decisions this off-season, that can result in long-term success—or accept the fact it’s the beginning of the end; a ceiling reached and a dream job over before it ever really got underway.

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, ItsAUThing.com 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 earns a living helping icon Bill Murray build a lifestyle apparel brand. Hit him on Twitter for all things U-related @ItsAUThingBLOG.


Despite knowing the result will usually be a train-wreck, I still find myself perusing Canes-themed message boards during football season—which is always dangerous when Miami is going through another rebuild and the losses are piling up.

Outside of August through December, beyond easy to disconnect—but in-season, a somewhat normal  way to keep up with everything U-related. A handful of logic-driven fans helping the cause and bringing some sanity to what is otherwise has become a college football insane asylum full of the most-disgruntled 1% of every fan base.

Recently, a lot of chatter about Manny Diaz being in over his head; hardly a shocking take after a 3-3 start, complete with a few heartbreaking losses.

The Miami Hurricanes first-year head coach was beloved as a defensive coordinator for three years—some excited when he returned from an 18-day stint as Temple’s head coach, replacing Mark Richt after an out-of-nowhere, late December retirement—others frustrated that the University of Miami didn’t so a full-blown head coaching search; a blind belief that the head coaching gig at UM is more-desirable than it really is.  We’ll see how it all play out..

Regardless, the digs seem to pile up every week—some surprised that a rookie head coach is making some newbie mistakes. Even worse, the revisionist history and short memories that seem to cloud peoples’ vision as to what currently is and what was, back in the day.

Miami safety Jamal Carter was ejected for targeting against Virginia last Friday night; a bullshit play as Carter led with his shoulder, pulled up and hit helmets with Cavaliers’ receiver Hasise Dubois in the end zone late in the third quarter. Carter’s looming presence helped save a touchdown, as Dubois started losing control of the ball before he and Carter collided—but it was a game-defining play as Dubois was the Hoos’ leading receiver (seven receptions for 93 yards) on the night and he never caught another pass after that stick with :58 remaining in the period.

The purpose for bringing this up; Carter not leaving the field and Miami getting hit with a substitution infraction that moved Virginia to a 1st-and-Goal from the four-yard line—which they immediately gave back on a false start; the Canes ultimately forcing a field goal. For some reason, this play was taken to task on the message boards—the egregiousness of it so much, that a few in the thread are “done” with Diaz and “can’t even” anymore.

Whether is was the noise and confusion that led to Carter not leaving the field—HardRock losing its collective shit, reigning down boos and warm half-full beers after the call—or something else; all the shots are fired in Diaz’ s direction by the disgruntled, entitled portion of this fan base; the group that expected to be “back” by now and is blaming the new guy for the 15 years of incompetence that happened before he took over.


Below is a clip from 1996; a mid-November home game at where No. 18 Miami took on No. 21 Virginia Tech. It was year two for Butch Davis; who too over a 10-2 squad from 1994 that finished No. 3 after falling to No. 1 Nebraska in the Orange Bowl. UM had officially been slapped with probation, but the effects weren’t fully being felt yet year two, nor in this 21st game of Davis’ career as a head coach.

The Canes had already fallen at home to No. 3 Florida State, 34-16 back in October—and followed it up with an embarrassing 31-6 home loss to East Carolina the following week; taking a 6-0 lead before the Purple Pirates with on a 31-0 run.

This match-up with Virginia Tech had a BIG EAST title on the line; something the Hokies ultimately locked down after beating Miami, 21-7 in a very winnable football game that got away —due to a second-year head coach looking all the part of an amateur, a few short seasons before he became a Hurricanes legend.

The clip below is shows the entire game, but for the sake of the portion of the story we’re telling, push ahead to late in the second quarter with about two minutes remaining in the half; a 7-7 ballgame. Miami was driving before the half—Ryan Clement under center, still feeling the effects of the same separated shoulder on display two weeks prior for a heroic win at West Virginia, punctuated by a blocked punt by Tremain Mack returned by Nate Brooks for the Canes’ lone touchdown of the night in a 10-7 comeback victory.

A quick synopsis of what took place with :16 remaining in the half (skip ahead in the above video to the 1:07:00 mark; :21 remaining in second quarter):

— 1st-and-10 from the UM 34-yard line, Clement completes a pass to tight end Mondriel Fulcher, taken own at the nine-yard line.

— :08 remaining, no timeouts left, Clement spikes the ball into the ground—looks to the sidelines (where Davis and staff were prepping to send in the field goal unit) and proceeds to lose his shit in front of a national CBS television audience, unhappy with his coach’s decision—commentators calling out Davis for letting his quarterback effectively push him around.

— Once reaching the sideline, Davis sends Clement back out onto the field to go for it—yielding to his quarterback. Virginia Tech called a timeout to get their defense in order; cameras panning back to Davis and Clement on the sidelines in a stare down before Clement converges with Rob Chudzinski and some offensive players for the play call.

— Clement gets off a quick pass to Yatil Green, who falls out at the one-yard line with :03 remaining—Davis deciding to send the field goal unit back on the field, despite field position and a chance to punch it in.

— Another Hokies’ timeout results in another change of heart for Davis, who then sends the offense back out onto the field; Miami lethargic in getting to the line of scrimmage (despite no time outs)—play clock running down to zero, resulting in a delay of game and a five-yard penalty.

— Davis again sends his field goal unit back onto the field for the 22-yard attempt, which Andy Crosland missed wide right by a mile.

— Second half, CBS commentators are still discussing the incompetence just before the half and Davis not having control of the situation.

— Fast-forward to the second half (literally, skip to the 2:16:15 point in video—late fourth quarter); Scott Covington had replaced the injured Clement, who left in the third with an ankle injury. Covington lofted a game-tying, 15-yard touchdown that went through the hands of Magic Benton on the left side of the end zone with just over two minutes remaining in the game.

— One play later, Covington went right to a wide-open Tony Gaiter on second down; the ball hitting him in the hands right at the goal line, which he inexplicably dropped.

Hokies’ head coach Frank Beamer also subbed out freshman cornerback Anthony Midget (who was getting torched by Green, who had nine catches for 152 yards) for safety Torrian Gray (who was assigned Green and locked him down on third down), while subbing back-up safety Keion Carpenter in as well; one of many strategic moves Beamer would make against Miami over an era where Virginia Tech would rattled off five wins in a row.

— Facing a 3rd-and-10, Covington tried to run for it when nobody as open, setting up a 4th-and-5 from the nine-yard line—Covington looking right for Gatier, when Carpenter jumped the inside route at the goal line and returned the interception 100 yards for the score. 21-7, ballgame—Miami driving with 1:54 remaining, getting back in the redzone, before Gray picked Clement off to put this one out to pasture.


For those around in this long gone era; they remember that Davis took over at a time when Miami’s three previous coaches—Howard Schnellenberger, Jimmy Johnson and Dennis Erickson—all left over the previous dozen years for greener financials pastures; each winning championships and passing the program off to the next guy.

Davis was absolutely under fire from his start in 1995 in Pasadena, until he took down No. 1 Florida State in 2000—a few weeks after losing at Washington with the No. 4 Hurricanes.

From that opening 31-8 loss at UCLA year one, to Miami’s first-ever loss to Virginia Tech a few weeks later in Blacksburg, to the start of a five-game losing streak to Florida State; the Noles rolling in Tallahassee, 41-17—a year after the Canes looked to have taken the power back with a thrilling 34-20 victory at home—Davis was Public Enemy #1; his game day coaching and first-year mistakes lambasted in local newspapers and articles that can barely be found online all these years later, due to where online technology was during his tenure.

Miami won out after that 21-7 loss to the Hokies in 1996; Davis earning back some favor with a respectable 9-3 season and his first bowl victory, taking out Virginia in the now-defunct Carquest Bowl, 31-21.

All that was lost a month into the  1997 campaign after the Canes dropped four in a row to Arizona State, Pittsburgh, West Virginia and Florida State; fans flying the infamous champs-to-chumps banner high above the Orange Bowl on September 27th, 1997 for the home loss to the Mountaineers—probably wishing they’d saved their efforts for the following weekend at Doak Campbell, where No. 4 Florida State rolled a then 1-3 Miami squad, 47-0.

Butch Davis is a fan-favorite as the architect of the 2001 Miami Hurricanes, but his early years at UM were rocky.

The Canes would drop two of their last three—Virginia Tech and Syracuse—en route to a 5-6 season; Miami’s worst since 1979. Understandable due to the program being ravaged by probation, but the way some of those games played out; just plain embarrassing—especially considering Davis saying at the pre-Arizona State game team breakfast, that he expected this squad to compete for a national championship, 1-0 at the time with a lone win over Baylor.

Come 1998, Davis’ Miami squad was 2-3 out the gate—dropping an overtime game to the unranked Hokies, as well as a fourth straight to the Noles, before a hard-fought win at No. 13 West Virginia; the Canes finally showing some signs of life and semblance of becoming a decent football team. Miami rattled off three more to get to 7-2 for a defacto BIG EAST title game at Syracuse, where the Orangemen rolled 66-13. A week later, the program-changing upset of No. 2 UCLA at the Orange Bowl in a make-up game, where the Canes held on for a 49-45 win.

The true step forward came in 1999, where a 9-4 Miami squad upset No. 9 Ohio State in the Kickoff Classic, but dropped close games to No. 2 Penn State, No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Virginia Tech. The improvement was there and the talent was returning—though Davis did suffer another blunderous outing between the Nittany Lions and Seminoles showdowns when the 13-ranked Hurricanes blew a 23-3 third quarter lead on the road against East Carolina, falling 27-23.

Davis’ fingerprints were all over University of Miami football after year six was in the books; ending with an 11-1 season and Sugar Bowl rout of No. 7 Florida that was good enough for a No. 2 ranking in 2000—though subbed for a shot to play No. 1 Oklahoma for a national championship; the Hurricanes most-likely dismantling those Sooners with a bevy of offensive talent and a stout-as-hell defense.

Lost in the Davis narrative and all that “The U Part 2” 30-For-30 glory; just how much Davis struggled out the gate as a first-time head coach—one of many moments show in the Virginia Tech clips above.

Davis suffered through four seasons with Bill Miller as his defensive coordinator; fans ready to run the veteran former Oklahoma State defensive coordinator out of Coral Gables by year two—but Davis stuck with him until the end of 1998, after Miller’s defense surrounded 134 points over the final three games of the season (Syracuse, UCLA and a bowl game against NC State).

Greg Schiano got on board in 1999, bringing an attacking defense more in line with vintage Miami teams and over the next two years the Canes morphed back into a more familiar version of themselves; so good, Schiano parlayed it into a head coaching gig at Rutgers.

Still, it took time and Davis had to suffer through his first three years before the ship began to get righted—probation definitely to blame in 1997—but nothing more than rookie mistakes and uncharted waters his first two seasons trying to learn on the job.

Year one for Diaz is nothing more than a dress rehearsal; learning on the job like so many before him. Next season, a step forward—where things start to take hole and the Canes take a slight step forward.

By year three, almost fully his team and another step forward is expected, while year four the excuses end and Miami has to start looking like a much better version of itself; similar to what Davis did to help his Canes take that step forward in 1999—recruiting having taken hold, coordinator changes made and ‘The U’ making the much-anticipated leap from pretender to contender.

Until then, rookie mistakes will continue—just as they did early on  for one of the greatest this program has ever seen.

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, ItsAUThing.com 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 earns a living helping icon Bill Murray build a lifestyle apparel brand. Hit him on Twitter for all things U-related @ItsAUThingBLOG.


The Miami Hurricanes survived a home showdown against the Central Michigan Chippewas last weekend—the entire premise of that sentence so deflating, this piece was pushed off until the climate cooled and a bye week could serve as a welcomed distraction.

In the wake of a win that had the feel and energy of a loss, there was no rush to deep-dive or breakdown the where, how or why of the lethargic debacle. Central Michigan brought the fight, Miami played down to the level of the competition and a sloppy, poorly-executed dogfight ensued. End of story.

Despite holding on for a 17-12 victory, game four of the Manny Diaz error was a stumble—both on the field, as well as the court of public opinion.

Close road setbacks against Florida and North Carolina were somewhat sellable; Miami showed fight in both, rallied late for the lead and played tough—a few mental team mistakes or breakdowns in a young secondary proving to be difference-makers in two losses by a combined seven points. From there, a 63-0 home rout of Bethune-Cookman felt like a perfect tune-up with ACC play a few weeks out—leaving no reason to believe Miami would struggle with Central Michigan, yet that’s precisely what happened.

There are two approaches one can take when digesting and processing this current State of Miami.

The more common method is to continue flying off the handle, bitching about 15 years of irrelevance, ranting that fans “deserve better”, that the “standard of excellence” isn’t being met and to fantasize about Miami hiring top-flight athletic directors and coaching staffs—bailing out on this new regime a third of the way through season one—while living in complete denial regarding to the desirability of these admin-related gigs at The U and blindly ignoring the state of the program Diaz and crew inherited.

Those who stand in that overreactive camp may as well bail out of this piece now and take their show to the nearest message board to scream into the ether. No time here to cater to the over-emotional, knee-jerk crowd that is going to bitch-moan-and-complain game-by-game, or even drive-by-drive. Been doing this too long to try and sell the unsellable.

These pieces are written for those who at least attempt to rise above the bullshit and are working to take a logical, realistic approach to what is, versus what one personally thinks a rebuild should look like—mostly-rooted in simply being tired of the Canes’ irrelevance and nostalgic for a better era of UM football.


Back to beating a dead horse—as so many still refuse to look at Miami’s overall body of work the past 15 years; screaming about some mythical ‘standard’ that hasn’t been the case since Butch Davis built a contender from the ground-on-up in the late nineties and Larry Coker pissed it away, unable to recruit and run a program at the high-level of his predecessor; Coker 35-3 with Davis’ talent his first three seasons and 25-12 his final three.

A few low-lights regarding the past decade-and-a-half of Miami Hurricanes football worth re-mentioning:

— 1-of-15 in Coastal Division titles and zero ACC Championships since leaving the BIG EAST after the 2003 season.

— An impossible-to-fathom 99-71 record dating back to Coker’s final season at UM in 2006.

— A three-year NCAA investigation that crushed the overall brand, crippled recruiting and made the head coaching gig a less-than-desirable option—in the midst of a five-year drought where UM was already a watered-down version of what it had been at the turn of the century. 

— Five different head coaches in 14 seasons and massive turnover regarding assistants during that span—resulting in zero growth or consistency.

Most-recently, a 7-6 run that saw Mark Richt stepping down after three years–the worst offensive production Miami football has seen since probation in the mid-nineties and a 35-3 post-season loss to Wisconsin that demoralized a program that felt it’d finally taken a step forward after a 10-3 run in 2017.

Knowing all of this to be true, how and why did so many supporters misconstrue any The New Miami talk as if it were some instant-fix—opposed to the long term-attitude adjustment, aggressive mindset, culture change and long-term end-goal product Diaz and staff intended it as?

Diaz got the job because Richt wasn’t getting it done and chose early retirement over the difficult task of rebuilding the Canes; the gig tougher than originally anticipated for the burned-out, long-time Georgia head coach.

Richt only landed the gig late 2015 because Al Golden was still a hot, off-brand mess year five—on the wrong end of a 58-0 mid-season, home ass kicking courtesy of Clemson and hitting his ceiling.

Golden was only hired because Randy Shannon stumbled to 7-6 year four and showed no signs of improvement—the former linebacker-turned-defensive-coordinator getting hand the keys only after Coker’s eventual skid, unable to maintain what Davis had painfully created—and in an era where former defensive coordinator and then-Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano turned down a return to Coral Gables.

Back in the day, coaching turnover was the exact opposite—four Miami top guys consecutively poached by the NFL (or USFL). The getting was so good in Coral Gables, big pro money was thrown at Howard Schnellenberger, Jimmy Johnson, Dennis Erickson and eventually Davis—to make the leap; three of four leaving The U in pristine shape for the next-man-up.

All that to say, “the day” is long gone and Miami is consistently dealing with more common coaching changes—constantly hitting reset like so many other programs because things have gone awry with the current guy, the plug is pulled, a new regime begins and things either eventually turn, or it’s rinse, wash, repeat over and over again.

The Canes have been stuck in this negative loop hire after hire; hitting ‘reset’ every couple of years—a move that kills all and any consistency, forces culture rebirths and clean slates on the reg.

The Chippewas played the Canes tough and with :39 remaining, actually had the ball with a chance to pull off an upset.


It’s become an all-too-familiar place; that three-year window where patience is tested waiting on the newest head coaching hire to put his fingerprints on the program; breaking bad habits with current players and attempting to implement an attitude change with the new recruits—while expecting everyone to jell as soon as possible to quiet the outside noise, distractions and critique.

Diaz is the latest to get the keys to the king down—expressing a #TNM approach as end-goal from the get-go.

“We didn’t build this for August 24th—the idea here is to build monsters that last,” Diaz shared days after the season-opening loss to Florida.

Translation; we’re going to get after things as best we can with what we have—but we can’t clean up a 15-year mess over spring and summer, so be patient, buckle in and and set realistic expectations for 2019—a season that will be full of ups and downs.

“But come on, bro—is it asking too much to think this team has the talent to handle Central Michigan, bro???”

No, but it also shouldn’t be some next-level surprise when these “lesser” teams find a way to show up week-in and week-out, creating chaos for bigger programs—yet it’s been Doomsday for too many “supporters” based on the Canes not blowing out the Chippewas.

A dozen years ago when Appalachian State upended Michigan at home, it was an anomaly—but it’s since become more commonplace.

One month into this season Georgia State upset Tennessee in Knoxville, The Citadel took out Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Missouri was upended at Wyoming, while Florida State and Michigan needed overtime to survive Louisiana-Monroe and Army, respectively—while Iowa State needed three overtimes to avoid home humiliation against Northern Iowa.

Pitt upset Central Florida last Saturday and needed an early fourth quarter touchdown to avoid being upset by Delaware a week later. TCU crushed Kansas this weekend—the Jayhawks still riding high from a road dismantling of Boston College weeks back—yet the Horned Frogs dropped a recent home game to SMU; a Mustangs program that went 5-7 last year and is still best known for barely surviving the Death Penalty decades back.

The era of good programs sleepwalking through showdowns against feisty, upset-minded smaller schools—long gone. Power 5 schools best at least bring their C-game, lest them find themselves in trouble. Miami brought it’s D-game against Central Michigan and almost paid a steep price; something Diaz acknowledged post-game when calling out the season’s most-lethargic practice three days before the Chippewas rolled into HardRock Stadium and almost did the unthinkable.

Incredibly enough, even in the wake of almost losing, the Hurricanes limp-dicked their way through last Sunday’s practice session—which again put the first-year head coach in a position to go foot-up-the-ass with his players; proof of a broken culture and a fragility that has plagued this Hurricanes program for years on end.

When things have gotten bad during this down cycle, Miami has self-imploded—the wheels quickly falling off. Take any sub-par season over the past 15 years; decent starts to a season that fast turn dismal, multiple-game losing streaks that are a ripple effect of dropping a winnable game the Hurricanes can’t bounce back from. Coker, Shannon, Golden and Richt all have their fair share of those moments during their respective runs.

Even in 2017, when Miami eked out some close calls and puffed out chests at 10-0—the wheels were off after falling on the road to a four-win Pittsburgh team; the Canes lethargic in the ACC Championship against Clemson and showing zero resiliency in the Orange Bowl against Wisconsin, blowing an early 14-3 lead and falling 34-24.

The Miami Hurricanes are 8-11 since a regular season-ending road loss at Pittsburgh in late 2017.


Last September the Canes were tagged by LSU in the opener and smacked up a few scrubs to get to 5-1—before a four-game losing streak that began at Virginia days after a thrilling comeback to beat Florida State. Richt had another four-game losing streak his first season at Miami; the Canes unable to emotionally get over a late 20-19 home loss to the Seminoles, with a chance to take down the arch-rival for the first time in seven tries.

Golden had his 7-0 start in 2013 before finishing 9-4; including a post-season no-show against Louisville. Shannon had his 9-4 run in 2009—3-1 out the gate with wins over Florida State, Georgia Tech and Oklahoma, with a 31-7 loss at Virginia Tech worked in as undying proof the Canes were definitely not “back”. Toss in an overtime loss to unranked Clemson at home and another epic fail in Chapel Hill, Miami rolled into bowl season 9-3 and looked one-dimensional in a Champs Sports Bowl loss to Wisconsin.

Fans want to scream about some dated “standard” at Miami; welcome to the new-new—an era where the Canes show no resiliency or an ability to respond to any level of adversity; proving their nothing more than a mid-tier ACC bunch that only occasionally shows any sign of life.

Knowing this to be true, is it really a shock Central Michigan gave Miami fits for games into the Diaz era—a team that’s lost 11 of its past 19 games going into last Saturday? Is anyone truly surprised that practice was lethargic a few days after rolling Bethune-Cookman; heads and egos a bit inflated and feeling like things were back on track for beating up a nobody Wildcats squad?

Instead of being alarmed by things that are a direct result of what’s been the new norm that the past four head coaches have been unable to solve—shift the focus to how the fifth head coaching option since the Davis era is meeting the challenge head-on, while addressing and breaking down what is, the why and how it will get fixed, one painful moment at a time.

“We started non-competitive—which means we still choose to be competitive and when not to be competitive. And when I say ‘we’, it’s not every player. It’s not every player on one side of the ball, or the other—but there’s too many guys that run it for everybody,” Diaz explained hours after last Sunday’s effort-less practice—channeling an eighties-era, Johnson-like psychology-related, macro-approach to the problem, as well.

“When you talk about changing a culture, you don’t just put posters on the wall and it just happens. This is something that is years in the making and it’s never easy. Human inertia is to be average and mediocre. That current and that gravitational pull sucks you down every day—and so it just doesn’t happen where all of a sudden everyone is like, ‘I’m going to come in here and bring my best every day.’ That is quite literally why they call us ‘Coach’—to make sure that it happens.”

As to how and why this has happened at Miami; a program rich in culture and history over the past half century—the first-year head coach had more to say.

“New guys come in and they absorb the culture from the older guys in the locker room. That’s all the stories we heard here, the names that are hanging on the ceiling here—they all passed it down. At some point there’s a disconnect and when there’s a disconnect, it has to be rebuilt. It just doesn’t happen.”

Again, not “tweaked” or “finely-tuned”—but rebuilt; as in from scratch. Little pockets of talent at certain positions doesn’t make a championship team—years of building and buying in to a culture; those first wave of guys getting close, but not getting there—paving the way for the next wave of greats who learned and will benefit from those who were that initial class to kick off that rebuild.

Butch Davis felt the heat from 1995 through his year six, after an early 2000 road loss where No. 4 Miami fell at No. 15 Washington. 


This isn’t foreign ground for Miami as the Hurricanes went through a similar process two decades back, albeit under different circumstances—post-probation and gutted scholarship-wise when Davis laid his foundation with those hard-nosed recruiting classes in 1996 and 1997 that set the stage for the dominance that would occur between 2000 and 2003.

A long-gone nineties era where the best local talent wanted to stay home to be a part of something special and took pride in being “the class” that turned things around; guys like Ed Reed eating shit as a r-freshman in Tallahassee in 1997, on the wrong end of that 47-0 ass kicking—saying years later that he didn’t come to Miami to be a part of that.

Four years down the road; #20 standing in that same locker room at Doak Campbell, screaming at his teammates about being hurt, not winning by enough and hell-bent on a mission to bring home a national title as a senior; returning for that one final go-around because he wanted to get the University of Miami it’s fifth ring.

Fast-forward to present day and a front-runner era of college football, where the best of South Florida’s best are worried about the now and personal gain; taking their talents to Tuscaloosa or Athens, knowing that over three to four years they’ll play for a few national championship and maybe win one, or two.

This is precisely why such a big part of Diaz’s culture change involves a different approach to recruiting and a more brass-tacks approach when it comes to recurring Miami-style guys who want to be Hurricanes and know what it means to not only play for The U—but to be part of that special first wave of greats that puts UM back on the trajectory it belongs.

If one can truly wrap their head around things from this vantage point, what was really expected out of of the 2019 season—and why were so many screaming, “12-0!”, predicting a rout of Florida, offended that Virginia was picked to win the Coastal Division and missing the entire point regarding The New Miami as a long-term goal, versus some off-season makeover? 7-6 last season and a history of wilting over the past decade-plus at any signs of adversity—as well as not knowing how to handle any prosperity?

The muscle memory in regards to mediocrity and setbacks; it runs deep and will take time to flush out with this current group—which will inevitably lead to some level of discord as the next wave of Diaz-recruited players rolls in with the attitude this new coaching staff it working to implement.

Miami’s loss to Boston College in 1984 was part of a three-game skid that left Jimmy Johnson 8-5 his first year as head coach.


Those who’ve accepted what is—the current state of the program, a decade-and-a-half of mediocrity and an understanding that each new regime change is two steps forward, one step back—are equally as disgusted with a 2-2 start and close call against the likes of Central Michigan; but simply don’t have the visceral reaction as their expectations for this season were rooted in logic and the laying of a new foundation.

Seeing a more competitive team that looked like the Miami Hurricanes of old, while competing for a Coastal Division crown and getting better as the year went on—that was the ultimate goal. Yes, it sucked royally to have Florida backed into a corner, only to make a handful more mistakes than “the Gator”— allowing them to escape, 24-20.

No, there are no moral victories, but there was enough good to take from that road loss in Diaz’s first showing—especially when considering the alternative would’ve probably looked more like Miami’s last showing on a football field; that lifeless, lethargic shellacking Wisconsin laid on the Canes in Brooklyn.

Two weeks later in Chapel Hill, the Canes were tagged early—shell-shocked by the packed house and rowdy crowd, despite knowing what was coming—but dug in and fought back; something that hasn’t been the case over the years. Miami took the lead late, appeared to have pulled off the comeback—only to see a secondary (missing last year’s veteran leadership) get burned again, as it was by the Gators, en route to another fourth quarter heartbreak.

It was an 0-2 start; but not the types of lifeless losses the Canes have been racking up since things went to shit a dozen years ago.

Miami took care of Bethune-Cookman and things seemed to be turning, despite the 1-2 record—until heads got big, effort got small and a coaching staff had to take things back to square one, yet again, working to teach kids how to deal with adversity, prosperity and everything in between—things that are second nature to contenders and championship-level programs full of players who can self-police.

As this season rolls on over the next two months, may common sense and logic kick into high gear for what will be an up and down ride. For those who struggle to get to that sensible place and need a little push—lean on some recent history lessons and situations some other first-year guys have been in, before getting things on a better path.

Everyone knows Miami’s head coaching family tree by now and some early struggles of first-year guys; Johnson’s run in 1984 with the defending national champs—dropping his final three in epic-fail fashion; a blown 31-0 halftime lead to Maryland, ‘Hail Flutie’ against Boston College the following game and a Fiesta Bowl loss to UCLA to finish 8-5—as well as fans still wanting to run Davis every season through year six, after an early-season road loss to Washington—only to clamor for his return consistently over the next two decades.

Step outside Canes’ culture for a moment and look up some stats and history on some of the best coaches the game currently has to offer.

Alabama was upset by Louisiana-Monroe year one for Nick Saban—ULM erecting this I-20 billboard for Tide fans en route to the Independence Bowl.


Nick Saban went 7-6 out the gate at Alabama, as the Crimson Tide were nowhere near the program he’s since built them into–dealing with the type of issues plaguing Miami over the past 15 years. Alabama was a dismal 46-40 between 2000 and 2006, under three different head coaches before Saban showed up—successful at LSU years earlier, but having failed in his short stint with the Miami Dolphins.

For all those sweating a close call against Central Michigan; Alabama lost to Louisiana-Monroe at home in 2007 under St. Nick.

Dabo Swinney is another current top guy that needed upwards of a decade to turn Clemson into a contender. After years of being barely-above-average under Tommy Bowden, Swinney took over for Bowden mid-season 2oo8 and managed to win the Atlantic his first full season, but backslid to 6-7 in 2010—including a home blowout against rival South Carolina.

Two years later—year three-and-a-half—an ACC Championship lost some luster after West Virginia throttled Swinney’s Tigers in the Orange Bowl, 70-33.

Should one really want do dive down the rabbit hole, dig up some old fan-driven sites and message boards from early in the careers of the two most-recent, multi-national championship winners and see how badly some wanted to drive both Saban and Swinney out of town—one written off as a has-been, the other as a never-was—yet in due time, both ultimately got the job done and are currently revered by their respective programs and fan bases.

Time—as much as Miami fans are sick of waiting, it remains the operative word as the aforementioned fifth coaching change since 2006 is the equivalent of hitting ‘reset’ on a video game, or wiping the whiteboard clean.

All one can ask for in this journey; a head coach that’s attacking the issues they come up in real time, while doing everything he can to speed up the process with what he has—and working tirelessly to get this thing to where he wants.

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, ItsAUThing.com 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 earns a living helping icon Bill Murray build a lifestyle apparel brand. Hit him on Twitter for all things U-related @ItsAUThingBLOG.


Chapel Hill is a living hell for the Miami Hurricanes.

Has been since joining the ACC in 2004 and getting upset by a 3-4 squad when ‘The U’ was the No. 3 team in the nation —and by the looks of this latest installment, the curse lives on.

I hammered this point on social media all week, until I was Tar-Heel-blue-in-the-face—yet too many who follow this program refused to buy it.

This is The New Miami, bro. We’re the Canes; those Tar Heels ain’t shit. Past is the past; history means nothing. South Carolina gave that game away last week. Freshman quarterback is garbage—our defense will eat his lunch. We’re gonna hang 40+ on those scrubs.

Instead, it proved to be just the house of horrors type of game that Miami often deals with at North Carolina. Fall into an early hole, finally wake up, fight to scrap out of it, give up a late score and ultimately come up short—this time in strange 28-25 fashion as a blocked point after try brought on a pair of two-point conversion attempts. The Tar Heels made theirs; the Canes didn’t.

Days back, I laundry-listed out the ways the Canes have lost to the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill—where Miami is now 3-5 since joining the ACC; literally reinventing ways to fail at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Another chapter was added this weekend by way of a failed kicking game, where seven points were left on the field in a three-point loss.

Manny Diaz and staff had two weeks to get Miami prepared for this early-season, in-conference road match-up—and while the Canes again showed some resiliency and fight, it was a second consecutive outing where a handful of boneheaded plays all played their part in being the difference-maker.

Miami unraveled early, down 17-3 by late in the first quarter—reminiscent of a 23-7 hole in 2009 and 27-0 halftime deficit in 2007. The Canes knew they were walking into a sold out stadium and that the Tar Heels were still flying high in the new Mack Brown era after last weekend’s upset of South Carolina—yet for whatever reason, UM still looked unprepared for the moment.

The usually-sound defense made freshman quarterback Sam Howell look all the part of a superstar, opposed to the newbie he is. The Canes’ defense couldn’t get to him much all night, never forced a turnover and allowed him to go down in Tar Heels’ folklore by way of a nine play, 75-yard drive—with a 4th-and-17 completion, no less—retaking the lead with just over one minute left on the clock. 

Another game where Miami won the stats battle, but ultimately couldn’t get it done—488 total yards; 309 through the air and 179 on the ground, while dominating the time of possession—and losing the stat that mattered most; scoreboard.

Buried in the frustrating loss; the fact that quarterback Jarren Williams put together another impressive outing at a position where the Canes have struggled for years. The r-freshman was 30-for-39 for 309 yards with two touchdowns and no turnovers—but just like his first go-around against Florida weeks back, couldn’t complete a comeback, despite the ball in his hands for a final drive.

Miami also got nice production out of running backs DeeJay Dallas and Cam’Ron Harris, but struggled in the red zone—settling for field goal attempts; two of which sailed wide.

The thin line between winning and losing has proven excruciating two games into this new season; Miami literally one play away in each game from 2-0 and ranked, instead 0-2 for the first time since 1978.

Despite being mistake-plagued and trailing early, the Canes fought back all night took their first lead with just under five minutes remaining in the game—but quickly let it slip away; also reminiscent to a fourth quarter score against Florida and a lead that fast evaporated.

Where the loss to Florida was out of conference and not that big a deal in the grand scheme of things (outside of simply losing to the hated Gators, which is always pure hell to deal with)—going down 0-1 in the ACC is a rough spot for Miami; especially falling to a North Carolina squad that was picked near the bottom of the Coastal Division.

The premise of winning the division when not yet facing the best competition the Coastal has to offer; it doesn’t exactly exude confidence moving forward.


The fact that any in Miami’s fan base were screaming “run the table” in the preseason shows just how obtuse some are in regards to what it takes to build a contender, as well as not fully understanding that 15 years of hovering as a mid-tier ACC program doesn’t get fixed through eight months of marketing hype and rebranding.

The New Miami is just a fancy way of explaining that the Hurricanes’ program has been doing it wrong for way too long and it’s time to raze this thing down to the foundation and rebuild in the mold of great Miami teams from yesteryear that Diaz grew up idolizing.

Nothing about any of that that will be easy—especially after 7-6 last season, a fifth coaching change in 14 years and a brand new quarterback—yet many still expected to knock off No. 8 Florida in the opener, followed by a dominant win over North Carolina in their house week two.

Again, where is this entitlement coming from—and why?

For those who confused Diaz’s explanation of the team he plans to build, with some just-add-water approach regarding what Miami currently has on board personnel-wise—that’s on them and an inability to assess a situation for what it is, versus what they want it to be.

You can’t fast-track yourself from average to contender overnight. If you could, it wouldn’t have taken Dabo Swinney an up and down eight years to start consistently winning the ACC and bringing home Clemson’s first national title since 1980; the same Swinney that Tigers fans wanted to run out of town the first six years the “unqualified” head coach was building a contender.

Gurvan Hall (26) looks on as Dazz Newsome (5) reels in the game-winning touchdown with 1:01 remaining.

Yes, the Canes could just as easily be 2-0 as they are 0-2, but the mistakes made are precisely what happens with a new head coach and brand new offensive staff on the heels of a six-loss season. You can see what you’re trying to emulate and can articulate who you want to see this program grow into—but to actual do, on the road in real time—it shouldn’t come as a shock when years of bad muscle memory kick back in and the team flinches under the lights.

Miami has shown commendable fight against both Florida and North Carolina; scrapping back in both games in a way that never would’ve been the case in 2018. When the Gators went ahead 17-13 late third quarter, last year’s Canes would’ve folded—instead of bouncing back with a quick touchdown. Against the Tar Heels, that 17-3 deficit would’ve been a back-breaker and Miami would’ve gotten rolled up. 

Instead, it rattled off 10 points before the half and finally got the go-ahead score late in the fourth quarter—holding North Carolina to a field goal from the four-minute mark in the first quarter, until the final minute in the fourth.

Pressure ramps up late when you’re short on time. Miami has learned to catch its breath early in the game when things start to get away, but hasn”t figured out how to bear down in those final minutes when everything is on the line; especially not with the youth it has on the defense everywhere, sans linebacker—or with a freshman-heavy offensive line trying to buy time for a r-freshman quarterback with two career starts under his belt.

What was the strongest link over the past few seasons, fact remains the Canes’ defense failed one a few occasions and its cost them two football games.

No sooner did Miami fail to create points out of a fourth quarter interception of Feleipe Franks, the maligned quarterback came back on the next play from scrimmage and torched the Canes for a 65-yard pick-up, which set up the game-winning punch-in. Miami needed the type of stop it had gotten several times up to that point, but in the game’s most-crucial moment, it folded.

The same happened in Chapel Hill two weeks later; Miami gets the go-ahead score late, only to let North Carolina march down field to answer—with a monster fourth down conversion, no less.


Some will confuse explanations for excuses, but as hard as the pill is to swallow—these Canes are learning the hard way what it takes to win, just like past teams before them that eventually became great.

Everyone remembers the legendary plays Ed Reed made throughout the 2001 season, yet forgets his sophomore year when he and Mike Rumph got burned on an 79-yard hook-up from Kevin Thompson to Chafie Fields that saw Penn State come back against a Miami team that had just scrapped to and retaken the lead—down 17-3 in the third quarter and ultimately falling, 27-23.

Later in that 1999 season, Ken Dorsey was tossed all over Lane Stadium when thrust into action when Kenny Kelly got hurt against Virginia Tech—the wide-eyed Dorsey swallowed whole in his first real game action.

There are countless other examples of eventually great players yet to hit their prime, but we’ll leave it here for now. Growing pains are real and even future greats have moments of struggle on the way up.

Miami has some guys right now that could very well be good down the road, but they’re just not there yet. Brian Hightower had his shot at pulling in a game changing grab last night, but couldn’t—while Mallory rebounded from a bad showing against Florida to catch the go-ahead score, but couldn’t hang on to the two-point conversion.

Meanwhile, the secondary is struggling tremendously and missing Jaquan Johnson, Sheldrick Redwine and Michael Jackson a lot more than anticipated.

Bandy got burned badly by the Tar Heels, but looked next-level the past two seasons when he had more help out there. Al Blades Jr. picked up a crucial unsportsmanlike penalty late against the Gators and hasn’t tackled well, to date. DJ Ivey got himself suspended for the opener and looked out of sorts against the Tar Heels; including an early pass interference call that led to a score.

Gurvan Hall has also struggled; out of position on the aforementioned big late hook-up for Florida that led to the game-winning touchdown—not to mention, Carter, who hauled in a Gators’ interception, but got himself booted against North Carolina in a game where the Canes’ secondary couldn’t afford a depth hit.

The defensive line also doesn’t have the muscle it had last season.
Gerald Willis missed the bowl game against Wisconsin and as a result, the entire line took a step back in that game without his presence. 

Willis has since moved on, Joe Jackson blew off his senior year to be a fifth-round NFL pick and the Canes lost some depth when transfer Tito Odenigbo and Demetrius Jackson graduated. Nesta Silvera remains sidelined with an injury, while Virginia Tech transfer Trevon Hill is still working his way back into playing shape, due to shoulder surgery last winter.

Miami’s secondary is sorely missing the experience and confidence of Jaquan Johnson (4) and Sheldrick Redwine (22).

A true contender can overcome those setbacks with a next-man-up attitude; Miami can’t—as it’s nowhere near contention yet. Just the fact that the Canes are still so reliant on transfers for depth sake; it should tell you how far this program is from being championship-caliber.

When one is a contender, you reload instead of having to rebuild—and you don’t suffer the growing pains these Hurricanes are dealing with.

Fact remains, the breaks just haven’t gone Miami’s way early this season—many self-inflicted, but not all. The Canes did more good than bad the past two showdowns; enough that both games could’ve easily have resulted in victories. The bad just happened to come late at the worse possible time, ultimately costing them—twice.

All that to say, no, there are no moral victories. 0-2 is pure hell any way you slice or dice it. The only thing worse would’ve been Miami getting blown out in either or both games, as there would be nothing to build on, whereas there are some teachable moments here that if corrected, can still make for a good, step-forward season.

Still, this start is absolutely a setback that is going to bring with it a wave of negativity—something that a native Miamian like Diaz is aware of, and expects. As quickly as fans ate up The New Miami, a renewed attitude and an assault on the Transfer Portal—anyone who knows anything about supporters of ‘The U’ is well-aware just how quickly things will turn shitty if wins aren’t racked up.


Of course, those who are turning fast and refuse to give a new coach time to find his footing—these are the same ones who flew banners trying to get rid of Butch Davis year three as he cleaned up somebody else’s miss—and still wanted him gone year six after an early-season loss at Washington—yet clamored for his return every time there’s been a coaching change at ‘The U’ over the past decade.

Folks with this short-sighted approach also wanted Jimmy Johnson out after going 8-5 year one with the defending national champions—while others didn’t even want him in the first place; feeling defensive coordinator Tom Olivadotti should’ve been promoted when Howard Schnellenberger left for the USFL.

Johnson hit the ground running in 1984 with road wins against Auburn and Florida, but losses to Michigan and Florida State quickly had the Canes at 3-2. Cue the rumblings.

One can only imagine the late-season shellacking Johnson would’ve taken on social media back in the day after blowing a 31-0 home lead to Maryland, a post-Thanksgiving, ‘Hail Flutie’ loss to Boston College and a Fiesta Bowl setback to UCLA to end the season with a three-game losing streak in ugly fashion.

Dennis Erickson was praised year one; picking up where Johnson left off—the cupboard full after the 1988 season; installing his one-back offense and not tinkering with the defense.

The former Washington State head coach got a pass for losing in Tallahassee with a back-up quarterback—and ending the season with a home rout of top-ranked Notre Dame, before knocking off Alabama in the Sugar Bowl for the program’s third national title—but the tide fast turned when dropping the 1990 season opener at BYU, as the top-ranked, two-touchdown favorite, defending national champs simply didn’t lose those types of games.

Yes, Larry Coker couldn’t maintain what Davis created, Randy Shannon didn’t have what it took, Al Golden was an empty suit and Richt was on the wrong side of his career arc—too spent to dig in and do a young man’s job. No one is calling Diaz the next Schnelly, JJ, Erickson or Butch, either—but writing him off two games in when realizing what knee-jerk reactions would’ve meant reading what Johnson and Davis went on to build; people need to get a grip.

No, none of that U-related history excuses the sloppy play or coming up short that’s started this new season with a thud; it’s simply a reminder to have some perspective regarding where this program’s been the past 15 years, what Diaz inherited and where he hopes to take it.

These glaring problems didn’t appear overnight and sure-as-shit won’t get fixed that way, either. As tired as fans are of the Canes being irrelevant; the fan-turned-coach who actually signed up for the rebuild is tired of it, too—hence his signing up as Miami’s 25th head coach in program history, working tirelessly to right the ship.

The disgruntled fans who tried to run off Butch Davis are the same ones who begged for his return the last few times UM hired a new coach.

There’s a reason Miami went 7-6 last fall. There’s a reason Mark Richt stepped down—after another season with a multiple-game losing streak. There’s a reason why the Canes have only taken the Coastal Division once in 15 tries, have never won the ACC and haven’t had a perfect regular season since 2002.

Athletics weren’t a priority to former university president Donna Shalala; who opted for a handful of low-rent hires for over a decade, while putting all her energy and resources towards UM’s medical school. Shalala stepped down in 2015 and within months, Miami’s Board of Trustees green-lit the hiring of Richt; a proven name instead of another up-and-comer—as well as a reported salary around $4M-per-year—which was new, big money territory for the University of Miami.

Richt immediately pushed for a bigger budget, allowing him to hire better assistants than Hurricanes football had seen in the past—instrumental in Diaz’s return to South Florida; resulting in the immediate revamping of the defense—as well as helping get a much-talked-about indoor practice facility pushed over the hump, by way of a $1M personal donation.

Translation; Miami has only been rebuilding since 2015—as everything that took place the decade before that was nothing more than Shalala going through the motions; this program backsliding a little more each and every year. Throw that decade out the window because nothing resembling a rebuild took place in that lost era.

Even with the Hurricanes documented struggles over the years, some still spent the off-season calling for an undefeated, run-the-table regular season—despite Miami dropping five of its past seven games, dating back to a home comeback over Florida State last October—and are beside themselves that this new-look team came up short in two tough road games.

Fans sitting around this summer talking about UM being a dark horse Playoffs contender—meanwhile this new coaching staff is busting their asses to to break bad habits that have persisted for years;  teaching kids how to close out games against mid-level conference teams that have found outplay the Canes for years.


Fact remains, even in two losses—marred with mistakes—Miami looks better top to bottom than it did last season. There’s an energy and passion that was lost last year, but seems to have returned. Youth and inexperience at a few key positions; these are the issues and unfortunately there is no quick fix. These kids will have to learn on the fly and hopefully grow up quick.

“It is very similar to a week ago,” Diaz said postgame Saturday night. “They are competing, they are playing with toughness, they are doing a lot of the things we’re asking them to do. There is not a guy in that locker room right now, coaches included, that can’t do more and can’t play or coach better than they are right now.”

In hindsight, this (obviously) wasn’t a good year to open with a road trip to Orlando to play the Gators, or for a night game in the always-tough Chapel Hill week two of the season. There’s a reason coaches like to schedule the likes of a Bethune-Cookman and Central Michigan—Miami’s next two opponents—in effort to kick off the rust, after spring, summer and fall with no real contact.

The Canes dropped two games by a combined seven points—and can easily pinpoint where things went off the rails.

Williams has been a surprise at quarterback, in regards to how quickly he’s easing in to the role. Yes, he’s missed some throws or has held on to the ball too long, but he’s protected the football much better than the turnover machines who were under center last season.

That said, his offensive line remains young, green and makeshift—and will continue learning as the go, which will make for an up and down year.

Just the fact that the Canes are still so reliant on transfers for depth—it should tell you how far this program is from being championship caliber. When one is truly a contender, you can “reload” instead of having to “rebuild”. Miami is nowhere near that place yet and is still suffering from growing pains.

0-2 isn’t where anyone wanted to be at this point—especially Diaz and this new staff—but it’s where the Canes have landed, so you deal with it and move on. The season is far from over and Miami will get back-to-back weeks at home to work out the kinks against some lesser teams.

Come October, it’s back to ACC play and home games against Virginia Tech, Virginia and Georgia Tech that will go a long way in shaping the Coastal race. Miami isn’t back on the road again until a late October road trip to Pittsburgh, followed by an early November showdown in Tallahassee—five in a row at HardRock and hopefully a hard reset after a brutal start to this new era of football.

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, ItsAUThing.com 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 earns a living helping icon Bill Murray build a lifestyle apparel brand. Hit him on Twitter for all things U-related @ItsAUThingBLOG.