Each of the three Miami coaches over the past decade has made his own contribution to this dynasty. Schnellenberger got in-state blue-chippers to become Hurricanes and established the pro-set offense that begat Air Miami. After a shaky (8-5) first season in 1984, Johnson fired all of Schnellenberger's defensive assistants but kept offensive coordinator Gary Stevens, the passing architect. Johnson instituted his own defensive philosophy, which stressed speed over size. He recruited cornerbacks and turned them into fleet, savage linebackers; he made linebackers stars as defensive ends; he bulked up defensive linemen into offensive linemen. He also doubled Schnellenberger's graduation rate. But Johnson's most conspicuous mark on the team is its penchant for arrogance and intimidation.
Thus far Erickson's chief talent has been to leave well enough alone. He has not tampered with Johnson's defense and has added only a slight wrinkle to the offense, going to a one-back set and moving a running back into the slot, though he may try a shotgun this fall. He also says he is determined to rehabilitate Miami's image. "I think we can have the work ethic and play hard without making fools of ourselves and getting penalized on the field," says Erickson.
The program that Erickson runs belongs more to the players than to any coach or athletic director or even, perhaps, to the university. As Maryland says, Miami is "no longer just a place you played football." It has become that mythical, rose-tinted thing 60-year-old men get teary over, remembering their days on campus. It has become, of all things, a tradition.