Posts Tagged ‘Randy Shannon

05
Apr
10

ESPN’s 30 for 30: “The U”

ESPN must have a thing for running this particular documentary on holiday nights. The first time I watched “The U” by Billy Corben was back on Christmas night, then I caught it again last night (Easter).

This happens to be my favorite documentary so far in the “30 for 30” series,  a documentary series of 30 films commemorating ESPN’s thirtieth anniversary. It has some really good insights into how the University of Miami, a small school located in Coral Gables, Fla., with no history, no tradition and no facilities, became a national football power quickly, a “microwave dynasty” as former Hurricanes player Melvin Bratton put it. Between 1983-2001, the Hurriances won five national titles, four in a nine-year stretch (1983-1991) with three different head coaches (Howard Schnellenberger, Jimmy Johnson and Dennis Erickson).

After learning about college football recruiting from my time spent at Cretin-Derham Hall High School and watching Seantrel Henderson go through the process — and he saw at all! — a few things stood out about how Miami built their program.

When Howard Schnellenberger stood at the podium in 1979, he said it was his plan to win a national championship at the University of Miami within five years. I’m sure lots of people thought he was smoking something else besides tobacco in that pipe that became his trademark. In short, he was really a genius. Give some due credit to his wife, Beverly. According to the doc, she convinced him to give up his gig as the offensive line coach of the Miami Dolphins and take the job at the school. Schnellenberger knew that football is a way of life in South Florida. High school games routinely outdrew University of Miami games.There are a lot of kids who play, and a lot of good athletes.  Most of them are black. He decided to win “the state of Miami.” Some of that “state” is pretty tough. Even today there are parts of the city you wouldn’t want to get stuck in when the sun went down.  In the late ’70s inner city Miami had it’s share of problems, lots of crime related to drug trafficking. That didn’t stop Schnellenberger from going into “the hood” to recruit the best players he could find. Schnellenberger went there; he didn’t just send his assistants. That’s one key in the recruiting game: If the head coach shows up to recruit a kid, that means that school is INTERESTED. In other words, they are making a priority to get that player. As one player said in the doc, “They (Schnellenberger and his staff) went to places where others wouldn’t go.” And I’m sure word got around: The guys at Miami were sincere. They got to know all those players better than any other college team could because they were local and they used it to their advantage.

Coach Randy Shannon - Photo by Vince Muzik

I had a chance to meet current Hurricanes coach Randy Shannon, a former linebacker at “The U,” when he came through Minneapolis-St. Paul to recruit Seantrel. The list of great players that wore that definitive “U” logo on the Miami Hurricanes helmets is endless. Bernie Kosar, Vinny Testeverde, Michael Irvin, Steve Walsh, Warren Sapp, Eddie Brown, Alonso Highsmith, Ed Reed, Benny Blades — and on and on. They played with an attitude, and some of them in the film haven’t lost it even as they’ve hit middle age. Naturally, I wondered what the reaction was to it. Coach Shannon told me he received a lot of positive feedback from this film, even though he wasn’t in it.

If that’s so, here’s one parting thought: For Miami to get back on top Coach Shannon needs to use the amazing story told in “The U”  of the Miami Hurricanes emergence as a power to his advantage. As it stands now, Miami’s web site doesn’t even scratch the surface of the testimonies of those Hurricane alumni. In fact, their web site is really whitebread! As I learned from him, there’s a brotherhood of past Hurricanes. In the NFL off season, those guys come to Miami because of the loyalty to the program. In terms of digital marketing, they need to remind recruits of that. The Florida Gators have taken over college ball in that state. Miami’s brand is as definitive as their white helmets and orange jerseys. They even have music to go with it. Don’t lose that edge because… it’s a ‘Canes thing!