The two main football halls of fame announce their new classes in the 24 hours before their respective championship finales. The 2019 College Football Hall of Fame class was revealed on the morning of the 2019 College Football Playoff National Championship Game between the Clemson Tigers and Alabama Crimson Tide.
For the Florida State Seminoles and Miami Hurricanes, their new inductees offer very powerful reminders of what used to define the college football world.
Yes, once upon a time, Florida State — had there been a four-team playoff — would have been in the semifinals basically every year, and very probably in the championship game most seasons. The Seminoles would have been what Clemson is today. Miami, the team which usually got the better of FSU, might have occupied the place currently inhabited by Alabama. (Florida State fans could debate the point, and they would have reason to do so, but if FSU was 1-B to Miami’s 1-A, it is definitely a first-world problem. What is happening today in Tallahassee is something far worse.)
What makes Monday’s new College Football Hall of Fame class so significant and symbolically potent for both FSU and Miami is that the new Seminole and the new Hurricane in the College Football Hall both represent cornerstones of these Clemson- and Alabama-style dynasties in Tallahassee and Coral Gables.
Let’s start with Terrell Buckley, a Florida State legend whose single-season interception record (12 in 1991) and school interception record (21) still stand today, over 25 years after the end of his collegiate career. Buckley — who picked off 71 passes in college and the pros combined, in 17 highly productive seasons — was one of the anchors of the front end of one of the most remarkable streaks in sports history: Florida State’s 14 straight seasons in the top five of the final Associated Press poll, from 1987-2000. After the 1987 and 1988 teams got that streak off the ground, Buckley’s excellence from 1989 through 1991 helped Florida State remain a towering presence on the college football scene.
The slippage which very easily and understandably happens at various programs after one or two special seasons — and great players leave the program — was prevented in Tallahassee thanks to Buckley and the other members of the program who carried Florida State into the early 1990s and handed the baton to Charlie Ward and Warrick Dunn, who carried the program into the mid-1990s, and kept the line of succession flowing.
Buckley is a representative example of how Florida State entrenched itself as a college football superpower in a way Clemson and Alabama fans very clearly realize.
Then turn to The U. Whereas Buckley was a builder of a dynastic run on its front end (Years 3-5 of a supreme 14-year reign — only now is Alabama exceeding what Bobby Bowden accomplished at the end of the 20th century), Dennis Erickson represented the back end of Miami’s national championship gold rush.
Howard Schnellenberger got the Miami program off the ground. Jimmy Johnson was the perfect coach to continue a rising program’s display of Hurricane-force excellence.
However, programs sometimes run out of steam when coaching turnover continues to emerge.
Notre Dame had Ara Parseghian followed by Dan Devine. The two men crushed it at Notre Dame from the mid-1960s through the 1981 Sugar Bowl, Devine’s last game as the leader in South Bend. Then, however, Notre Dame had to find yet another head coach, and when Gerry Faust was selected, the program as we had known it ceased to matter for several years. Lou Holtz had to step in and revive it in the latter half of the 1980s.
Florida had Steve Spurrier and — after the brief disaster known as Ron Zook — the Urban Meyer empire, but when Meyer’s career lasted only half as long as Spurrier’s 12-year reign in Gainesville, Florida had to look for yet another coach. Will Muschamp was the selection, and the Gators are still recovering from that mess, all these years later.
You get the point: Even the best programs often slip when they keep having to hire new coaches. Sure, the job is great and will attract elite talent, but more vacancies and transitions invite the possibility that the next hire — as wonderful as it might appear on paper — might fail.
This is where Erickson cemented himself as a college football giant and earned the lasting respect of Miami football fans.
Schnellenberger was the architect of the Miami juggernaut. Johnson was the developer, taking Schnellenberger’s initial blueprint and elevating it to a greater height. When Johnson went to the NFL to join Jerry Jones with the Dallas Cowboys, The U was under pressure to find yet another man who could handle the heat in The Old Horseshoe in Little Havana and maintain Miami’s place as The Team, THE PROGRAM, in college football.
Dennis Erickson, a native of the Pacific Northwest and a man who had spent his entire collegiate coaching career at off-the-radar Western programs, was Miami’s selection before the 1989 season.
Erickson had coached — as an assistant or as a head coach — at Montana State, Idaho, Fresno State, San Jose State, Wyoming, and Washington State. That’s not exactly a natural career track preceding a move to the most prominent college football program in the entire United States, but Erickson won the job.
He then won a ton of games and lost very few.
Erickson spent the next six years getting the better of Bowden and Florida State in a majority of instances (4-2). His Miami teams never lost more than two games in any regular season. In his first four seasons in Miami, Erickson won two national titles (1989 and 1991) and coached for a national title in a third season (1992). A fourth team had a chance to finish No. 2 in the season-ending poll, but lost to Tom Osborne’s first national championship team at Nebraska in the Orange Bowl.
It is true that Erickson’s tenure in Miami wasn’t smooth. The 1991 Cotton Bowl against Texas, a 46-3 win, was nevertheless marred by 202 penalty yards and repeated instances of appalling behavior. Off the field, a series of scandals and misdeeds led to the decline and reset of the program in the mid-1990s. After the 1994 season ended, Erickson got out of Dodge and snagged an NFL gig with the Seattle Seahawks, returning to the region of the country where he grew up and had learned how to coach. Nevertheless, Erickson had maintained the Miami brand and identity. He wasn’t hired to be a choirmaster. He was hired to win big. He did.
Terrell Buckley fueled the rise of Florida State’s remarkable 14-year reign at the end of the 20th century.
Dennis Erickson sustained Miami’s most fertile and formidable 12-year period (1983-1994) as a college football power before the school found its renaissance in the year 2000.
On the morning of another Clemson-Alabama national championship game, FSU and Miami have been reminded — by their new College Football Hall of Fame representatives — what their own shimmering dynasties used to look like.
Former Canes coach Golden apparently ready for trial against school
Former Miami Hurricanes head coach Al Golden is apparently about to have his day in court, while trying to recoup what he says is multi-millions of dollars that the University still owes him from firing him 5 years ago.
Miami Herald writer and columnist Barry Jackson had more on Monday evening that there apparently will not be a settlement by the school with the man that coached them for parts of five seasons in the 2010s.
UM schedule change, another new hire, Golden trial, why Ray Lewis says hiring Ed Reed is a ‘genius move,’ and Kosar weighs in. And more: https://t.co/MvTx7WxJND
— Barry Jackson (@flasportsbuzz) February 4, 2020
Golden is seeking in excess of $3 million for what he says is compensation per his contract that he was owed when Miami terminated him in October of 2015 after a humiliating 58 – 0 lost to Clemson. The University says that Golden has been paid what the contract required.
As Jackson reported, there have already been depositions on both sides, including with Miami athletic director Blake James. And both James and Golden will be testifying in the civil suit about what went wrong and how it has not been rectified for almost three years, since the dispute started.
Golden came to Miami after having turned around the Temple football program, but only went 32 – 25 in his four plus seasons. He contends in a chain of emails that were obtained by the media recently, that the University mislead him about the Nevin Shapiro payment scandal and the punishments that Miami was going to receive for scholarship losses and a bowl ban.
He further contends that he asked for tough opponents like Wisconsin and Michigan State to be pushed back on the Canes schedule early in his tenure, while they were in the middle of the sanctions. However, that James would not relent, thereby, making it much tougher for Miami to compete and win.
The University has had no comment on the possible suit going to trial. Golden’s lawyer told the media recently that they are anxious to have their day in front of a judge and jury.
Golden has been a position coach in the NFL with the Detroit Lions the last two years. Meanwhile, Miami is still trying to find their footing with coach Manny Diaz coming off a dismal 6-7 season where they lost their last three games. That included a humiliating 14-0 shutout loss to Louisiana Tech in the Independence Bowl.
Hurricanes name College Hall of Famer Ed Reed Chief of Staff
The Miami Hurricanes are hoping to reestablish their winning ways, and coach Manny Diaz is starting 2020 by reaching back to a prominent member of their recent past to help them.
Diaz and the school announced Thursday afternoon that former All-American, National Champion and College and NFL Hall of Fame safety, Ed Reed, will be coming aboard as a newly-created “Chief of Staff” position for Hurricanes football:
Visits and vacations are nice, but there is no place like home.
— Canes Football (@CanesFootball) January 30, 2020
As the school’s release said, Reed “will be responsible in advisory role of all aspects of the football program including strategic planning, quality control, operations, player evaluation and player Development among other duties.
“We are thrilled to welcome Ed back to Coral Gables,” Diaz said. “He is not only one of the most decorated players in Miami football history but also a devoted Cane who cares deeply about this program. All of our players, coaches and staff will be fortunate to tap into his experience, knowledge and passion on a regular basis.”
This hire comes on the heels of Miami apparently botching the hiring in a similar role of former star RB from the 80’s Alonzo Highsmith earlier this month. Highsmith negotiated with Diaz and AD Blake James about looking to come back to Coral Gables after having been in a similar role with the Cleveland Browns in the NFL this past year. Alas, they could not agree. Highsmith has since been fired after the Browns fired GM John Dorsey and shook up their front office.
As for the “Chief of Staff” position, numerous college programs, including Clemson Alabama and Georgia have a similar positions to aid and assist the head coach with the day-to-day administration of program.
You cannot find a more decorated Cane willing to help, as Reed was arguably the best safety in college football in the 2000s. Miami posted a 23 – 1 record over his final two seasons (’00-’01) and he was part of the 2001 BCS Championship team that finished 11-1 and destroyed Nebraska in the Rose Bowl.
Reed with a consensus First-team All-American in 2000 and 2001 and set the Hurricanes record for interceptions with 21 before leaving Coral Gables.
Reed was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2018 for his accomplishments.
Reed was later a first-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens in 2002, playing at 11 sasons with them before playing his final year with the Texans and the Jets. He is a former NFL Defensive Player of the Year and was an All-Pro six times. Reed was just inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame year ago.
Read was not quoted in the release by the Hurricanes on Thursday afternoon.
However, he did participate earlier during Super Bowl week in Miami with former Hurricanes legendary coach Jimmy Johnson in a special program from Fox Sports with other famous Hurricane alumni like Michael Irvin.
"This is a moment in time that needed to be done and it couldn't have been done in a greater place." #TheReUnion, hosted by @FOXSports, made for great stories and honest discussion about the brotherhood formed only at The U. https://t.co/6bdlY8IQkV
— Canes Football (@CanesFootball) January 30, 2020
The program called “The ReUnion” dealt with Miami trying to regain the winning ways and dominance of the 80s and 90s.
Miami stumbled to a 6-6 finish and then was embarrassed to end Diaz’s first season with a 14-0 shutout loss to Louisiana Tech in the Independence Bowl.