Complete this sentence: "The greatest embodiment of the power of Miami Hurricanes football is...?" Michael Irvin? Ray Lewis? Warren Sapp? Not according to 'Cane Mutiny (New American Library, $23.95) by Bruce Feldman, an ESPN college football writer. His choice is Donna Shalala, the 60-inch former Secretary of Health and Human Services whom The Washington Post called "one of the most successful government managers of modern times." And Feldman has a point.
Shalala had a wide variety of lucrative opportunities before her when she left public office in January 2001. The job she chose was the presidency of Miami, much to the school's benefit. Her brass-knuckle political skills were famous in Washington, and they came in handy last year when, sniffing a delicious cash windfall from a move to the Atlantic Coast Conference, she shook off lawsuits and criticism like so many inept tacklers and led the school thundering into the ACC. Jimmy Johnson couldn't have done it better.
Fans have come to regard the Hurricanes with a mixture of hatred and respect. When they're beating your team, they're merciless bullies. When they're beating your archrivals, you can't help noticing their nearly flawless teamwork. Feldman tries to explain how the Canes became such a distinctive mixture of, as he puts it, "swagger and selflessness." The explanations raise more questions than they answer, because Feldman doesn't dig very deep. But that's O.K.: He's is a good storyteller, and Miami is a hell of a story. --C.H.