Miami Football program as 17th best ever is remarkable achievement

3 Jan 2002: DIGITAL IMAGE. Mandatory Credit: Brian Bahr/Getty Images
3 Jan 2002: DIGITAL IMAGE. Mandatory Credit: Brian Bahr/Getty Images /

The Miami football program’s ranking as the 17th best program in college football history as part of the celebrations of the 150th anniversary of college football is a remarkable achievement.

The Miami football program was ranked 17th in the history of college football as part of ESPN’s ranking of the 50 best programs in the history of college football. Miami achieved the majority of their success over a 23-year period from 1983-2005. Outside of those parameters, the success of the Miami football program is erratic.

The variable that is amazing with Miami being ranked the 17th best program in CFB history is that the Hurricanes did not start playing in 1926. More traditional college football programs had a 67-year head start in the sport than Miami did.

The Hurricanes former Big East rival Rutgers defeated Princeton 6-4 on November 6, 1869, in the Scarlet Knights home in New Brunswick, New Jersey. The Tigers got revenge a week later when they won 8-0 at home.

Miami got off to a sizzling start going 8-0 in their first season. They did not play their first game until October 30, 1926. The Hurricanes won their inaugural game7-0 against Rollins College. Miami was not scored upon until their defeated Mercer 22-6 in their third game of 1926. Miami had four straight shutouts after defeating Mercer.

Miami finished their first season by outscoring their opponents 123-13. The Hurricanes had an interesting schedule. Miami played three games during Thanksgiving week. The Hurricanes defeated Stetson 20-0 November 20, they followed 23-0 with a victory over Havana 23-0 on Thanksgiving Day.

Two days later after defeating Havana, Miami won their third game in eight days with a 6-0 victory over Loyola New Orleans. Miami played an opponent for the second time for the first time when they traveled to Cuba and defeated Havana for the second time in less than a month with a 23-0 victory on Christmas Eve.

Miami finished their first season with a 9-7 win over Howard on New Year’s Day to finish the season. Miami’s second season was not as successful. Miami finished 3-6-1. That included a seven-game winless streak after beginning the season with two straight victories.

After their initial undefeated season, Miami would not duplicate that feat until 1987. Miami won their first national championship in 1983. Miami would add national championships in 1987, ’91 and 2001.

The ’87, ’91 and 2001 seasons are the only undefeated national championship seasons in Miami football history. The 1987 and 2001 seasons are the only undisputed and undefeated national championship seasons for Miami.

ESPN noted the exceptional achievements that Miami was able to accomplish in just over two decades. All five of Miami’s national championship came in a 19-year span. ESPN acknowledged the head start that college football had and the Hurricanes still finished in the top 20 all-time.

"17. Miami58.4 | 5 national titlesThe Hurricanes gave the rest of college football a head start of 67 seasons and still reached the top 20, thanks to that incredible two-decade run from the early 1980s into the 2000s.During that time, The U won five national championships under four head coaches, a feat no other program would be foolish enough to undertake, much less talented enough to achieve. The swagger has diminished; Miami now lives among the swells of the ACC. Wearing a turnover chain, of course."

All but one of Miami’s double-digit seasons in victories came between 1983-2003. The lone exception was in 2017 when the Hurricanes went 10-3 and won the ACC Coastal division and advanced to their first conference title game. That stretch is arguably the best in the history of college football.

Other programs like the run Alabama is currently on have produced titles in a shorter period. The overall accomplishments that Miami had from 1983 through the early 2000s were unprecedented. They went far beyond the five national championships.

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The number top five and top ten finishes and first-round picks from Miami from the earlier 1980s through the mid-2000s might never be duplicated.