- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 2, 2002

LOS ANGELES Lou Holtz once quipped that you couldn't spell Hurricanes Football without C-H-A-O-S.
Those days are gone, as the program, once synonymous for its rebellious behavior, is now defined by discipline as much as talent.
When the top-ranked Hurricanes (11-0) show up at the Rose Bowl tomorrow for their title tilt with No. 4 Nebraska (11-1), don't expect to see army fatigues or gang-land style bandannas. This Miami team doesn't feature a resident rapper as its secondary mascot. And it definitely won't be trying to break its ignominious record for bowl penalties (16), established almost entirely via personal foul and unsportsmanlike conduct calls when the Hurricanes drubbed Texas in the 1991 Cotton Bowl.
"Nobody at Miami puts up with that crap anymore," said standout safety Ed Reed earlier this week. "Part of that is because coach [Butch] Davis didn't put up with it when he was here, and neither does coach [Larry] Coker now. Watching those old Miami teams under Jimmy Johnson and Dennis Erickson, you got the feeling they didn't have a problem with all that acting up.
"But I think more than anything, the change in the Miami image has come from within from the players. Some of the guys who were here before seemed like they almost enjoyed that reputation. But this team has no patience for bull. We're not going to put up with it."
The "we" Reed alludes to refers primarily to Miami's players' council, a handful of upperclassmen led by Reed and offensive tackle Joaquin Gonzalez who banded together last winter in an effort to keep the team focused on its goal of winning a national title when Davis left for the NFL.
The council's first act was to make sure athletic director Paul Dee hired the right replacement for Davis.
"We met with Paul Dee several times during the hiring process," said Gonzalez, an All-American who turned down academic scholarships from every Ivy League school to play at Miami. "Our contention was that we had one of the best offenses in the nation last season, and in order to maintain the most continuity possible coming into this season, it made the most sense to promote coach Coker from offensive coordinator to head coach. That way, we wouldn't have to start from scratch learning a whole new offensive scheme under a new coach."
Dee listened to the council's extremely logical argument and complied, promoting the 53-year-old career assistant to the head position on Feb. 3, 2001.
But the council didn't simply fade into the background after Coker took the reins of the program. On the contrary, the council began meeting with Coker regularly to help him establish and enforce team policy, providing input on everything from curfews and player suspensions to menu selections and team movies.
"I think it's worked great," said Coker earlier this week. "After all, it's not my team, it's our team. It sounds cliched, but we're supposed to be preparing these guys for life and that means teaching responsibility and management skills. I was just lucky enough to have a group of guys who were committed enough and cared enough to come up with the idea."
According to Gonzalez, the council has only one guiding tenet.
"Whatever the issue, we make our decision based upon the answer to the question: 'Will this benefit Miami football and help us achieve our goal of winning the national title?'"
Most recently, that question had to be considered after second-leading receiver Ethenic Sands violated a team rule. The council sat down with Coker and voted unanimously to suspend Sands for the Rose Bowl.
"It's tough because he's a teammate," said junior defensive tackle and council member Matt Walters of the decision. "But everybody knows the rules, and we felt we needed to send a message to the rest of the team that we were going to Pasadena to win a national championship and we wouldn't put up with anyone who lost sight of that goal."
With virtually the entire roster returning from what was probably the best team in the nation last season, the threat of a concentration lapse was actually Miami's toughest opponent this season. The same threat holds true in Pasadena, where the Hurricanes are a eight-point favorites over Nebraska. All Miami fans are familiar with the pratfalls that go with being a prohibitive favorite in the national championship game. In 1986, Miami was expected to bury Penn State in the Fiesta Bowl. But the Hurricanes spent more time trying to intimidate the Nittany Lions than preparing for the game. The result was a sloppy effort defined by seven Miami turnovers that gifted Penn State a 14-10 victory.
That Miami team, of course, is infamous for sporting battle fatigues in the week leading up to the game and skipping its scheduled pregame banquet with Penn State. As the historically challenged Jerome Brown said at the time, "The Japs didn't sit down to dinner with Pearl Harbor before they bombed her did they?"
Such was the Miami mentality under Johnson and Erickson. No doubt, the current players' council never would have allowed such foolishness.
"We're a football team, not a circus," said Reed. "That's the new Miami. We're very business-like. You can talk trash on the field, but not off it. And if you make a stupid penalty or blow an assignment, guys get in your grill."
Said Gonzalez: "It's not like we don't have fun and cut up, but there's no room for any horsing around on the field, even at practice. Nobody wants to make a mistake in practice, because we're lethal. You screw up, and you're going to hear about it.
"I'll give you a perfect example. Earlier this year, I think it was against Temple, [quarterback Ken] Dorsey threw a touchdown pass to [tight end Jeremy] Shockey. Shockey's celebrating in the end zone, and Dorsey gets right up in his face and starts chewing him out for running the wrong route. It was hysterical. Dorsey's letting him have it all the way back to the sideline. That's just the way Ken is. He doesn't just want to win, he wants to win the right way."
These days, you can't spell Hurricanes Football without F-O-C-U-S.


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