Back Despite Chaotic Coastal, Miami Could Still Be Years Away From Title

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Despite Chaotic Coastal, Miami Could Still Be Years Away From Title

By Dave Holcomb
SouthernPigskin.com
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The Miami Hurricanes have been through quite the ordeal through the last two seasons. Overall, Miami has posted a 17-9 record during that span, but the Hurricanes are just 7-9 since starting the 2017 season 10-0.

Who knew that on a faithful Friday after Thanksgiving, an upset loss against Pitt at Heinz Field would be the turning point of the Mark Richt era in Miami.

The Miami Hurricanes have been through quite the ordeal through the last two seasons. Overall, Miami has posted a 17-9 record during that span, but the Hurricanes are just 7-9 since starting the 2017 season 10-0.

Of course, Hurricanes fans already know these facts. They are looking ahead to the future, which is still extremely bright despite a couple straight offseasons with major question marks.

Despite the promising path ahead, though, it’s still a long road back to the top of the mountain for Miami. Hurricanes athletic director Blake James rightfully acknowledged as much when speaking to Manny Navarro of The Athletic.

“I think there’s got to be a window for us to start building depth and getting the guys that we need to be here to sustain it,” James said according to The Athletic. “Again, I think that happens with time. I hate to put numbers on it, but I know that makes for better stories. So somewhere in the three- to five-year window, we should be able to look at it and say, maybe we’re not winning national championships yet, but we’ve put a program in place that when things go right we have a chance to win it all year in and year out.”

James is absolutely correct to acknowledge it takes time to build championship programs. But it’s harder to remain patient with Miami given the current chaotic status of the entire ACC Coastal division.

During his conversation with The Athletic, James referenced Clemson as an example of how a program doesn’t become a champion overnight. No example could be better.

Remember “clemsoning?” Well, not too long ago, the verb didn’t mean winning championships. Actually, it used to be synonymous with choking in a big moment or huge game.

The Tigers were good, but they weren’t elite until Dabo Swinney’s seventh full season. That year, Clemson finally reached the title game and then the Tigers won their first championship in more than 30 years in 2016.

Clemson has become such a powerhouse over the last four years that it’s easy to forget how long of a road it really was for them to reach the top. Not only should Miami keep this in mind, but so should other formerly elite programs dying for resurrection -- most notably, Michigan and Texas.

But in the case of Michigan and Texas, they have elite established programs in their way. Until Michigan finds a way to beat Ohio State, it won’t be playing for a national or Big Ten title. The same can be said for Texas with Oklahoma.

Sure, Clemson stands in the way of Miami, but not for the right to play in the ACC Championship. The Coastal Division is seemingly up for grabs every year.

Historically, the Hurricanes are the cream of the crop in the Coastal Division. Virginia Tech has experienced a lot of football success over the last 30 years, but its program has never won the national championship. Georgia Tech and Pitt have won national titles but not lately. The Yellow Jackets most recently captured the 1990 title while the Panthers last went undefeated and claimed a championship in 1976.

Since then, the Hurricanes have won five national championships. From 1983-2003, Miami finished in the Top 6 of the final AP Poll 11 times.

Last season, Pitt won the Coastal but finished the season 7-7. The division has showcased a ton of parity, as six different teams have won it over the last six years.

With that level of chaos and the national pedigree of the Miami program, it always seems to be only a matter of time until the Hurricanes burst through and represent the Coastal Division in the ACC Championship 3-4 years in a row.

But that still hasn’t happened, and that’s despite the fact that Miami has beaten Florida State each of the last two years. The Seminoles used to be that bugaboo team for Miami (Florida State won in the rivalry seven straight years from 2010-16), but the Hurricanes beat them and the eventual division champion Panthers last year and yet still didn’t win the Coastal.

James is absolutely right. Patience is the key for Miami’s resurgence. While the Hurricanes were fourth in the ACC in recruiting last year, their 2019 class was also ranked 27th nationally according to 247Sports. National championship teams land talent in the Top 10 and Top 5. Miami was eighth in recruiting during the 2018 cycle, but the Hurricanes have a long way to go to become a Top 10 recruiter on an annual basis.

But it’s admittedly harder to remain patience when losses to Duke and Georgia Tech cost a chance at a trip to Charlotte on the first weekend of December. Even if the game is an automatic loss to Clemson, earning the right to play in the contest means something. If not on the recruiting trail, it at least signifies Miami is a level above the rest of the Coastal.

James can say all the right things about how the program is really on a 3-5 year plan, but that doesn’t change the fact that Miami is the most national program of any in the Coastal Division. With that comes the expectation that they should compete and possibly win the division crown in 2019.