Miami football program 10th most dominant in last 50 years

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

From 1983-92 the Miami football program was the most dominant in college football with four National Championships. Spurred by that run the Hurricanes are one of the top 10 programs in college football over the last 50 years.

The Miami football program dominated college football from 1983-1992 with a 117-14 record and four National Championships. Five of those losses came in Jimmy Johnson’s first season in 1984 when the Hurricanes finished 8-5. Losses in their bowl games squandered four other National Championship opportunities in that era.

Miami regressed in the mid-1990s before a reassurance in the early 2000s. From 2000-2002 the Miami football program finished 35-2 with a National Championship in 2001 and runner-up in 2000 and 2002.

Those two eras combined placed Miami 10th on The Athletic’s list of “The 25 most dominant college football programs of the past 50 years.”  A variety of criteria were used to arrive at the list of the most dominant programs. Miami’s National Championships and seasons with a .900 winning percentage were the most critical.

All 10 of the seasons the Miami football team has finished with a .900 winning percentage including three undefeated National Championship seasons in 1987, 1991 and 2001 have occurred since 1983. The Hurricanes might have achieved the criteria for The Athletic in a shorter period of time than any other program.

"To generate rankings, the 65 Power 5 teams and BYU (the only non-P5 team to win a national title in the past 50 years) were ranked in the following 23 categories from 1970-2019:Wins/winning percentage (not adjusted for wins vacated by NCAA)Seasons with a .900 win percentageLosing seasonsAverage point differentialAverage rating from Sports-Reference’s Simple Rating System (which combines point differential and strength of opponent), average SRS ranking, SRS top-10 finishesSeasons that featured a major bowl appearance/win (Sugar, Rose and Orange from 1970-2019, Fiesta from 1980-2019, Peach from 2014-present and Cotton from 1970-97 and 2014-present, plus the BCS National Championship Game from 2006-13)AP ranked/top-10/top-five finishesPercentage of weeks spent in the AP poll/AP top 10Percentage of total games won by double digitsScoring offense/defenseWins/winning percentage against ranked opponentsWins/winning percentage against top-10 opponentsPercentage of games against ranked opponents won by double digits"

The Athletic lists below what Miami accomplished. To be able to have their level of dominance and what they accomplished in a short period of time was remarkable. In the list perhaps only Alabama’s run in the 2010s has been more dominant than what Miami accomplished from 1983-92.

Being able to sustain their level of excellence, particularly in the early 2000s has been the problem. As pointed out the peaks and valleys by Miami have been too big of a chasm. The challenge for Manny Diaz just to become one of the elite programs in the ACC is to develop consistency.

"10. Miami (Fla.)Record: 400-200-0 (.667)Average: 12.09National championships: 1983, 1987, 1989, 1991, 2001Score: 7.09If this list were subjective, Miami would be the toughest team to place. An argument for the Hurricanes being higher can be made, given that, at times, they have been as dominant as anybody in college football history.The Hurricanes won four national titles in nine years from 1983-91 and had a run of seven consecutive AP top-three finishes from 1986-92. In 2001, they had arguably the most talented national championship team in history, in a season sandwiched between one-loss No. 2 finishers.The peaks have been superb. But the valleys have been extensive. Miami was a punching bag for most of the 1970s, with a .385 winning percentage that decade. Facing NCAA sanctions, it became a top-20 type of program rather than a top-five team for much of the 1990s.And since joining the ACC in 2004, it has failed to win a conference championship and has failed to finish in the top 10. In fact, it has finished unranked in 11 of the past 14 seasons.It has been anything but dominant in at least half of the 50 years considered, which is why Miami ranks 16th among the 66 teams in wins and winning percentage. It gets boosted into the top 10 by its five national championships."

Some of the key numbers are also listed below. Five of the 12 losing seasons came in the 1970s. Howard Schnellenberger turned that around. After going 5-6 in his first season, Schnellenberger led the Miami football program to a 36-10 record over his final four seasons culminating with the 1983 National Championship.

The 1984 Orange Bowl appearance began an incredible run of 12 straight seasons that ended with an appearance in a major bowl game. Miami split those 12 games. After the 1984 Orange Bowl victory, Miami won five straight bowl games from 1988-1992 that finished with Orange Bowl victory and the 1991 National Championship.

"Seasons with a .900 win percentage– 10Losing seasons-12Seasons that featured a major bowl appearance/win 17/EightAP ranked/top-10/top-five finishes 15/12"

The second run in the early 2000s was four straight major bowl appearances under Butch Davis and Larry Coker. The Hurricanes won the 2001 Sugar Bowl over Florida to finish second in the country to Oklahoma before Davis left to take the head coaching position with the Cleveland Browns.

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Coker led Miami to a Rose Bowl victory in January 2002 that resulted in the 2001 National Championship. The next season embroiled a controversial loss in the Fiesta Bowl that ended Miami’s 34 game winning streak and a chance to repeat as national champions. It was unofficially the end of an era.