U-Turn

As a Miami native now living in Tampa, there are few positive aspects about being a fan of all teams Miami. Now that the outrageous housing market has found its way to Hillsborough County, the positive aspects about living here a fewer. Perhaps the most significant points about being in Tampa and not “home” are the powder white sand on the beaches and walking into McDonald’s and still being able to place my order in English. But I digress.

When it comes to professional sports, there has been a steady balance between Tampa and Miami. The Bay Area is able to claim two recent championships between the Buccaneers and the Lightning. I have been able to counter with the 2003 Marlins and last season’s Miami Heat. For good measure, I throw in the ‘97 World Series and the storied history of the Miami Dolphins. With Shula, Griese, Csonka, Warfield, Marino and the undefeated ’72 team, it’s a no-brainer who wins this contest. Still, Tampa locals cry that I am living in the past and declare it a draw.

So I pull out my ‘U’ card. The ‘U’ card is green and orange and represents a generation of college football dominance. It features the likeness of coaching legend Howard Schnellenberger and those who followed him. It is a laundry list of UM alum who have gone on to play and excel in the NFL. (Ask yourself when was the last time you watched a Sunday night SportsCenter that did not feature highlights of at least 3 former UM players?) It is 5 National Championships and two Heisman Trophy winners. It’s drawing the Ace you need when the other cards in your hand are suited. Or is it?

With apologies to FAMU and FAU, and a proverbial elbow to the head to FIU, there are five major college football programs in Florida. For years the discussion focused around the big three: Florida, Florida State and, of course, The U. Now UCF and USF are in the mix, having displayed relative success in recent years, and producing a handful of NFL caliber players. As of this moment, only two of these five teams may play in a bowl game. The first makes its home in Gainesville and plays in the toughest conference in the NCAA. The second calls Tampa it’s home.

It’s bad enough my football season gets trumped locally by the face of Jon Gruden and the voice of Gene Deckerhoff. Now I have to put up with upstart USF Bulls fans who proclaim the superiority of the Big East over the ACC. Sadly for me, it’s true. The ACC standings leader would be third overall if they played in the Big East. Who is this football juggernaut that may represent the Atlantic Coast Conference in a BCS bowl? Wake Forest. Yes, you read that correctly. Wake Forest.

So what was once my stone cold, lead pipe, “can’t be beat” trump card has now been reduced to a tarnished, “hide it in my wallet” chump card. I am Samson with a crew cut. Not only is my Achilles heal exposed, it’s lying on the table at Benihana in front of an eager chef with a very large knife. Kyle Wright will be golfing in December while Matt Grothe is studying game film.

How did this happen to the Hurricanes? Although the blame rests with Coker – and that’s a blog for another night – the solution, ironically enough, may lie in the Big East. Let’s hope the rumors of Greg Schiano leaving Rutgers for the warm beaches of Miami are true. We all know what a great job he’s done with the Scarlet Knights, and we all know Larry Coker will be sitting his unemployed fanny on the aforementioned beaches this spring. And we all know in our hearts the ‘U’ will find it’s way back. For my transplanted sake, it has to.

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