There are only a few programs left in college football still capable of blowing opponents off the field with sheer talent. If a recruiting savant takes over a school like LSU, USC, or Texas, the talent soon follows like high schoolers flocking to check out the hot new student.
Impressionability is a defining characteristic of young people, so Mario Cristobal’s ability to lure in five-stars like lemmings isn’t exactly surprising after what he did at Oregon the past few seasons. What I’m shocked about is how he’s landing all these commits without utilizing what has been the school’s best asset since 2017.
Rumors of the Turnover Chain’s demise circulated in January as offensive line coach Alex Mirabal told a recruit they were doing away with the sideline prop. On Wednesday, the head coach confirmed the news.
Well, that’s… underwhelming. I could allow the “not part of our culture” reasoning if Miami had not been the originator of the idea. When The U debuted the Turnover Chain in 2017, it was such a lovable gimmick that a bevy of schools followed suit with their own versions.
I’m pretty sure Florida State’s turnover backpack has been discontinued. Tulane had turnover beads, and Louisville tried out a Muhammed Ali-inspired turnover belt. Region-specific props make sense, but Miami’s was wholly organic and in line with its swagger-filled tradition.
The thing about the Turnover Chain — and the reason I’m capitalizing it — is because it couldn’t better reflect the culture of both the school and South Florida in general. Thick gold chains were as much a part of Luther Campbell and 2 Live Crew’s ensemble as their glossy Hurricane jackets.
That said, there hasn’t been a lot that’s gone great for Hurricanes football in the past decade-plus, and maybe that’s why Cristobal did away with it.
Nebraska’s Blackshirt tradition became embarrassing when announcers used the nickname sarcastically because the Huskers couldn’t (still kind of can’t) keep an opponent out of the endzone let alone field goal range. And so, too, does the Turnover Chain when it’s collecting dust and the defense is giving up damn near 30 points an outing as it did a year ago.
The Turnover Chain had fewer appearances than the Canes had games last season, and that does make me laugh. Swagger is always pushing the boundaries of overconfidence, so it’s entertaining when bravado steps on a rake.
However, if I’m Cristobal, I’m slow-playing this. Let the defense return to its former self first, and once it’s reestablished as that fast, swarming, suffocating unit that produced so many electric pros, then have Ed Reed — who, by the way, is a member of the new staff — surprise a player with it after a crucial pick or recovery during a big game. The sideline would lose its goddamn mind. (I’ve also been a proponent of a similar method with the Blackshirts. Hand them out when they’re warranted. It’s an honor, not an entitlement.)
Right now — with the U only having one 10-win season since 2004 — football should come first, and the rest will follow. The retirement of the Turnover Chain kind of went unnoticed when it was hinted at earlier this year, and there are two reasons the news stayed off the radar for so long.
The first is Miami hasn’t been nationally relevant since the early aughts, and the second is Cristobal’s hiring and recruiting have been the story.
Sports Illustrated had a large breakdown of how Cristobal has been signing talent like the LIV Tour has been inking golfers. (To me, it feels like the Saudis have been treated as less reprehensible than shady boosters. It’s almost as if there’s a double standard for who’s allowed to accept money via unsavory — perceived or verified — means. That’s another column, though.) Cristobal has been flipping local prospects, winning recruiting battles against teams like Alabama and LSU, and nabbing commits from the Pac-12 region he canvassed while at Oregon.
The drawback I heard from Ducks fans was Cristobal’s inability to win big games, which would be concerning if he was trying to rebuild his alma mater with the best classes Oregon can offer. I’m sorry to all of the people in Eugene, but there’s a huge gap between Miami’s recruiting ceiling and Oregon’s. (The same could be said about USC and Oklahoma, which is why Lincoln Riley and Co. are betting darlings in 2022.)
When the roster is fully stocked in Coral Gables, there’s considerably more room for error. Peak Miami is able to play just about any program off the field simply by showing up. The celebrations, the confidence, and the swagger are merely a byproduct.
I think success was the culture that Cristobal was referring to when he deemed the Turnover Chain unworthy. Perhaps if the U starts tallying W’s like the coach locks up top talent, the gimmick will return, and go from tawdry to tradition.
Original source here
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