If you think FSU had an off-year, be thankful you´re not a Hurricane fan. The Noles South Florida rival had one of its worst seasons in decades, a miserable 4 - 7. And things could get worse.
Long-time UM analyst and blogger Kartik Krishnaiyer of Canes Rising, stops by with his take on why the Ibis really has something to be pissed about. As with any guest editorial, Kartik´s opinions are not necessarily those of ChantRant.
FSU Miles Ahead of Miami in a Potential Return to Glory
For much of the last year and a half the debate has raged throughout College Football circles, which faltering program is in better shape: Florida State or Miami? This has been a frequent topic in the media: Kirk Herbstreit of ESPN thinks Miami is in better shape, but he always seems to lean Miami´s way if Ohio State is not involved. Todd Wright of Pro Football Weekly, a Miami graduate believes Florida State is in better shape. I happen to also believe Florida State is in much better shape, for reasons not previously articulated -- and also because Miami, from my vantage point, has entered a long period where losing is going to be the norm.
Most Miami fans are arrogant and ignorant and believe they can flick some sort of magical switch and the Miami of the 1980s and early 1990s can return. Sure it happened once already when Miami came off probation. But this time around, the landscape of College Football has changed and Miami´s facilities and stadium are clearly inferior to other potential top programs and conference rivals. (For the record I will admit I believed Miami was done in the late 1990s and should concentrate on building up its Basketball program into a consistent national power, which at the time was much stronger than it is now)
Miami isn´t playing in the low budget Big East anymore, and has spent lots of money the past few years building a new Basketball Arena and renovating the Baseball Stadium. A state of the art Basketball practice facility is close to completion as well. All of this was necessary for Miami to compete in the Big East. The Bank United Center and Mark Light Stadium stand as two of the better facilities in the conference in their respective sports. Dolphin Stadium however it can be argued is the worst venue for a major College Football team in the nation, and the Miami facilities at Greentree practice area are relics of the early 1980s.
EROSION OF RECRUITING BASES
Miami has largely depended on recruits from two areas during its prolonged run of success: The state of Florida south of I-4 and the state of Texas. Florida State on the other hand has been able to recruit the entire state as well as cherry pick top national recruits. From a recruiting standpoint Florida made the right decision bringing in Urban Meyer with national pedigree, because Florida traditionally recruited very minimally outside the state and now suffers from an erosion of its recruiting base as well.
The emergence of the University of South Florida as an urban public school and a major football power has serious ramifications for Miami and Florida, but virtually none for Florida State. Through the years UF has had a cozy relationship with some of the top H.S. coaches in the Tampa Bay area, while Miami has always been able to cherry pick some of the top players out of the area. Florida State has traditionally been the third or even the fourth or fifth choice of many of the High School stars in the Bay area. Schools like Michigan and Ohio State have always been able to pull kids out of the area also.
The University of Central Florida has begun to erode Miami´s traditional dominance of top recruits from urban Orlando. While Florida got bigger sheer numbers of recruits from the area, Miami generally got the best players from Orlando. Florida State, again was the third choice in many cases although they have had some nice players also from the area.
Florida Atlantic University, Rutgers, West Virginia and NC State have all substantially cut into the State of Miami, which was from Jupiter south to Florida City. When Miami was good, players from this area, rarely if ever defected. But as Preston Parker showed us on signing day a few years ago when he tossed the Miami and FSU caps in the air and the FSU cap came down first, Miami cannot be assured of getting the top local talent anymore.
Parker is a perfect example of why Florida State is in much better shape than Miami. Why would a player of Parker´s ability from the same area as Devin Hester attend Miami after seeing how poorly Miami used Hester? Throughout much of South Florida, and in spite of continued strong fan support for the Hurricanes from the suburbs, the Miami program is being viewed as a softish joke. Pulling the names off the back of the jerseys and suspending kids for carrying cell phones doesn´t seem to be a good recruiting tool, as viewed by some of the top coaches and players here in south Florida.
Over in Texas the re-emergence of the juggernaut that is Texas Football (for the record I believe the Texas program should be the best in the country, and the fact that it is not tells me that Mack Brown isn´t the coach he´s built up to be), as well as Bob Stoops and his arrogant swagger at Oklahoma (and the help of some alumni who run local car dealerships) has severely undercut Miami´s Texas recruiting. Add to that LSU´s re-emergence in the last seven seasons as a power and Miami can no longer pick up an Ed Reed or Reggie Wayne-type in Louisiana.
Miami´s 2008 recruiting class is ranked high by Rivals at the time of this writing, based almost solely on kids from Miami-Dade and Broward counties. However, I believe many of these kids will realize what they are getting into and de-commit before signing day. In addition, Miami´s high admission standards for athletes (in the top 10% of all NCAA D-1 programs) will mean several of these kids, even if they want to play for Miami, will end up elsewhere.
Look at LeSean McCoy who single handedly beat West Virginia for Pitt last weekend. Just under two years ago he and his father were sitting in the stands at the Orange Bowl at Miami´s spring game, a proud Miami signing ready to put on the Orange and Green. But when he didn´t make the grades, it was easier to try to qualify elsewhere. The same can be said for Nate Harris, Craphonso Thorpe, Bobby Washington and many, many others in recent years.
Florida State has Bobby Bowden the winningest coach in College Football history. Miami has Randy Shannon who has a losing record in his first year on the job. But the divergence in coaching staffs doesn´t end there. In Jimbo Fisher, Chuck Amato, Mickey Andrews and Rick Trickett, FSU has as seasoned and accomplished a staff as you can find in the country. Miami on the other hand has inexperienced coordinators and even more inexperienced position coaches whose major strength is recruiting and not game day coaching.
This is not to even mention that four of the better head coaches in the nation -- Urban Meyer, Jim Leavitt, Howard Schnellenberger and George O´Leary -- also lead programs in the state.
Recently on local radio, Michael Irvin stated that Patrick Nix´s offense is too complicated for the college game. Perhaps that explains the inconsistency of Nix´s game plans from week to week, and Miami lack of identity on offense. One week Miami in pounding the ball from the power I, and the next week Miami is running a spread offense from the shotgun.
I will state however that the elevation of Jimbo Fisher in a few years to be FSU´s Head coach could be a huge, program killing mistake. But until then Bobby Bowden is still in place and FSU has the clear advantage on Miami in this department.
ADAPTABILITY TO THE ACC
In Florida State´s first six seasons in the ACC they lost one league game. In Miami´s first four seasons in the ACC they have lost nineteen times to league foes. Simply put, Miami is a fish out of water in the ACC. Every program in the league has superior facilities, the ability to pay coaches more and a large alumni base from which to draw fans and fund raise. Miami´s ability to compete previously depended on revolutionizing the game as it did in the 1980s and early 1990, when the Hurricanes played far tougher schedules than anyone in the country plays today, or playing in a weak league where they had a shot by default to win the conference title every year in the late 1990s and early part of this decade. Both these elements have disappeared and Florida State is once again proving that they can compete in the ACC after an awful 2006.
Florida State was for years nationally viewed more or less as Miami Lite. A program with a swagger that could grab any player in America it wanted, provided that its big brother (Miami) didn´t grab for the same player. Miami and Florida State both tapped into American urban culture and the play and off the field behavior of many of its players reflected a tolerant willingness to bend and sometimes break the rules on the part of both institutions. Miami under intense national media pressure cleaned up its act in the late 1990s, but yet the media still sees Miami as a convenient bogeyman. Since 1995 Miami has had less active players arrested than in-state rival Florida has had in the past six months. Yet, the national perception fueled by a willing media will always be that Miami is a dirty program filled with law breakers while Florida is a clean program run by southern gentlemen.
The public perception of Florida State was equally poor for years. However with Florida State´s collapse from the national scene in the early part of this decade, the scrutiny of the program by the media has disappeared. Florida State continues to have problems with player discipline and as institution is once again in hot water with the NCAA for breaking rules. However, the program isn´t on the national radar anymore and these stories are often lost nationally while Miami´s few problems are magnified and become the subject of gossip on cable news channels.
Florida State has natural advantages and an institutional commitment that will allow its program to dominate Miami for years to come and perhaps return to national prominence as early as 2008. Miami on the other hand is in a permanent downward spiral which should place it squarely with Duke and North Carolina as part of a permanent underclass in ACC Football.
The news isn´t all bad for Miami though, as Basketball season is ongoing and Miami, despite being worse than FSU last season, is clearly the ACC school in Florida with a stronger commitment and better long term prospects basketball wise.