Crazy day today–lots of travel and some computer issues, but here’s the post for the day. I’m down in Miami for a shoot on Tuesday and was able to make a brief visit to my old stomping grounds at the University of Miami in Coral Gables.
Took a drive past my dorm building at Pearson/Mahoney, strolled through the old building that used to be the film department, and visited the athletic Hall of Fame. And that’s the postcard from the road today. A look back at the five National Championships the University of Miami has won in the last 30 years—something that no other division 1 football team has done.
Because I enjoy touching on regionalism on this blog—love the Miami Hurricanes football team or despise them —in the ’80s they were the product of the times and the area. A seemingly unlikely source to navigate the water is Joan Didion’s book Miami first published in 1987. Miami’s story is one of crippling orange grove freezes and damaging hurricanes. One of natural beauty and wicked human endeavors. (The year I attended Miami in the early 80s there was an average of a murder a day in the Miami metro area.)
As Fidel Castro took control of Cuban in the late ’50s there was an influx of Cuban exiles who were looking forward one day to returning to their homeland. More than 50 years later they’re still waiting. They’ve added a flavor to the area, but when the Mariel boatlift brought an exodus of 125,000 additional Cubans (some from prisons and mental health facilities) it caused quite a strain on the city. Mixed with the Overtown riots in 1980 following the death of African-American Arthur McDuffie and the acquittal of the police officers involved, and the increase of the illegal drug trade in the ’70s & ’80s—bringing money and murder—Miami needed a facelift.
Miami Hurricane coach Howard Schnellenberger is the man I believe who orchestrated that change. And he did it by recruiting South Florida players who traditionally would have gone to the University of Florida, Florida State University, or even more prominent Big Ten schools.
It’s hard to believe that in the late 70s they almost discontinued the football program at Miami. It’s what makes those national championships all the more remarkable. It’s quite a story.
Here’s the opening credits to the Billy Corben directed documentary “The U” which is part of ESPN’s 30 by 30 series.
P.S. While the football team isn’t currently the powerhouse it once was, the school itself was recently ranked the 44th best college by the U.S. News & World Report.
Scott W. Smith