What U mad fo': Why Florida vs. Miami means more to 'Canes than Gators

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Miami fans hold just a few things dear, and with their proud team still working its way out of a hole, this tenuous grasp on the past leaves them anxious about the future.

Title inspired by.

In May, we published Neil Shulman's preview of the Miami game, part of an offseason-long series of previews that, I thought, had both a good bit of substantial analysis of the game to come and the series to date. But it was this passage that irked @JDotLeezy, who previously wrote at State of The U as Lt. Philip Nolan.

Perhaps the most devastating loss in recent Florida history was in 2003, when Florida led Miami 33-10 midway through the third quarter, only to watch former Gator Brock Berlin lead the 'Canes all the way back for a 38-33 victory. (That was my first clue that this Ron Zook experiment was in danger of failing.) Berlin's incredible comeback (and ensuing Gator Chomp) highlighted a six-game Miami winning streak in the series, but Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin, and a rock-solid defense abruptly snapped that streak with a 26-3 chomping of the 'Canes in Gainesville in 2008.

Unfortunately for Miami, it looks like half of those wins during that streak aren't going to last. In 2011, convicted Ponzi schemer Nevin Shapiro claimed that he had provided illegal benefits to dozens of players considering Miami from 2002 through 2010. The NCAA found 12 players on the 2011 team guilty of receiving impermissible benefits, but immediately reinstated four of them once they paid back the money they had received. The other eight were suspended for one, four, or six games, depending on how much money they had received. As a result of the entire scandal, Miami was hit with the "lack of institutional control" charge, which is typically the most severe infraction the NCAA can find.

Here's the thing: All 12 players were eventually reinstated once they repaid their restitution. The players from the 2002-2004 teams never did, and since they are long out of Miami, have no reason to ever do so. Even if they do, they never did while at Miami; therefore, they might well be ruled ineligible for the duration of their careers at Miami. Thus, while Miami beat Florida in 2002, 2003, and 2004, it was using several ineligible players, and it's as sure a bet as any that all three games are going to be vacated (if not forfeited to Florida), bringing the official all-time series record to 26-25 in favor of Florida.

By now, you can see where I'm going. Since Foley is unwilling to schedule Miami, and since his results are going to keep him in office for as long as he's healthy, this is their last meeting in the foreseeable future unless the two teams meet in a bowl game. A Florida victory in Sun Life Stadium in September would all but ensure the Gators possession of the series lead for keeps (though nothing is official until the NCAA comes down with its sanctions), and would put a nice bow on what was formerly one of the most heated rivalry games in college football.

None of this appeared or appears to me to be factually wrong, though it's mostly conjecture based on a hypothetical world in which the NCAA would do something other than screw up a case with more smoking guns than a bad Western.

It sure pissed our friend off, though!

And, man, if you thought that was a weird frustration to have, then, well...

That tweet up there's about this one:

I got that tweet from someone (@BurritoBrosShit, probably) RTing it, I think (I've never had an "Alligator Army" search) and I RTed it with the little starred correction, as I do (and suggest) from time to time.

But, hell, that isn't all, somehow.

Tuesday, State of The U published its state of Florida power rankings, which put UCF second and Florida fourth — harmless trolling in my book, and certainly worth sharing, as we do from time to time with other SB Nation blogs' pieces, if only to rile up some fans. (It also contains a still-uncorrected fact error about UCF playing Toledo, which doesn't seem like a deliberate Florida swipe.) I tweeted it out:

And, like clockwork, @JDotLeezy bothered. (And was bothered!)

That last bit is about this tweet:

...which was prompted by this tweet...

...which is lamentably not true, because the 2004 Peach Bowl¹ seems to have been broadcast in HD, though the tweet I was responding to didn't have HD highlights.

Now, this is all theoretically in good fun, even the back-and-forth between me and the chatty Cam Underwood (@UnderwoodSports), who's usually responsible for @TheStateOfTheU's tweets, because that's what rivalries should produce on Twitter the week before, but, frankly, if an observation about Miami's NCAA plight that is perceived as a slight can foment this, I think it's gone beyond that² for our friend antagonist.

For the record, I'm still likely to be splitting time at Deadspin and SB Nation for the fall, but I'm no longer full-time with Deadspin. (Long story, but I'm fine). I've been called far worse than an "asshole," a "pussy," a "douche," and a "narcissist" in my time on the Internet. I kid about Bleacher Report's reputation because it's been well-earned, and because its grunt-level workers aren't empowered to do much more than reinforce it. And I'm most interested in this because it's an entree to a typical Miami fan's psyche:

Miami's place in college football is based largely on its past success, with the great prides of the fan base happening long before Nevin Shapiro and Randy Shannon, under Howard Schnellenberger and Jimmy Johnson and Butch Davis. Miami fans love to bring up the dozens of 'Canes in the pros, but most of them came from teams that played college football together a decade or more ago.

And since the latter half of the 2000s Miami's been, objectively, a mediocre to good team. Miami is 49-41 since 2006, with just five wins over teams that won nine or more games in those seven seasons.

Since 2006, Florida is a staggering 75-20, despite wedging two of its worst seasons of my lifetime into that span, and the Gators had six wins over teams that won nine or more games in 2012³.

Miami fans have not tasted success of late, and with Florida sitting as the state's preeminent power for much of the last decade and Florida State rising to stake its own claim to the Sunshine State's throne in the last few years, there's little left for the average 'Canes fan but fervent looks to the past and hopes for the future to sustain them. Threaten one of those things, as Neil apparently did by noting the NCAA might want to penalize the 'Canes for what seems like an especially egregious bit of rule-breaking, or as Florida has by scooping up South Florida prospects like Dalvin Cook and Ermon Lane, and the nerves fray a little more.

This Saturday's game is more important than the typical rivalry game for Florida fans, but Miami's no better than third on the list of rivals most Gators want to beat this year, thanks to FSU's higher profile and Georgia's two consecutive wins over Florida. If Florida wins, great: This will confirm what we think about Florida being better than Miami, and the Gators get a decent win over a team from the upper half of the ACC. If Florida loses? The Gators can still go to Atlanta, and maybe to Pasadena, by regrouping before SEC play, and the worst thing that happens is ceding some bragging rights to fans who will be totally insufferable with them. And Cook, Lane, and the rest of Florida's commits from south of Lake Okeechobee picked Florida before learning of a result from the game, not because of it; a loss will provide an in for Miami's coaches, but scarcely more than that.

For Miami fans, though, this Saturday could provide a window to the past, when Miami was legitimately better than Florida more often than not, and a stepping-stone to a better tomorrow, with a win over Florida instantly giving Al Golden's team a marquee-ready headline that The U hasn't had since before Kyle Wright was the future. Miami fans want all that, and the privilege of presupposing that the series ending has more to do with the big, bad Gators being scared to play the 'Canes than with simple economics.

A loss, on the other hand, leaves Miami falling off the map once again, leaves Golden's tenure to be haunted by questions about big games with elite teams, and leaves 'Canes fans to whine about NCAA fiat giving Gators fans a chance to brag about a series that both sides well know has slightly favored Miami in its history. Miami could still win the ACC, I suppose, but it's not as if it's been able to do that yet.

This means more to them than us. It's not wrong to admit that: I would bet that Florida's coaches are drilling a similar message into their players all week, trying to remind them that Miami will be fighing to leave the Gators with one last black eye.

But we know that, too, and know just how silly people who live by credos like "It's all about The U" and "It's a 'Cane thing; you wouldn't understand" and "The U invented swagger" sound when they charge other people with narcissism and jerkery.

And so we should be sure to laugh very loudly if Florida wins on Saturday.

Star-divide


  1. Trivia: That was the first time since 1998 that Miami didn't go to a January bowl ... and the 'Canes haven't been back since.

  2. This is ironic, because:

    Granted, that's about AP writer Tim Reynolds, but still.

  3. Texas A&M, LSU, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Louisiana, Florida State.

Star-divide

Andy Hutchins is Alligator Army's managing editor. Follow Alligator Army on Twitter and Facebook.

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