Miami-Florida State. One of the great rivalries in all of sports.
Technically, it’s an in-state rivalry. And yes, a lot of the players know each other from high school.
But what separates this game from others is the quality of play, and the stakes. What took this rivalry national was the stakes. Every college football fan knows what “Wide Right” meant and what it signified.
And recently the games have lived up to the reputation of producing classic games. In 2016, the game was decided by a blocked Extra Point. In 2017, it was a TD on the last play of the game.
It’s also a rivalry of weird statistics and streaks.
- From 1985-1992, the Canes won 7 of 8 contests. Immediately after that, from 1993-1999, FSU won 6 out of 7, followed by the Canes running off 6 straight wins. FSU’s most recent win streak of 7 finally came to an end last year.
- Chris Rix somehow managed to lose to Miami 5 times in only 4 years.
- Al Golden returned the favor by going 0-5 against FSU.
What does all that mean? That this is a series based on a meritocracy. Very rarely is there an actual upset in hindsight. This is not a game that defines who the better team is, but one that reveals who the better team is. In fact, in the last 20 years, only twice has the winner of this game finished with a worse overall record than the loser.
A rivalry defined by mutual respect because the team that wins knows they earned and deserved the victory.
Highest of Highs, Lowest of Lows
And yet there have been so many ups and downs. While the better team usually wins, you never know when the game will result in a classic, delivering euphoria or devastation.
The perfect example is the 6-game win streak the Canes enjoyed at the turn of the century. Those 6 games featured FSU missing a game winning or tying fourth quarter FG 3 times (2000, 2002, 2004 Orange Bowl) and an overtime game where the Canes scored in the last minute (2004) to force that OT. And how did that win streak end? With the Canes failing to punch the ball into the end zone on 1st and goal from inside the 5, and then dropping the snap on the attempted tying FG.
Such is this rivalry. A classic always around the corner, often unexpectedly.
And that’s also the beauty of this rivalry. If you support one of these teams and you watch the series long enough, you will experience those levels of euphoria.
But for all the talk of mutual respect, there is also mutual hate. We love to make fun of each other, to revel in the other team’s misery, to win on the road and rub it in the vanquished team’s face.
And FSU has been doing a lot of that lately.
The Hurricanes of Miami
September 10, 2004: Frank Gore ran into the end zone and Miami beat FSU 16-10 in overtime. More than 14 years ago. The last time the Canes beat the Seminoles at home.
It was the last gasp before a downward spiral. Miami would only play FSU one more time in the Orange Bowl, a loss in 2006.
As the school moved to the county line and out of the Old Horse Shoe in Little Havana, they culturally drifted away from the city with which they must share a bond. While ultimately a failure, Randy Shannon did attempt to connect to some of what makes Miami special and did leave one mark on the program with the team lining up to sing the Alma Mater at the end of games.
Randy Shannon was a failed attempt to look inward, failed not because he was a product of Miami, but because he was not up to the task at hand. As often happens in life, when a problem is identified, but the root cause is misidentified, attempts to remedy the problem end up worsening it. Al Golden was just that.
If Randy Shannon was an attempt to get back to Hurricane roots, Al Golden was an attempt to obliterate those roots: a plan that was doomed from the start.
The Hurricanes had gone from playing in the most Miami of neighborhoods, in a historic stadium full of character, and playing an aggressive/attacking style that epitomized Miami to playing in an anti-septic mausoleum captained by a coach who hated what the city represents.
Many wrote off the program.
And then a funny thing happened on the way to the funeral. The Marlins, ironically, vacated the stadium and moved to the location of the Hurricanes’ old home. While this bastardization of sacred ground is a travesty that all South Floridians will forever live with, it did allow the Dolphins to renovate the stadium. Gone was the cavernous “multi-purpose” layout, replaced with a more intimate, modernized atmosphere with a roof over the stands to hold the noise in.
The Canes went from this…
…in one offseason.
The addition of the aforementioned roof coincided with the reversal of the Al Golden disaster. Mark Richt is far from a perfect coach. But he was a perfect coach for this era of Miami football. Richt had the respect of the college football community from his time at Georgia. But he also was a link to Miami’s past, and understood the relationship between the school and the community. And what is Miami?
Miami is Crazy.
Miami is Ridiculous.
Miami is American.
Miami is Cuban.
Miami is Haitian.
Miami is Jewish.
Miami is South American.
Miami is Caribbean.
Miami is blend of cultures. A blend of good from all corners of the world. A place where all our welcome.
And the Hurricanes are Miami.
Enter Mark Richt, who embraced everything Miami because he understood Miami and because his reputation afforded him the latitude to do so without reprisal.
Nothing epitomizes this turnaround more than the Turnover Chain. It’s a ridiculous and brash piece of jewelry full of bling, held together by Cuban Links. It is Miami. And that is why the energy increases ten-fold in Hard Rock Stadium when it makes an appearance. The fans are not just celebrating a turnover, they are celebrating Miami with our sons of Miami.
While the backbone of the Hurricanes is often South Florida based, the players come from all over, to embrace not just a school, but a city and what it represents. And nothing represents Miami and all its pomp more than a Miami Hurricanes football program at full capacity.
And we’re nearly there. The signs are around us. The symbiotic link between the school and the community has been restored. The next step? Florida State.
14 years from the last win at home against FSU, the Hurricanes need to take the next step forward towards ultimate salvation from the tie-laden abyss in which the program was so recently mired.
The community will be there with the team, at peace with this representation of us, manifested in football form for 3 hours.
It’ll finally be time to turn the page in this rivalry and send the interlopers back to Tallahassee with a loss.