How Miami football 1983 National Championship stunted FSU’s rise

3 Jan 2002: DIGITAL IMAGE. Mandatory Credit: Brian Bahr/Getty Images
3 Jan 2002: DIGITAL IMAGE. Mandatory Credit: Brian Bahr/Getty Images /
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The 1983 Miami football national championship stunted what was a rising Florida State program from 1977-82.

Florida State appeared on the verge of becoming the preeminent program in Florida and among the best in the nation with a 54-16 record from 1977-82. The Miami football program began their ascent up the college football rankings when Howard Schnellenberger was hired in 1979. Florida State already had a national presence.

Florida State finished 10-2 in Bobby Bowden’s second season in 1978. The Seminoles won the Tangerine Bowl 40-17 and finished 14th in the final poll of the 1978 college football season. Florida State went 8-3 in 1978 but did not make a bowl game. Following the 1979 and ’80 seasons, FSU played in the Orange Bowl.

The national spotlight seemed to have Florida State on the verge of breaking through to become what the Miami football program eventually did as the unquestioned team of the 1980s. The hiring of Schnellenberger changed the course of college football history. FSU lost those Orange Bowls 24-17 and 18-17 to Oklahoma.

Florida State finished 6-5 in 1981 but bounced back with a 9-2 season in 1982. The Seminoles concluded the 1982 season with a  31-12 victory over West Virginia in the Gator Bowl. Miami was 5-6 in Schnellenberger’s first season in 1979. FSU throttled Miami 40-23 in the first meeting between Schnellenberger and Bowden.

The following season, the Miami football program turned around overall and ended a two-game losing streak against the Seminoles. Miami finished the 1980 season 9-3, including a 20-10 victory over Virginia Tech in the Peach Bowl. The Hurricanes finished 9-2 in 1981 but did not receive a bowl bid.