TEMPE, Ariz. - Eight out of 10 sports journalists agree: The Miami Hurricanes are the bad boys of college football.
The defending national champion Hurricanes are an easy target. Easy targets make for easy columns.
I'm going to take it easy this morning. Write about the Hurricanes.
This just in: If Miami defeats Ohio State tomorrow night in the Fiesta Bowl, the Hurricanes will have six national titles in 20 years.
Actually, there's a big group of people around the country who just don't like the Hurricanes.
Don't like how they play the game. Don't like what they stand for.
At times, the Hurricanes have given people a reason not to like them.
Wearing camouflage outfits at the Fiesta Bowl one year personified the Hurricanes' swashbuckling persona, which originated under Jimmy Johnson and continued with Dennis Erickson.
Sure, there have been a few incidents, arrests and recruiting violations along the way. There have been similar problems at other college football factories.
Today's Hurricanes celebrate and preen after touchdowns, sure. But certainly no more than any other elite team.
“People are still living off the bad-boy image of the past. We're not out here in camouflages trying to show off who's the biggest or baddest team,” said Miami junior linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who was named to this year's Academic All-American team. “We're out here playing football, playing to win.”
Miami is the closest thing to a dynasty since Oklahoma won 47 consecutive games in the 1950s under coach Bud Wilkinson. The Hurricanes have won 34 in a row, the longest winning streak since Toledo won 35 straight from 1969-71.
So, where is the love for the Hurricanes? Where's the respect?
“I think there may be some of the bad-boy image still out there,” acknowledged Miami's Larry Coker, who is the first coach since Walter Camp (1888-89) to go undefeated through his first 24 games.
“I think if you get to know us, get to know our players, that's really not us. That's in the past.”
Miami's notorious past reflects on the current Hurricanes, according to someone who should know - defensive coordinator Randy Shannon.
Shannon was a linebacker on Miami's 1987 Fiesta Bowl team that wore fatigues to a dinner prior to facing Penn State. He said that group of extroverts 16 years ago and these Hurricanes have little in common.
“Coming into this week, people thought we were going to have a bunch of cocky, arrogant guys. These guys aren't like that,” Shannon said.
“You think about Miami, you think about drugs, violence, Miami Vice. But you know what? Drugs and violence are everywhere.
“We've got a great bunch of guys who are graduating on time [13 of Miami's 18 seniors have already earned their degrees]. But people don't look at that. They look at everything else.”
Said Miami running back Willis McGahee: “People want us to be the same as we were back in those days, but we're not.”