Dear NCAA and all other colleges and universities: you are welcome. -The 1986-87 Miami Hurricanes Football Program


The 1987 Fiesta Bowl was a historic football game for several reasons: it was the first bowling game ever played after New Years, it was the first bowling game to have a title sponsor, and it set the ground for Nike to sign the first exclusive varsity apparel contract that year to outfit all men’s and women’s UM sports. Leave it to a hardcore Miami Hurricane fan to talk about this game in detail without mentioning the final score. (Sigh).

The stars really had to line up for this match to be played on January 2n/a. Miami was ranked No. 1 and the Penn StateNittany Lions #2, plus the two were independents in 1987, so they had no conference ties to specific bowls. At the time, the Fiesta Bowl was not as prestigious as the orange bowl, pink bowl, Sugaror cotton bowl; something I didn’t know before researching this topic. The Fiesta Bowl partnered with NBC, which was looking to shake up sports programming, and moved the game to a Friday night. The move to Friday night increased the team’s payout to $2.4 million. That’s a huge number in 1987. Additionally, NBC topped their most popular prime-time show at the time, miami vice. Oh the irony!

While all of the above planning was underway, UM athletic director Sam Jankovich and head football coach Jimmy Johnson were ready to play in the orange bowl. And why not? Miami beat their opponents 420-136 in the 1986 season. They had already beaten the number one ranked, defending national champion Oklahoma Sooners earlier in the year, taking over the number one ranking for the remainder of the season. At the time, this Miami team was considered one of the most talented college football teams ever assembled. The Canes could sleep in their own bed and win another national championship in front of their home fans. It seemed like a no-brainer.

Don Meyers, the chairman of the Fiesta Bowl selection committee at the time, wouldn’t give up. First, he gave black satin tracksuits to the entire Miami football team, and promised the wives of Miami coaches free treatments at a swanky desert spa. Meyers sealed the deal by calling reporters and saying Jimmy Johnson was afraid to play Joe Paterno on neutral ground. What a maniac, but I respect the commitment. Also, it worked. Jimmy excitedly announced that Miami would take on Penn State in the primetime Fiesta Bowl to a room full of news reports following the Canes’ regular season finale win.

True college football fans know the preparations for the game: the Miami fatigues, the infamous steak and fries dinner, the battle over the team’s course time. There was genuine anticipation for this game and viewers showed up. The 1987 Fiesta Bowl had a television rating of 25.1, with an average of 21,940,000 viewers watching the NBC broadcast per minute. It was the most-watched college football game up to that point, and it held that top spot for four years. NCAA and college football programs across the country knew things would never be the same.

The 1987 Fiesta Bowl shaped the future of college football in many ways: multiple post-New Year’s bowling games, title sponsors of multinational corporations, prime-time kickoff to boost TV ad sales , And the list is long. I agree that Penn State is a well-known college football brand, and they had a legendary coach (who let heinous things happen under his watch, but I digress). However, none of the above happens or works without the Miami Hurricanes. Penn State could have been Michigan, Stanford or Texas. Miami was the irreplaceable centerpiece. They were the biggest thing in college sports in the 1980s. The talent, the celebrations, the swagger, and the winning were loved by South Florida folks and hated by just about everyone in the country. People wanted Miami to lose as much as we wanted them to win. As tough as Penn State’s loss was, the gigantic impact the game had on college football softens the blow a bit. Who am I kidding? I was still angry reading the 1987 Fiesta Bowl all these years later. Some things never change.

1987 Nike Agreement

Despite the devastating 1987 Fiesta Bowl loss, Miami was still widely recognized as the greatest brand in college sports. Prior to the 1987 regular season, the Hurricanes wore Russell Athletic jerseys. As difficult as it may seem, Nike was still a small, emerging athletic footwear and apparel brand in the 1980s. They had Michael Jordan as their spokesperson and were looking for new revenue opportunities.

Again, the timing was perfect. Surprisingly, the process was simple. According to the book Common Enemies: Georgetown Basketball, Miami Football, and the Racial Transformations of College Sports, by Thomas F. Schaller, a University of Miami attorney named Robert Ades called Nike’s Sonny Vaccaro and asked if Nike would like to outfit every college athletic program, for both men and women. Vaccaro loved the idea and immediately called Nike President Phil Knight. He told Knight “That’s it. We have touched the mother load. The rest was history. History is the correct description, because while other colleges had apparel contracts, none were for ALL men’s and women’s varsity team sports. The University of Miami and Nike have redefined college athletic apparel partnerships together.

Although financial figures from the 1987 Nike deal were not available, the effect was large and widespread. Miami Hurricane football led the new Nike charge, and it gave the upstart company a well-known orange and white canvas that was seen by millions every Saturday. The famous “U” logo was undoubtedly cool and people all over the country started wearing Miami Hurricane clothing. Pretty awesome for a small private school in Coral Gables, FL.

When Adidas became UM’s sportswear supplier in 2015, its chairman Mark King recognized UM’s role as a trailblazer. Again, from Common enemies, “The University of Miami was the first college program to excel as a national brand with an on-court championship, changing the game of college athletics.” I couldn’t have said it better myself, sir.

While the idea of ​​sponsoring entire athletic departments seems obvious now, the 1987 UM-Nike deal was indeed ahead of its time when it happened. Nike saw the benefit of having their logo on all gear worn by all types of athletes everywhere on campus. Again, back then it only worked with The U.

The success of the Miami Hurricane football program of the late 80s, the exposure on television, the polarizing nature and the desire to try something no college had ever had was perfect for a new kind of partnership of sportswear. The 1987 UM-Nike athletic apparel partnership changed college athletics forever. These traits above also made the Hurricanes a perfect fit for a lesser-known bowl willing to break tradition in order to join the Blue Bloods, which he did. The 1987 Fiesta Bowl changed college football forever.

The University of Miami’s Hurricane football program has been at the center of two seismic shifts in college sports. Not surprising. It’s great to be a Miami Hurricane.



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