Miami Hurricanes Football a Long Way From ‘Catholics vs Convicts’

The Miami Hurricanes were featured in a new ESPN 30 for 30 film titled “Catholics vs Convicts”, but to think of Miami in that context today couldn’t be further from the truth.

The ESPN 30 for 30 films have invoked a lot of feelings and responses over the years. They’ve been poignant, emotional, entertaining, and even provacative.

The latest film – Catholics vs Convicts – documents the 1980s college football rivalry between Notre Dame and Miami, Jimmy Johnson and Lou Holtz – and as ESPN phrases it – good vs evil, and the T-shirt which helped fuel the fire.

The evil in this equation being the Miami Hurricanes. The devilish group of players from that era who made “The U” infamous, and became the bad boys of college football, doing it with unabashed flair.

Without recapping all the antics and stories which are covered ad nauseam in the film, it was a well-earned reputation…

40 years ago it was.

The problem with this film, and the subsequent journalistic pasturage, is that characterization couldn’t be further from the truth today, and for the media (and fans) to constantly throw this label unfairly at the Hurricanes is an injustice.

ESPN writer Matt Fortuna even went as far as to say the Catholics vs Convicts moniker was “a label that follows both the Irish and the Hurricanes to this day”; a statement to which University of Miami assistant professor of sports law and sports governance, Alicia Jessop, took some umbrage.

Jessop’s point should be well-taken. A documentary is supposed to do just that – document. It shouldn’t be used as a way to further an idea that is long past. This is not Miami of the 1980s. Not even close. If you investigate and see the truth, you’ll have your eyes opened to seeing far beyond orange jumpsuits in the stands and strippers in locker rooms.

In 2014-2015, the Hurricanes’ Academic Progress Rate (APR) scores showed anything but the behavior of convicts. The NCAA has determined that a score of 925 out of a possible 1000 is equivalent to an approximate graduation rate of 60%, where many Division 1 institutions find themselves.

Miami scored a 974 for the football team.

This season, Miami was awarded the 2016 AFCA Academic Achievement Award. Northwestern and Stanford were the only other Division 1 schools to win this honor.

Hardly the work of a bunch of miscreants who care about only partying and very little for learning.

A source at the University of Miami told me of the football players she teaches, “These young men are in class every, single day. They work hard for the grades they earn. They don’t make excuses. They give back in their community. For Thanksgiving, for instance, they had a celebration in an underprivileged part of Miami and delivered food. Many do a lot of community work behind the scenes, too.”

Convicts, indeed.

Current head football coach, Mark Richt, is renowned for his ability to not only produce quality football players who are successful in the professional ranks, but also quality men who find ways to succeed in life regardless of what obstacles they encounter.

This is a coach who gave personalized bibles to every member of his team this season. While that might seem like a pointless gesture to some, it speaks volumes about how Richt wants this program to be viewed from the outside.

From the time that Jimmy Johnson left the University of Miami in 1988, the Hurricanes have had six different head football coaches, and two interim coaches. To think that every coach since then has furthered the questionable ideas and behavior that Johnson made popular in this program is pure delirium.

The narrative must change when it comes to Miami. The days of the strippers, the nights on South Beach, the parties and the reputation of being criminals both on the field and off have long past.

This is a campus rich in tradition, with a diverse and fascinating student body which has to be experienced first-hand. This is a football team with a humanitarian leader who is shaping men with his strong values and beliefs.

Despite what Mr. Fortuna believes, the convicts label cannot follow Miami to this day. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are, and always will be the Catholics. But the Miami Hurricanes haven’t been associated with being convicts for quite some time, and we’ve reached a point where that description being applied to the current team, student body and campus has to stop.

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