This afternoon I got a package from the University of Miami's Hurricane Club, which is the athletic departments annual donor group, thanking me for my 2010 contribution to my alma mater. The gift was in a good size box, so I was excited to see what type of cool piece of merchandise they were throwing my way - but I opened it up to find a totally boring, plain white adjustable ball cap with the "U" on the front. Given that I'm not quite the schools most giving alumni, I shouldn't really expect much more, but it left me dissapointed - which is a feeling this team has given me far too many times this season.
Much like the "gift" (keep in mind, I paid for it when they gave me the option to add on an extra $10 to my annual donation earlier this year), it seems like this team continues to get fan's hopes up, just before letting them down. Given all of the sweet Nike gear that our team rocks, you think they could send us something awesome like the Pro Combat Gloves that just came out, or maybe a Stephen Morris jersey. In much the same way, you'd think those amazing 5-star recruiting classes Randy Shannon pulled in the last few years would finally be playing out on the field - but not so much.
The team, like the hat, totally over-promises and under-delivers. In four years under Shannon, the Canes have yet to beat a legitimately good football team. Last year's beat down of Georgia Tech was simply solving the triple-option gimmick that had burned them badly the season before and the early win over a Sam Bradford-less Oklahoma team ended up not being so impressive when all the dust had settled on their year. So, enter 2010, Jacory "J12" Harris is a Heisman Hopeful and the team is supposed to be the favorite for an ACC Championship and BCS Bound. All the the hype swirled into Columbus for an early "revenge" game with Ohio State, which ended up looking a lot like the previous couple of seasons - Harris throwing picks and the defense getting run all over. Canes fans took that early thumping in stride, particularly after Miami took Pittsburgh behind the woodshed the following Thursday night. Another tight win over Clemson and the folks in the 305 were all jazzed up for the home game, national TV showdown against rival Florida State. Unfortunately, the team wasn't quite as pumped up and sluggishly went through the motions as the 'Noles ran them out of their own building.
Miami rebounded from that loss with a sloppy win at Duke and finally beat Butch Davis' UNC Tar Heels - and we all started to believe again. But, as Lee Corso says, "Not So Fast My Friend"! The Canes strolled into Charlottesville, where I bothered making the trip cross country for what I expected to be a Miami blow-out against one of the worst BCS division teams in the nation, and left with another loss and a QB in a sling. The concussion suffered by Harris, led to Shannon's quickfire decision to yank the red-shirt off Morris and tap him as the go-to guy for the next couple of weeks.
After an amazing last second touchdown to beat Maryland, the Canes put together their best showing of the season, rolling over GT in Atlanta. And, once again, we all fell into the trap, getting ourselves excited at the notion of beating Virginia Tech this weekend and hanging onto hope of getting into the ACC Championship Game. Through three quarters on Saturday the Canes appeared to be the better team and, if not for a few costly mistakes (3 fumbles & a missed FG), were tied up with the Hokies at 17-17. Then, with the whole season on the line, all the momentum going their way and nightfall setting in, they let us down one more time. An 85-yard TD run, followed by a Morris INT, followed by another VT TD and a couple more Morris INT's and the Canes basically wrapped up another sub-10 win season and an invite to another irrelevant pre-New Years Day bowl game.
Given all of the top talent and weapons on both sides of the ball, its wildly frustrating to watch this team continually lift our hopes, only to self-destruct. Yes, Shannon has done a phenomenal job at "cleaning up" the program from an academic perspective - but I don't donate money every year to the UM Science lab and I sure don't want them sending me a Hurricane Club Periodical Table of Elements.
I want the football team to regain its real "swagger" and actually beat a good team. I want the five-star recruits to actually look like five-star players. And I want a head coach who makes the big time adjustments when they need to be made. At some point towards the end of his 15 carry, 163 yard performance yesterday, the Canes coaches decided that Lamar Miller just wasn't the right RB to carry the load when the game was on the line in the 4th qtr and replaced him with Graig Cooper, who finished the game averaging 1.7 yards per carry. How the coaches on the sideline can't see what seems to be so obvious to everyone watching at home is something I'll never understand.
But, I guess, its sort of the norm within the Miami Athletic Dept - as I figure at some point someone at the Hurricane Club looked at the bland, white hat I received today and said, "Yes, this looks like something our fans would actually want to wear." Another disappointing season and another hat in the back of the closet.
When Project Franchise gets its squad, we may not win every game and may not always live up to the hype, but we can promise that when we send our fans (who spend their hard earned cash on supporting the team) some swag, it will be something they will be happy to wear on their heads.