The Miami Hurricanes were once upon a time, arguably, the biggest brand in college football. ‘The U’ was once a star-making factory of players and coaches alike. Coaches like Howard Schnellenberger, Jimmy Johnson, Dennis Erickson, and Larry Coker all won national championships during their time in Miami. Throughout these amazing championship runs superstars were developed. Names like Jim Kelly, Vinny Testaverde, Gino Torretta, Warren Sapp, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Michael Irvin, Eddie Brown, Edgerrin James, Bennie Blades, Cortez Kennedy, Jeremy Shockey, and Andre Johnson, among others, all became legends as Hurricanes.
Throughout the 1980s on into the 2000s, ‘The U’ was an unstoppable force. They were cultural icons as well as an NFL breeding ground. During this golden era, the Hurricanes could go toe to toe with programs like Alabama, Clemson, and Ohio State of today. Miami was, at one time, the kings of college football, and they didn’t care to let you know about it.
However, those days have long come and gone since their last national title, all the way back in 2001. This once legendary program has had some success here and there in the time since, however, it simply hasn’t felt like ‘The U’. Many coaches have come and gone through this period, with some, once again enjoying degrees of success, however, none have been able to recapture the magic that once engulfed the University of Miami and its illustrious football program.
Now, enter new head coach Mark Cristobal. The new face of the Hurricanes program is not only a Miami alum but a native of the city as well. Cristobal cut his teeth with various programs, which included an early tenure as a graduate assistant and later position coach for the Hurricanes before landing his first head coaching gig at FIU where he served as the programs second head coach.
In 2010, he was able to lead this Panthers football program, still in its infancy, to their first ever bowl game appearance. However, he was unable to maintain that success and was let go in 2012. It was here that Cristobal, like so many other coaches, was able to resurrect his career as an assistant at the University of Alabama.
After a stint with the Crimson Tide, Cristobal made his way to the University of Oregon where he became full-time head coach in 2018. It was here that he was able to find his stride again, winning Pac-12 coach of the year in 2019 while leading Oregon to a Rose Bowl victory and following that up with another conference championship in 2020. Following another successful run in 2021, Cristobal was named as the new head coach of the Miami Hurricanes going into this season.
As previously mentioned, there have been quite a few head coaches come and go since the glory days of Hurricanes football. However, something just feels different about this hire. There is a renewed energy around the program this off-season. The recruiting efforts have been highly fruitful. Players seem excited to be a part of this program once again.
South Florida has always been a hotbed for football talent and the Hurricanes have been swooping them up in droves this off-season. Miami currently is on a trajectory to bring in a top-five recruiting class in 2023 and could possibly fight for the top spot. On top of that, the program may not have to wait all too long in order to see success on the field.
Miami has a chance to compete in the ACC as soon as this season. They play what could be a favorable schedule and boast one of the better quarterbacks in the country. Tyler Van Dyke was the 2021 ACC Rookie of the year and is well on the path to being a legit big-time NFL prospect once that time comes. The Hurricanes also boast multiple pre-season All-ACC performers on this year’s roster.
This is already a roster that will not be devoid of talent. Add to that a high-level head coach as well as a high-level quarterback and you could have a recipe for success. If Miami can just simply compete at a high level in this conference in 2022, to go along with the level that they are recruiting, then the Hurricanes could become a major player in college football once again.
There is a lot that still has to play out. That being said, the Hurricanes have a ton of momentum on their side right now. Mark Cristobal is off to a very strong start in his first off-season. If that momentum can carry on to the field this season and keep stacking moving forward, then very soon, we may see the return of ‘The U’. The real ‘U’.