The U Part 2 premieres 12.13.14 on ESPN at 9pm ET.
Produced in 2009 by ESPN for its “30 for 30″ series, “The U” was a look at all that was good and bad about the rise of the University of Miami’s football program in the 1980s. But that wasn’t the end of the story. “The U Part 2″ picks up where the original film left off, with the program trying to recover from the devastation left by NCAA sanctions and scandals that had some calling for the school to drop football. The Hurricanes rose from those ashes to win another national championship, only to face new controversies when a booster used a Ponzi scheme to win favor with the program.
A rarely discussed fact that I regret didn’t make the final cut of The U (Part 1): A year after Howard Schnellenberger took over the Miami Hurricanes football team in 1980, he received some lousy news. The NCAA was launching an investigation into the program due to alleged violations committed under previous head coach Lou Saban. To add insult to injury, the transgressions were reported by the former coach of the in-state rival Florida Gators. The result was the only time in his 50-plus year coaching career that Schnellenberger ever had a team sanctioned by the NCAA. Despite that, Howard led the Canes to their first national championship in 1983 and begin a dynastic winning tradition — with four national championships under three head coaches in less than a decade — that would see the Canes christened “The Team of the ’80s.”
Nearly 12 years later, Butch Davis was hired at The U under similar circumstances. In Davis’s first year, a Sports Illustrated cover story called for the abolition of the Hurricanes football program for misdeeds that predated his arrival. Debilitating sanctions cost him 31 scholarships and a bowl game. Undeterred, Davis built not only the greatest college football team of all time but also arguably one of the best NFL teams ever assembled. The season after Davis left for a gig in the NFL, first-time head coach Larry Coker ushered the Canes to their fifth national championship.
Nine years after that, Al Golden arrived and found himself under yet another cloud when the Nevin Shapiro “rogue booster” story broke a mere eight months into his tenure. An NCAA investigation and sanctions followed and round and round and round we go. They said Schnellenberger couldn’t do it. They said Jimmy Johnson and Dennis Erickson and Butch Davis and Larry Coker couldn’t do it. Leads you to wonder if, in another five to 10 years, we’ll have produced the first-ever 30 for 30 trilogy.