There’s a reason that this guy made sure to select Miami in Deadspin’s mock college conference redraft. In the past, Miami fought through all kinds of disadvantages to become one of college football’s most recognizable brands. It’s a private school that plays in a professional stadium, far away from campus, in a destination city with year-round warm weather.
A similar problem that USC has, except for as uncomfortable as it can be watching a game at the 90,000- seat Los Angeles Coliseum, at least it’s on campus. The trip was long when Miami was playing in the Orange Bowl, but now the ‘Canes play in the recently renovated Hard Rock Stadium, more than 20 miles from the university. Also, much of USC’s alumni base and donors are in the entertainment industry. Billionaire producer and headphone salesman Dr. Dre donated $70 million to the school in 2013. When he was college-age, he was wearing shiny jackets as part of the World Class Wreckin’ Cru.
Miami is a school that used to be so desperate for money that they once turned to Nevin Shapiro, whose profession turned out to be stealing. He’s still serving a 20-year sentence for federal financial crimes.
The financial problems appear to be a thing of the past for The U. In 2013, the locker room was named after Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, following him making the largest donation a former student ever has to the athletic program. It went through some renovations then, but what the players were introduced to in their locker room yesterday, was the SEC way of living.
That is giving off South Beach vibes. This is something to introduce to a local five-star recruit from Central, Booker T. Washington, or St. Thomas Aquinas, and at least it can compete with what they will see on their trips to Tuscaloosa and Athens. Mario Cristobal — two-time national champion at Miami, one of those won with Johnson as a teammate — left the Nike cocoon of Oregon to return home. As much as he loves his alma mater, he wouldn’t have left Phil Knight’s side to lead a program with the financial struggles of his time there.
As much as Johnson’s initial donation helped, that’s actor money from a different time in his career. The money being poured into the program now is cryptocurrency money. It’s all over South Florida, with the Miami Heat’s home stadium being renamed from American Airlines Arena to the FTX center. Last season, Yummy Crypto offered every single men’s basketball player a $500 per month NIL deal.
I’m sure whatever Johnson donates, and can be used as a tax write-off, will be much appreciated, but what that program needs is him front and center. He keeps a busy schedule as Hollywood’s highest-grossing actor, per Forbes, but he’s 50 years old now. It’s time for him to step into his Jack Nicholson years. Nicholson is one of the great thespians ever to grace a film screen, but he spent many nights in his courtside seat at The Forum to watch the Los Angeles Lakers. He kept up a packed schedule in his 40s and early 50s but Jack was part of the show along with Magic Johnson and the Laker Girls.
That April to June commitment is much more than is necessary for Johnson and Miami. The college football season has 12-13 regular season games. With about half of those at home, if Johnson was seen on T.V. at a couple of home games per season it would be a huge boost. That’s one thing Saban can’t offer, access to the ultimate Hollywood A-lister. Imagine The Rock hanging around that gleaming new locker room that bears his name from time to time. When the legendary Howard Schnellenberger coached at Miami, he would leave his cherrywood pipe behind after home visits with top recruits. It’s 2022, let those players at the top of the list spend some time with Johnson.
He’s not going to be on the recruiting trail, but the best players should hang out with him. An afternoon with The Rock. They can work out with him, go out to dinner, and maybe meet Kevin Hart or some other celebrities. Miami has needed a new Luther Campbell for a while. Uncle Luke and his group, 2 Live Crew, deserve all the flowers but at his peak, he still wasn’t Denzel Washington. That’s the type of fame Johnson has. Even more than his money, and the Crypto Bro’s, it’s the fame that Cristobal’s former teammate reached that would be able to get Miami championship No. 6 and beyond.
That new locker room, and some of those recruits that Cristobal flipped, showed that a new day has arrived in Coral Gables. If they get back the winning ways of the 80s, 90s, and early aughts, it won’t be with all-you-can-eats anymore. It’s Prime 112 and Joe’s Stone Crab for the Hurricanes. If Johnson adds to the money by stepping up his presence with this program just a little bit, Miami will once again have the best show in college football.