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Sunshine State Demise

Florida football just isn't what it used to be

Posted: Wednesday October 18, 2006 12:02PM; Updated: Wednesday October 18, 2006 12:02PM
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With her Seminoles unranked and struggling, football games at Doak Campbell Stadium aren't as fun as they once were.
With her Seminoles unranked and struggling, football games at Doak Campbell Stadium aren't as fun as they once were.
Photo courtesy of Jenn Sterger
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By Jenn Sterger

So I went to a fight on Saturday and a football game broke out. For those who weren't able to witness the event in person, the media just chalked it up as another Miami "Thug U" incident. That, of course, couldn't be further from the truth. Florida International's players came out looking for a fight, taunting Miami for the demise of its program and taking shots at Larry Coker and his coaching staff for their less-than-Miami-caliber football season.

Moments after Miami's James Bryant "dedicated" his touchdown catch to the Florida International bench and student section, FIU's Chris Smith performed a move I had previously only witnessed in the WWE, bodyslamming Miami holder Matt Perrelli into the ground and proceeding to punch him. At that point, both benches cleared faster than a men's bathroom after Mexican food. Helmets were thrown, players were stomped, hell, even the kid with the crutches got a few licks in before the cops intervened. By the end of the fight there were more police on the field than players. And so begins another friendly Florida football rivalry.

Saturday night's brawl was the straw that broke the Sunshine State's back, leaving many troubled fans asking: What happened to football in the state of Florida? In an area that was once considered the NCAA football capital of the United States, two of the three major programs are in disarray. And now the University of Florida Gators have fallen at the hands of either a rejuvenated Auburn defense or another botched instant-replay call. Have the Big Three now become the Big Question Mark?

Why all the flux? South Florida is a breeding ground for up-and-coming prep football stars, but if there is so much talent, where is it all going? Someone must have leaked the recruiting secrets of Bobby Bowden, Steve Spurrier and Butch Davis to the teams up north, because what was once a three-school state has become a recruiting free-for-all with the state's most talented players up for grabs.

Miami

Hurricane season is almost over, but those storms aren't the only thing in South Florida that blow. Davis essentially handed Coker his 2001 national championship. He had done the recruiting, done the homework, narrowly missed it the year before thanks to some BS -- I mean, BCS -- computers and walked away from it his final year to accept a coaching job in the NFL. Enter Larry Coker. Don't get me wrong, Coker is a likable, respectable guy, but he lacks the recruiting skills and discipline to control his players. The cupboard Davis stocked for him is fresh out of talent, with many of those players having gone on to successful careers in the NFL, and Coker has yet to make the trip to the market to replace them.

Coming off an embarrassing 40-3 loss to LSU in last year's Peach Bowl, the Hurricanes' season-opening loss to Florida State was just the tip of the iceberg. After a nonconference upset by Louisville, Miami needs a serious gut check before it heads into the second half of its season, because opponents that once seemed to be pushovers are now looking like potential losses. Even the boosters have had it, as evidenced by the planes they hired to fly over a home game saying that the fans and players deserve better and calling for Larry's job on a platter.

As someone who was raised in a Hurricane home during the great coaching eras of Jimmy Johnson, Dennis Erickson and Davis, I shudder when game day arrives, knowing my father will be on the couch screaming things I dare not repeat on SI.com. A wind of change needs to arrive in South Florida and it needs to arrive immediately, because you can only throw so many things at a television before it breaks.

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