September 5, 1999
Boca Raton News
As college football begins its 139th season, who knows what team lurks and will jumpstart the new millennium and be recognized as the "Team of the Aughts?"
Florida's teams are off to a flying start with Hurricane and Seminole wins over Ohio State and Louisiana Tech. The Gators are well rested in anticipation of their opening massacre against Western Michigan's Broncos. And, as we embark on the new millennium, four would-be champions are laying the groundwork to add their names to the three pioneer programs that have brought so much prestige to our state.
The Sunshine State's rise to dominate college football started in the season of 1983 when the Hurricanes unexpectedly fought their way to the Orange Bowl and upset the heavily favored Nebraska team. Miami launched into an unparalleled state dominance of Division I NCAA football. After laying out the blueprint for success in the championship race, Miami's dynasty continued. Over a 12-year period, 10 national champions were decided in the final games of the year. Miami played in eight of these games, winning four national titles. With the leadership of three different head coaches-me, Johnson and Erickson-Miami became the "Team of the 80s."
Bobby Bowden at Florida State pursued hot on the heels of the Miami program, as the Seminoles rose to national championship status in 1990. His unmatched winning percentage of .772% continues to this day. His program is considered to be the "Team of the 90s." Florida's newcomer Steve Spurrier leading the Gators labored in the shadows of Erickson and Bowden. In his own unquiet manner, Steve built the Gator program to national prominence and won his championship in 1996.
The cumulative record of these three prestigious universities is unparalleled in modern football and allows the State of Florida to lay claim to football's mythical "National Championships." Coach Bowden's countdown to the national championship began the earliest, in January, 1976. My own began in 1979. Junior of the three, Spurrier began to build the Gator program in fall of 1992. Each of us was destined to become coaches of national championship teams and coaches of the year respectively. Our combined career records are 507-193-9.
Central Florida has been in the football business for 15 years now. Under the able leadership of Steve Sloan and Mike Kruscz, the Golden Knights are approaching challenger status. Paul Brown and Joe Black at South Florida are just beginning. In their second season, the Bulls are laying the groundwork for future greatness. The conception of Tony Catanese's dream of college football at FAU will have its birth in one year, and the groundbreaking of the Owls' incubator (the Tom Oxley Athletic Center) will happen later this month. Mitch Maidique is unfolding FIU's game plan and welcomes Don Strock as director of football operations.
The four new kids on the block can find their blueprint already forged right here. Time shows that programs rise, programs fall, and programs grow. As Satchel Page once said, "Don't look back someone may be gaining on you."