Photo by Jon Soohoo/WireImage

The last time the Miami Hurricanes won the national championship…

7 Comments

A year after having the BCS formula go against them, the 2001 Miami Hurricanes were on a mission to leave no doubt who the best team in college football was early in the 21st century. Arguably one of the most dominant teams in college football history, Miami set the tone for a season of dominance right from the start of the season and was barely given a fight all season long en route to the BCS national championship. It would be the last national title for the Miami program before some significant changes took place for the program and the sport as a whole.

Butch Davis had capitalized on Miami’s 11-1 season the year before by accepting a job offer from the NFL’s Cleveland Browns. Staying behind to guide the ship in Miami was Larry Coker, who had been promoted from offensive coordinator to head coach. Defensive coordinator Greg Schiano also left the Hurricanes to take over as head coach at Rutgers. Randy Shannon took over as defensive coordinator for the Hurricanes, with Rob Chudzinski taking on the role of offensive coordinator. It didn’t matter how many changes were made on the staff, because the roster was loaded with NFL-quality talent with players like Ed Reed, Clinton Portis, Jeremy Shockey, and Jonathan Vilma. The talent Miami had on the roster was unmatched, and the motivation after feeling burned by the BCS computers the year before was a recipe for mayhem.

Miami opened the season with a dominating victory at Penn State to hand the Nittany Lions their worst home loss under Joe Paterno, and Miami kept on rolling against Big East opponents Rutgers and Pittsburgh before handling Troy State at home. Miami then scored a lopsided victory in Tallahassee against No. 13 Florida State. Although Miami topped top-ranked FSU the previous season, it was Florida State that went on to play for the national title (and lose to Oklahoma). Miami kept their foot on the ga son offense and defense the rest of the year with blowout victories over Big East foes like West Virginia, Boston College and No. 15 Syracuse. A late November romp of No. 11 Washington put Miami one victory away from delivering on the mission of an undefeated season. They got it done with a regular season finale at No. 14 Virginia Tech, with the Hokies giving Miami its closest game all season long, a 26-24 victory for the Canes.

The Rose Bowl was the scene for the BCS National Championship Game, where Miami was opposed by Nebraska and Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch. But the Huskers were not up to the challenge, which had been feared after the BCS computers managed to find room for Nebraska in the championship game despite losing their final game of the regular season to Colorado by a score of 62-36 (Colorado went on to play for and won the Big 12 championship game. Colorado also faced the No. 2 team in the AP and coaches poll, Oregon). The reality is it may not have mattered if Miami played Nebraska, Colorado, AND Oregon all at once because this Canes team probably would have won anyway.

But this was Miami’s last national championship victory, and the quest for another national title in Miami continues with the dawn of a new era under Manny Diaz. Let’s look back to see what else was going on in 2001.

Last National Championship Season: 2001 (18 years and counting)

Who was President?

George W. Bush was in his first year in the White House after coming out on top of the 2000 election. It just so happened his father, George H. W. Bush, was in his first year as president the previous time Miami had been a national champion in 1989 (or 1991 if you want to count the AP national title; Washington won the coaches poll).

The current president, Donald J. Trump, was officially a Democrat after switching from the Reform party in 2001. The construction of Trump World Tower was completed that same year.

What was on TV?

America was in love with “Friends,” which was taking the top spot of the TV ratings in its eighth season on NBC. This was the season when Rachel had a baby and is regarded by some as the best season in the series. The year of television was also highlighted by Regis Philbin getting a new co-host on “Live!”, which ended up being Kelly Ripa, who still hosts the morning talk show to this day.

The world becomes familiar with C.T.U. agent Jack Bauer, played by Kieffer Sutherland, in the debut season of “24.” And for the first time ever, HBO took viewers behind the scenes of an NFL training camp with the debut of Hard Knocks.” The Baltimore Ravens, fresh off their Super Bowl victory from the season before, were the featured team with a quarterback battle between Randall Cunningham and Elvis Grbac among the storylines worth following.

What movies were hot?

The first Harry Potter movie made its debut on the big screen in 2001 with Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone leading the way at the box office. The first film adaptation of the Harry Potter series of books blocked another film adaptation of a fantasy novel series from the top spot by keeping The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring at No. 2. Animated monsters of different varieties were also raking in ticket sales with the release of Monsters, Inc., and Shrek.

Another long-standing film franchise made its debut as well with Vin Diesel and Paul Walker starring in The Fast and the Furious. The meaning of family was never the same again, and little did anyone know what a smash success the franchise would become.

The award-winning A Beautiful Mind included an award-winning performance from Russell Crowe and led to awards for director Ron Howard.

Who was on the cover of NCAA Football?

As fate would have it, it was a player from a bitter Miami rival that appeared on the cover of the NCAA Football franchise in 2001. Former Florida State quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke was featured on the cover of the game, which brought the video game franchise to the Sony PlayStation 2 for the first time.

Weinke and the Seminoles played for the national championship the previous season and lost to Oklahoma in the national championship game (which is currently Oklahoma’s most recent national title). This, of course, is part of the Miami storyline for the 2001 season.

It is also worth mentioning there was actually another NCAA football video game option in 2001. SEGA’s NCAA College Football 2k2: Road to the Rose Bowl was exclusive to the SEGA Dreamcast. It featured former Purdue quarterback Drew Brees on the cover.

What else happened in 2001?

On September 11, 2001, terrorists attacked the United States by hijacking airline jets and crashing them into the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington D.C. A fourth jet was brought down in Pennsylvania. The entire sports world hit pause that week as both Major League Baseball and the NFL closed their leagues for a week in the aftermath of the biggest terrorist attack on American soil.

College football schedules were also put on hold for the most part as games were wiped off the Week 2 schedule and rescheduled for later in the season as much as possible.

A backup quarterback takes over the job for an injured Drew Bledsoe with the New England Patriots and leads the team to its first Super Bowl championship. That man is former Michigan seventh-round draft pick Tom Brady. Brady wins his first game as a starting quarterback that season after an 0-2 start to the year by topping Peyton Manning and the Colts. They would go on to have a storied rivalry in the years to come.

The Arizona Diamondbacks win their first World Series by defeating the New York Yankees in an epic seven-game series. Ichiro Suzuki made his MLB debut after coming over from Japan. He wins both the AL Rookie of the Year and the AL MVP.

Allen Iverson stepped over Tyron Lue in an overtime series-opening win against the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals, but Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal win their second straight NBA title with a 4-1 series victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.

While there may be some at NBC who wish I didn’t remind them about this, the XFL was a thing that existed.

Tiger Woods became the first golfer to hold four major championship titles at the same time after adding the Masters to his collection.

The Associated Press named Barry Bonds Male Athlete of the Year. Wonder if they’d like a do-over on that one.

Current Miami head coach Manny Diaz was a graduate assistant at NC State. Nick Saban was in his second season at LSU, and Dabo Swinney was sitting out the 2001 season while receiving contractual payments from his previous employer, Alabama, after the school fired the entire coaching staff under former Tide head coach Mike DuBose.

Miami Heat legend (and recently retired) Dwayne Wade had yet to be drafted by the Heat. That would happen two years later.

When will The U actually be back?

After winning it all in 2001, Miami played two more seasons in the Big East. The conference was about to lose its biggest names as confe3rence realignment started to tremble. Miami and Virginia Tech left for the ACC after the 2003 season. Boston College followed a year later. Years later the ACC would welcome Louisville, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse and the Big East lost West Virginia (Big 12) and Rutgers (Big Ten). But Miami was thought to bring some football balance to the conference after years of domination by Florida State. Little did anyone know that it would not be until the 2017 season when Miami would finally get a chance to play in the ACC Championship Game.

The Mark Richt era was thought early on to be what would help get Miami back to being a national title contender given his previous success at Georgia (without ever playing for a national title), and for one brief season, it appeared to be on track for that. But an abrupt retirement by Richt after a disappointing season leaves Miami still trying to figure out a way to being back to being a national title contender on a regular basis. Time will tell if Manny Diaz can bring the glory days back to the Hurricanes.

Big 12 to allow teams to play 1 non-conference football game

Getty Images
1 Comment

Two people involved with the decision say the Big 12 will permit its teams to play one nonconference football game this year to go along with their nine league contests as plans for the pandemic-altered season continued to fall into place.

The people spoke Monday night to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the conference was still preparing an official announcement.

The Big 12 university presidents signed off on the conference’s scheduling model, which gives schools the ability to play one nonconference game at home. The conference’s championship game is scheduled for Dec. 5, but one of the people told AP that the conference is leaving open the possibility of bumping it back a week or two.

The 10-team Big 12 already plays a nine-game, round-robin conference schedule. Unlike other Power Five conference that have switched to either exclusively (Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC) or mostly (ACC) league games this season, the Big 12 could not add more conference games without teams playing each other more than once.

Several Big 12 teams have already started preseason practice, with Kansas and Oklahoma slated to play FCS teams on Aug. 29.

As conferences take steps toward a football season that seems to be in precarious shape, the NCAA is expected to weigh in Tuesday on fall sports other than major-college football.

The association’s Board of Governors is scheduled to meet and whether to cancel or postpone NCAA championship events in fall sports such as soccer, volleyball and lower-division football is expected to be a topic.

Only the Pac-12 has a full football schedule with matchups and dates in place among Power Five conferences. The Pac-12 will begin Sept. 26, along with the Southeastern Conference, which is still working on its new 10-game slate.

The Atlantic Coast Conference has opponents set for its 10-game conference schedule and will start the weekend of Sept. 12, but no specific game dates. The ACC has also said it will permit its teams to play one nonconference game.

The Big Ten, first to announce intentions to go conference-only this season, has yet to release a new schedule, but that could come later this week.

Now that the Power Five has declared its intentions the Group of Five conferences can start making plans and filling holes on their schedules.

American Athletic Conference Commissioner Mike Aresco has said the AAC could stick with its eight-game conference schedule and let its members plays as many of their four nonconference games as they can salvage or replace.

The Mountain West, Conference USA, Mid-American and Sun Belt conferences are likely to take similar approach.

Early Monday, Texas State from the Sun Belt announced it was moving a nonconference game against SMU up from Sept. 5 to Aug. 29.

Good morning and, in case I don’t see ya, good afternoon, good evening and good night! CFT, out…

Getty Images
28 Comments

CFT is no more. At least, when it comes to NBC Sports.

The first of last month, I — this is John Taylor (pictured, catching the game-winning touchdown in Super Bowl XXIII) — began my 12th year with CFT and NBC Sports. This morning, I was informed that my position was being eliminated and I would not be completing that 12th year. Which, of course, meant I wouldn’t be eligible for the traditional 13th-anniversary gift of lace. Which really bummed me out. Because I really like lace.

The jarring phone call was both a slap in the face and a relief. Jarring because, well, it was completely unexpected. Out of the blue, even amidst the pandemic that is wreaking absolute and utter havoc across the country. A relief, on the other hand, because, every single day for the past four months, I woke up wondering if this would be the day I get that call.

Would this be the day? Would this be the day? A question played on an endless loop that just f***s with you mentally, emotionally, physically.

That’s no way to live.

Then again, being job-less is no way to live, either. But, here we are.

So many people I want to thank. First and foremost, Mike Florio and Larry Mazza. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Especially Mr. Mazza on the food front. Hopefully, lunch at Oliverio’s — best damn stuffed shells I have EVER had — can still be a thing, Larry.

And so many people that have worked for me. Not to single anyone out, but I’m going to single one out in Ben Kercheval. Ben, non-biological son of Hoppy, you were and continue to be the man. I appreciate you more than you know.  Rasheed Wallace may indeed be your biological father, but I will forever consider you my illegitimate Internet stepson.

Mike Miller is the best boss anyone could ever ask for.  Hire that man.  You can thank me later.

Kevin McGuire, Zach Barnett, Bryan Fischer, I will always treasure what we did, together, these last few years. Things were on the uptick, and it’s sad that we won’t be able to see it through. Together.  We should’ve — SHOULD’VE SHOULD’VE SHOULD’VE — been given that opportunity.  And it will forever piss me off that we weren’t.

Brent and Chris and JJ, much love to you all as well.

Shortly after I received the job call of death, I called my dad. Told him what was going on in his son’s life.  After I hung up the phone, he sent me a GIF in a text message a few minutes later.  I’ll link it here to end whatever this is, because it’s appropriate.  And old school.

And, well… bye.

via GIPHY

2018 FCS All-American RB commits to Virginia

Virginia football
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Virginia joined South Carolina over the weekend as Power Five football schools realizing a personnel benefit from a lower-level program’s loss.

Two weeks ago, the Colonial Athletic Association announced that it was canceling its 2020 college football season because of the coronavirus pandemic.  One member of that FCS conference is Towson.  Coincidentally or not, one standout member of the Tigers, Shane Simpson, took to Twitter last week to announce that he has entered his name into the NCAA transfer database.

On that same social media service Sunday, the running back confirmed that he has committed to the Virginia football team.  Simpson had his transfer to-do list down to Virginia and Texas.

As Simpson was a fifth-year senior in 2019, it appears he has been granted a sixth season of eligibility.  Or, is fairly confident he will receive one.

Simpson would likely be eligible for that sixth season as he missed all but four games of his true freshman season in 2015 because of injury, then missed all but the first three games last season because of a serious knee injury.

In 2018, Simpson earned first-team All-American honors.  He finished second in all of FCS with 171.5 all-purpose yards per game, totaling 2,058 yards on the season.  That same season, the Pennsylvania product was the CAA’s Special Teams Player of the Year and earned three different all-conference honors: first-team at running back, second-team as a kick returner and third-team as a punt returner.

Simpson would be eligible to play immediately in 2020 at the FBS level.

South Carolina pulls in transfer WR from Tarleton State

South Carolina football
Getty Images
Leave a comment

South Carolina is the latest football program to benefit from a lower level of the sport opting out of football this fall.

In the middle of last month, the Western Athletic Conference — yes, the WAC — announced that it is delaying the start of fall sports, including football, because of the coronavirus pandemic.  Tarleton State was set to enter its first season in the FCS conference after moving up from Div. II.

One member of the Texans won’t get to realize that monumental move, though, as Jalen Brooks announced on Twitter over the weekend that he will be transferring into the South Carolina football program.

“God is undefeated,” Brooks wrote. “I would not be able to make this commitment without God, my family, my coaches, my teammates, the people I work out with, and the work that I put into everything.”

Interestingly, 247Sports.com wrote that “Brooks visited the campus in Columbia with his former high school coach, Jason Seidel, serving as his tour guide.” In late June, the NCAA once again extended its ban on in-person recruiting through the end of August.  It’s assumed that the South Carolina football program wasn’t involved in that on-campus visit.

At this point, it’s unclear if the wide receiver will be eligible to play for the Gamecocks this season. If he is, he’d have three years to use two seasons of eligibility.  If not, he’d use his redshirt in 2020, then have two years starting in 2021.

Brooks actually began his collegiate career at Div. II Wingate University in North Carolina.  In January of this year, the receiver transferred to Tarleton State.

In two seasons with the Bulldogs, Brooks totaled 998 yards and nine touchdowns on 50 receptions.