The Hurricanes football team was without a doubt the most talked about sports program in Miami during the late 1980s, winning the national championship in 1987 and 1989. Quarterback Bernie Kosar and Vinny Testaverde were two of the best players in the country and were surrounded by future first round NFL draft picks.
Jimmy Johnson was the coach during this time and was a big fan of the media, recalled Michelle Kaufman, sports editor at the Hurricane from 1985-1987. Reporters were able to have one-on-one interviews with players as opposed to today, where all the reporters get the same exact quotes with the Sports Information Directors regulating all the interviews.
“He was very open and honest,” Kaufman said. “He let the media watch all of practice on most days. We’d sit on a bench and when practice was over, we’d just walk over to whichever player we wanted to talk to and talk to him for as long as he felt like talking. We developed great, trusting, working relationships with Jimmy and the players on those teams.”
Testaverde won the Heisman Trophy in 1986, one of only two players in Miami football history to win the trophy.
“That was really cool to cover,” Kaufman said. “I got to fly to NYC and go to his hometown of Elmont, New York to work on a profile about him. And I was there at the Downtown Athletic Club when Vinny won the trophy.”
The University of Miami men’s basketball team is now one of its most well-known sports team, but it wasn’t always that way. The men’s basketball program was dropped by the university in 1971 due to inadequate facilities, diminishing attendance at games and serious financial loss. The school’s Board of Trustees tried to shut the program down in 1970. Fourteen years later in 1985, the program was brought back. Kaufman recalls the unconventional way the athletic department attempted to revive the program.
“I remember them holding open tryouts on the student union patio with portable rims, and anyone from campus could try out,” Kaufman said. “They got a few players from that tryout for the opening roster.”
The team played their games at the Knight Center auditorium at the Hyatt hotel in downtown Miami.
“It was, literally, a concert theater with seats on just one side of the stage,” Kaufman said. “They put bleachers on the other side to create a makeshift arena.”
At that time, the best players on the team were Eric “Downtown” Brown, Dennis Burns, Kevin Presto and Tito Horford, who joined the team a little bit later.
“It was a lot of fun to cover a brand new team,” Kaufman said.
For the first five years, the team was minimally competitive, but in 1990, the school hired Leonard Hamilton as head coach, and a year later, the team accepted an invitation to join the Big East Conference. In 2000, they won the Big East regular season title.
Track and field
Perhaps one of Miami’s most decorated Miami athletes is Lauryn Williams, a sprinter who ran for the Hurricanes from 2001 to 2004. At Miami, Williams became the only woman in Big East history to win three consecutive 100-meter titles. She left Miami as a nine-time All-American, eleven-time Big East Champion and held records in seven different events. After graduating from UM, Williams won the silver medal in the 100-meters at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece. Williams later went on to win the gold medal in the 4×100 meter relay in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Eric Kalis, sports editor from 2003 to 2006, distinctly remembers writing a profile on Williams as she was beginning her quest to qualify for the 2004 Olympics.
“With Lauryn, she also had the poise and maturity of an elite and accomplished athlete as a student,” Kalis said. “But the physical gifts of a world-class sprinter are probably what I remember most about her.”
Miami’s baseball program has won four NCAA national championships (1982, 1985, 1999, 2001) throughout their history, but unfortunately because the College World Series takes place in May and early June during summer intersession, the Hurricane’s coverage of the team’s success during those four years was limited.
Under head coach Katie Meier, the Hurricanes have had a lot of success in recent years. Last year, the team upset No. 13 Syracuse, No. 4 Notre Dame and No. 2 Louisville and finished the regular reason with a 25-9 record. They also got their first win in program history against Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Miami was selected to host the first round of the NCAA tournament but ultimately fell to Arizona State.