The Flaw in Claiming the 2001 Miami Hurricanes are the Greatest College Football Team Ever

When the discussion comes up about which is the greatest college football team of all-time, some college football fans will say it was the 2001 Miami Hurricanes team. If you ask them why, invariably you will hear, “Look at all those players that went on to play in the NF….” Stop right there!

What does that have to do with how the 2001 Miami Hurricanes performed on the field in 2001? Absolutely nothing. You judge a team on what it did on the field THAT year and THAT year alone. Period. Future performance does not influence or change any game results that took place in the past.

Some of those players on that team may have become farmers, plumbers, accountants, janitors, or 400-pound slobs. That doesn’t detract what happened on the field in 2001. Nor should what any players from that team accomplished after 2001 aid in judging that team.

All that matters when you’re judging a team from a particular year is what they accomplished THAT YEAR and nothing else. Nothing else. Why is that such a hard concept to understand? Yet so many use that argument in trying to claim the 2001 Miami Hurricanes were the greatest college football team of all-time.

Using that same argument, if some little league team had Mike Trout and Bryce Harper on it, then that team had to the be the greatest little league team ever having two future major league baseball stars on it, right? Or in the Hurricanes’ case, how does what some of their players did in 2010 make what they did in 2001 better?

Florida State University quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward opted to play in the National Basketball Association rather than the National Football League. Does that in any way diminish what he accomplished in college?

Then how and why does what someone did after their college career, in this case the Miami Hurricanes football team in 2001, affect the results of what occurred and how those performances and results are evaluated? It shouldn’t and to those that think it does, that is a fallacy and a misperception. What occurred after 2001 should not influence how the 2001 Miami Hurricanes are judged.

Spare me the “look at all those players they had that went on to play in the NFL” argument like Willis McGahee who only rushed for 314 yards for the Hurricanes in 2001 or tight end Kellen Winslow who had only two receptions in 2001. Those future NFL players were non-factors on that 2001 Miami squad.

If you want to say they were the most-talented college football team ever, I have no qualms about that. Perhaps they were. They were a great football team but they struggled against 14th-ranked Virginia Tech barely winning 26-24 with Ed Reed making a game-saving interception erasing Virginia Tech’s last threat.

The Hurricanes also struggled against an unranked Boston College team winning 18-7 in a game that was much closer than the final score indicated. Would the greatest college football team of all-time be held without an offensive touchdown in a game against an inferior opponent?  Miami failed to score an offensive touchdown in the entire game against Boston College and the Golden Eagles played without William Green, the nation’s leading rusher, and gave “the greatest college football team of all time” all they could handle.

With Miami clinging to a 12-7 lead in the game’s final minute, BC drove to Miami’s nine-yard line but quarterback Brian St. Pierre’s pass was intercepted by defensive tackle Matt Walters. Reed took the ball from Walters and ran it back for Miami’s only touchdown with only 13 seconds left in the game.

A team laden with that kind of talent shouldn’t have struggled against any team they faced. The highest-ranked team Miami faced was fourth-ranked Nebraska which had a largely one-dimensional offense. The Cornhuskers were the only top-ten team the Hurricanes faced that season. That’s not Miami’s fault but that’s just how their schedule played out.

If you believe that the 2001 Miami Hurricanes are the greatest team in college football because of what their players did in the NFL, then you must also believe that Tom Brady was the greatest college quarterback of all-time, and you would be mistaken on both counts.

You judge a team solely on what it did that year on the field of play and by that criteria, the 2001 Miami Hurricanes were great, but by no means were they the best college football team of all-time.  

John Baranowski is a sports historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites. This and other articles written by him can be found on his blog:

Photo credit: jcsizmadi on VisualHunt / CC BY-SA


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