A small hill of tape, sticky and spent, grew at the big men's
feet. Slowly, Miami center K.C. Jones and left guard Alan
Symonette ripped and dropped the strips of adhesive, leaving a
sorry game on the floor. "I'm embarrassed," Jones said softly,
eye black dripping over his cheekbones. Showers rained in the
background and teammates clambered about the tiny dressing room
in the southwest corner of the Rose Bowl, where last Saturday
UCLA had not just beaten the Hurricanes but bullied them 31-8.
"Embarrassed," Jones said. "Real bad."
This was to be a new beginning: a new coach, a new image, a new
Miami. These Hurricanes would beat your brains in and then help
you to your feet. No more arrogance, just gentlemanly success.
There were now new rules laid down by the NCAA that prohibited
excessive celebrations, and by rookie coach Butch Davis, who is
entrusted with cleansing the notorious program. "If there's a
gray area, on the field or off the field, you probably shouldn't
be in it," Davis told his players. He used Jerry Rice as an
example of a player who does things the right way. Miami would
win with class.
And so the Hurricanes lost to UCLA and walked quietly away,
emasculated. The Bruins manhandled Miami in almost every facet
of the game, from running the ball (256 yards) to special teams
play (a Hurricane fumble on a punt return was turned into a UCLA
touchdown). In the locker room afterward, Symonette laid his
forearms across his thighs and shook his head. "Five years I've
been around here, and I've never felt anything like this," he
said. "It's like we were afraid of that damn celebration rule,
so we didn't get excited or emotional. You can't play this game
Instead of being the start of something good for Miami,
Saturday's game may well have been the beginning of the end: The
Hurricanes' dynasty of the late 1980s and early '90s is
seemingly gone now, beaten weary by the image police, and Miami
appears doomed to a long recovery by the likelihood of NCAA
sanctions this fall for indiscretions ranging from a financial
aid scandal to alleged incidents of play-for-pay to a flawed
drug testing policy. In the week before the game against UCLA,
the 43-year-old Davis sat in his office and cautiously talked
about the future. "It takes time to effectively change
everything," he said. "We're starting over here." He talked in
terms of years, not weeks.
Some programs can survive probation, witness the recent
successes of Auburn, Texas A&M and Washington while on the
NCAA's hit list. And watch Alabama as it plays through its
probation over the next three years. But Miami is among the
nouveaux riches of college football, fighting to put fans in the
Orange Bowl, beating back the challenges of Florida and Florida
State in the re cruit ing ground of south Florida. The
Hurricanes will not easily endure sanc tions with their
perennial Top 10 position intact.
And lest we forget, on the field against UCLA, Miami was much
the lesser team. Hurricane linebacker Ray Lewis said afterward,
"We just didn't do the things we were supposed to do," but the
Bruin victory left the impression that it didn't matter what
Miami did. UCLA was vastly superior inside, as tailback Karim
Abdul-Jabbar rushed for 180 yards, and dominant enough on
defense that Miami didn't score until barely eight minutes
remained in the game.
In the end, Hurricane players sat stoically on their benches as
hostile singsongs from the stands washed over them, full of
references to Liberty Bowls, 6-5 records and being overrated.
"We've got 10 games left," said Miami quarterback Ryan Collins.
"This isn't the whole season. We will be back." But the climb
seems more daunting now, the era of supremacy appears to be
history. It will take much longer than 10 games to restore
But they were well-behaved, weren't they?