The ACC needs Miami football to be one of its elite teams

CORAL GABLES, FL - JANUARY 02: (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
CORAL GABLES, FL - JANUARY 02: (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

When the Miami Hurricanes joined the ACC in 2004 it was thought that their football program would become one of the elite schools in the conference. It took Miami football until 2017 to win a Coastal Division title.

The ACC is currently Clemson and the other 13 football programs. The Miami football program took a huge step forward in 2017 by winning their first ACC Coastal Division title under Mark Richt. Just over a year later and following a 34-3 loss to Wisconsin in the Pinstripe Bowl Richt retired. It was a case of one giant step forward and two back.

If the ACC is going to reach the level of the SEC, the Florida State, Virginia Tech and Miami football programs need to get back to their past success. It looked like the Hurricanes were headed towards becoming the program that was expected of them with the 10-0 start and Coastal Division title in 2017.

Miami closed the 2017 season with three straight losses. They are 7-9 since the 10-0 start in 2017. This is a critical year for the Hurricanes, Florida State and Virginia Tech. Last year was the first time in a generation all three programs were mediocre at best.

Florida State missed its first bowl game since 1981. Virginia Tech had to defeat Marshall in a game scheduled to get the Hokies to 12 games and six wins to qualify for a bowl. It would have been Virginia Tech’s first season without a bowl since 1992. College Football News examined the importance of the Florida schools to the ACC.

"“The ACC needs its stars to all shine at once…At the very least, the FSU and Miami have to look like they’re on the verge of something big. They have to seem like they’re ready to go into 2020 as the “are they back?” teams.Someday, the ACC dreams of the mid-2000s will come true and we’ll have an all Florida conference title game.”"

Richt made an indelible impact on the Miami football program. He brought back prominent alumni, was the driving force behind the Soffer Indoor Practice Facility being built, led Miami to their first bowl victory in ten seasons in 2016 and their first ACC Coastal Division Title in 2017.

Pete Fiutak who is the publisher for the College Football News discussed that Manny Diaz’s job is to raise the level of the Miami football program a notch higher than Richt. Fiutak compared Diaz’s mission to what Kirby Smart has done at Georgia since he replaced Richt.

"“(The ACC) needs Miami to turn that corner and start to look like the team many thought it would be going into last year. Sort of like Mark Richt did at Georgia – he got the program to a certain point, and Kirby Smart took it to another level – that’s the hope under Manny Diaz.”"

It is going to take Diaz time to implement his culture and recruit the type of players he wants. Diaz and his staff are off to a great head start. The players are buying into Diaz, the transfer portal upgraded the talent on the roster and the 2020 and 2021 recruiting classes are off ranked eighth and first respectively.

Fituak has been impressed with what Diaz has accomplished in his six-plus months since succeeding Richt. Diaz has infused the Miami football program with more energy, has hired an entirely new offensive coaching staff and replaced a bulk of the recruiting staff. The more modern way of doing things will help the Hurricanes.

"“There are still potential flaws, but the new energy and ideas under head coach Manny Diaz should bring about a big change. There’s a talent coming in from the transfer pool, there’s experience and talent in the linebacking and receiving corps, and there are more options now to play around with.”"

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The buzz Diaz created this offseason at events and on social media is unprecedented in the history of the Miami football program. With 40 days left until the Hurricanes and Gators kickoff in Orlando, the talk will continue off the field and the debates will rage. Keeping the momentum going during the 2019 season is critical.