Peaks and Valleys

The first memory that I have is sitting in front of a TV in Laredo, Texas, watching the Hurricanes run wild over some poor West Virginia team in the early 1990s. I have never missed a snap of Miami Hurricane football since. My dad and I are very close, and a large part of our relationship has always been ‘Canes football.

In all these years of watching this program, I do not recall a team that has been so alternately exciting and frustrating. At times, this team reminds me exactly why it is that I fell in love with the ‘Canes of old. And then, in a blink of an eye, they will bring me right back to the middle of the Larry Coker era. It is both uplifting and depressing, and it is a dark tunnel that this program is going through. However, there is a light within our sights, and it is not as far away as some might think.

There is an important thing about football that fans tend to neglect. Each football program represents a mountain range. While it is always impressive to look across the top of the range and see the spectacular peaks, it is important not to look over the valleys, which are not as pleasant to look at but just as much a part of the landscape as anything else.

Miami is currently between two peaks. As has happened in the past, when Miami went through essentially five years of overhaul in the mid-1990s, this program will climb its way out. We have hired good coaches, disciplinarians who care about one thing: winning. They are establishing a winning culture which goes beyond the football field. They are teaching these students to be leaders, on and off the field. They are teaching them accountability. It will only be with a roster full of these types of players that we will reach our next peak. And that is where this program is heading, slowly but markedly.

Each game that I have watched has taken on a different, unique personality. If I had to put a label on the Georgia Tech game, I would call it “The Valley”.

Against the Yellow Jackets, the ‘Canes showed some very bright flashes. The successful fake punt was the most refreshing moment of the past three seasons. Time after time, Offensive Coordinator Patrick Nix dialed up the deep ball. Although unsuccessful throughout the game, this willingness to go for a kill shot against a good defense was very important to see. Shawnbrey McNeal’s touchdown run on fourth-and-one was the type of play that made the ‘Cane dynasty years great.

And then there were signs that this team’s losing culture is still very present. There were several back-breaking penalties that reflect this team’s lack of discipline. There were plays that should have worked but didn’t, simply because of errors created by youth and inexperience. The ‘Canes kept it close the whole time, but at no point did the fans get the sense that they controlled the game.

These flashes have led my dad and me, who have followed the program so closely, to a conclusion. This team is getting better from week to week, even as the losses mount. And the one thing that we continue to keep in mind when watching this team play is a lesson that we learned while living in mountainous Tennessee.

Without the valleys, the peaks are not nearly as beautiful.

Dan Stein may be contacted at