Miami dynasty born from 1983 Florida game

September, 4, 2013
9/04/13
11:00
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The team that started a dynasty trudged into the locker room after its season opener, bracing for the wrath of its coach.

Miami had just played a terrible game, losing to hated in-state rival Florida 28-3. The Gators were the higher ranked team, and had the home-field advantage, but that was no excuse for the turnovers that piled one on top of the other.

Howard Schnellenberger looked at the young men before him. And he made a decision that ultimately changed college football. He did not yell. He did not point fingers. He simply told his team, "We gave that one away. Let's clean up the mistakes and get ready to go play."

"We practiced like we had won the game and that to me was the biggest decision that I've ever made in my life -- particularly in that season for that situation," Schnellenberger recalled in a recent phone interview.

That loss to Florida, 30 years ago almost to the day, could have broken Miami. Instead, the 1983 Hurricanes were emboldened. Miami reeled off 10 straight victories in 10 consecutive weeks to earn a spot in the Orange Bowl against No. 1 Nebraska for the national championship.

Impressive, yes.

But not as impressive as its shocking win over the Huskers in perhaps the greatest championship game ever played, a victory that propelled Miami to five titles over an 18-year period, an era of dominance unmatched since.

Before Miami became known as "The U," though, it was a program struggling to find itself. Schnellenberger, himself familiar with college football dynasties from his days as an assistant to Alabama coach Bear Bryant, would change all that. He got players to buy into his master plan to make Miami into a powerhouse. Schnellenberger promised every single one of his players that Miami would be a champion one day.

Every single one of those players believed him.

"He told us in his fifth year that we'd challenge for the national championship," recalled Jay Brophy, a linebacker on the '83 team. "Now, he could tell me, 'Jump off the roof, you'll be fine,' and I'll do it. Because what he told us is true. In the fifth year, we won the national championship."

That might not have happened had Schnellenberger reacted differently following the loss to Florida.

To read more of Andrea Adelson's story, click here.

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