Team traditions: How Miami, aka The U, developed its infamous swagger
During NFL broadcasts, networks often roll footage of each player stating their name and their alma mater. While most players will say the full name of their school, a select fraternity responds with just: the U.
“The U” is the University of Miami, which burst onto the national scene in the mid-1980s and was one of college football’s most dominant programs for the next decade. The “U” comes from the school’s logo -- the distinct orange and green split-U that was adopted in 1973. But the attitude did not emerge until a few years later, during an unprecedented run of winning and recruiting at a school that had spent decades as an also-ran in talent-rich Florida.
The “U” is on the helmets and hands of Miami players. In South Florida, it’s as distinct and recognizable as Texas’ “Hook ‘Em” sign, and you will see fans and players alike flash the “U” after big plays. While the logo goes back to the 1970s, the university says “Throwing up the U” was created for a home game against rival Florida State in 1992. It was meant as a counterpoint to FSU’s Tomahawk chop and the University of Florida’s Gator chomp.
The “U” is not the only hand gesture at Canes games. At the start of the fourth quarter, Sun Life turns into a sea of fans holding up four fingers. The idea behind the gesture is that the fourth quarter is where games are won, and the four-finger salute is just as vital to Miami as the “U” symbol.
As for the “U” attitude? It’s a little more complicated than just hand signals. As outlined in the documentary “The U,” the culture at The U changed dramatically as the school began to win with homegrown talent. The school embraced the cocky, swagger-soaked reputation the Hurricanes players wore with honor. Soon, that attitude began to define Miami in the 1980s as much as winning football games.
The University of Miami is now one of the strongest talent pipelines to the NFL, producing dozens of first-round draft picks and more than 30 players currently in the league. Odds are, if you are watching NFL players introduce themselves during a telecast, someone will throw up the “U".