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Friday, August 19, 2011

THE MIAMI HURRICANES---KEEPING THE NCAA INFRACTIONS COMMITTEE IN BUSINESS SINCE 1952

     This is a chapter from the book 'The Totally Biased Guide to Southern College Football' by Pete Davis, available for under a buck on Kindle at:  amazon.com/dp/B005FRFMYW
      If you like what you see here, wait until you see the chapters on FSU, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Texas, Texas A&M, and all the SEC teams.

MIAMI HURRICANES
            Definitely NOT  based in Ohio.
Reborn under coach Howard Schnellenberger in the early 1980s the Canes became the team of the decade under first his and then Jimmy Johnson’s hair.
            The mascot is an ibis, a gawky, white bird representing northern transplants found on local beaches.  Recruiting is easy at Miami.  Young men are taken to South Beach, handed a one hundred dollar bill then told to meet their chaperone back at the mojito stand in 24 hours.  The ones who show up the next day are immediately sent back home.  The rest are rounded up at local jails and made to mark their X on letters of intent.
            I don’t want to say this program attracts trouble like a cow attracts flies, but they first went on NCAA probation in the 1950s.  I don’t think the NCAA even existed at the time.  But when they did finally convene their first order of business was to deny the Hurricanes any bowl games for two years just on general principles.  The NCAA Infractions Committee has a branch office in South Dade County.
            Sports Illustrated printed a story in 1955 about Miami in which it was pointed out the school got caught giving transportation to prospective recruits because Coach Andy Gustafson was too “…aboveboard in his methods.  He knows better now and will let the alumni do the inviting. This method has worked for years, even in the Ivy group…”
            Wink wink, nudge nudge.
            Many illustrious coaches have come through Miami, including Dennis Erickson, Butch Davis, and Lou Saban, whose short-lived reign ended when some of his players tossed a Jewish man into a lake.  Fortunately this is one fad originating in Florida that failed to catch on with the general public, although I am to understand that in Australia dwarfs have been substituted.  Butch Davis left for the bright light of Cleveland and the NFL.  That bright light is the Cuyahoga River burning.  (Yes, I know, old joke.  But too easy to pass up.)  Butch was fired there, so he ended up at with the Tarheels.  He immediately instituted a plan to make UNC as successful as Miami.  Which explains why they are now on probation and Butch is at loose ends.
            The campus is set in a high crime area of the city, which may explain the mobster-like names of their two Heisman Trophy winners, Gino Torretta and Vinny Testaverde.  You usually find names like those in the credits of movies where Joe Pesci’s character has murdered and stuffed their bodies in a trunk.  Oklahoma legendary coach Barry Switzer called Testaverde the best quarterback he ever saw.  Switzer was famous for being color blind when it came to race relations with his players.  Testaverde became famous for just being color blind, which he revealed after becoming famous for throwing lots of interceptions with Tampa Bay.
Illustrious players include Jim Kelly and Ray Lewis.  Lewis has been called the most badass player in the NFL despite crying like a baby when questioned by Atlanta police after a killing involving his posse during a Super Bowl party.
Florida is a big rival.  The two schools vie for the War Canoe Trophy.  If you go to the official website of the Miami Hurricanes football team, Hurricanesports.cstv.com, and look up this trophy in the Traditions site you’ll see this nugget of joy:
“An authentic Seminole war canoe, hand carved and painted by Seminole Indians from a 200-year-old Everglades cypress tree felled by lighting...”
Felled by ‘lighting’?  Are even the trees in South Beach so fashion-sensitive they swoon when lit by bad lighting?
The canoe is now on display in Miami’s Sports Hall of Shame when it’s not being used to run contraband by hospitality majors.
Back to that bird mascot the ibis.
On the official website it’s described as a bird of strength, of speed, of knowledge, and of courage.  A leader of its species.  It’s a wonder it doesn’t come with its own cape and alter ego.  All this hype for a fowl that looks like a pelican that lost its pouch in a jai alai bet.
            This ibis is wise because it’s the last member of the animal kingdom to take cover before a hurricane hits.  The last?  How wise is that?  After the alligators have amscrayed upstate, after the manatees have migrated to safer coves, after all the panthers and bears have booked flights out, the procrastinating ibis is found loitering in building supply stores in Homestead buying what’s left of the plundered plywood and nails.
            The ibis is also believed to be the first animal to reappear after the storm passes.  Sounds like looter mentality.
            The ibis was announced as the school’s official mascot in 1926 on Larry King’s local radio show.  His name is Sebastian after the butler from the 1960s TV show ‘Family Affair’ played so brilliantly by Sebastian Cabot.
            But before Sebastian the Ibis there was Hurricane I…the dog.
A friend of the school had moved from New Haven, Connecticut to Miami.  He provided a boxer with a fine pedigree to be the mascot of Miami.  His name was Hurricane I.  The dog that is, not the owner.
            The prize-winning brown and white canine’s real name was ‘Beaubo of Box Haven,’ so he readily accepted his new name and the other dogs stopped making fun of him.
            Well, that is until they saw him in his mascot costume.  It consisted of an orange and green blanket with his name in huge letters on it.  He also had a helmet to wear. 

Hurricane I right before his final flight.  Since he left no note it’s not sure why he pawed open the escape hatch and leaped out of the moving plane.  Maybe the cape made him believe he was Superman’s dog Krypto.  Maybe he was distraught after leaving Handsome Dan VI.  Maybe it was the sheer embarrassment.  Either way he was last seen sailing over the Everglades.  Local folklore tells of a pack of feral boxer/panther mixes roaming the swamp, biting unsuspecting Florida and Florida State fans.

            No word on why the school stopped using dogs as mascots but there was a nasty rumor floating around in the 50s that Hurricane I had lived with the Yale mascot Handsome Dan VI for two years up in Connecticut.      
            This was decades before the movie ‘The Birdcage’ made it okay for this sort of relationship to be had in Miami.
            Orange, green, and white are the school colors.  They represent the orange tree with the orange for the fruit, the green for the leaves, and the white for the pasty tourists on South Beach.  The orange is known as ‘pylon orange.’
      If you like what you've read please check out all the other teams in the book 'The Totally Biased Guide to Southern College Football' by Pete Davis, available for the price of a Whopper Jr. on Kindle at:
         amazon.com/dp/B005FRFMYW

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