A Rivalry Revisited

In college basketball this weekend the Miami Hurricanes and Florida State Seminoles played for the top spot in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) standings. When these two traditional football powers joined the ACC in 2004, the expectation would be that that their games on the football field, not the basketball court, would decide the championships in the conference.

While there is still a lot of basketball to be played this season, it’s amusing to think that the biggest game between the two schools since they joined the conference might actually be in basketball. Despite being in separate divisions in the conference, the two teams haven’t yet played each other in the football conference championship game.

Through the 1990s and into the early 2000s the Miami — Florida State rivalry was one of the best in the game. What seemed like annual top 10 matchups would oftentimes dictate the national landscape for the remainder of the season. During this period of time, Florida State competed in the ACC while Miami played in the now defunct (in football, at least) Big East Conference. Tied together mainly by geographic proximity, this rivalry had never decided a conference championship despite holding such national prominence.

The rivalry was provided an opportunity to play for conference championships going forward in 2004, when the first domino to fall in what’s been a cascade of conference realignment occurred. Miami, along with conference rival Virginia Tech, left the Big East for the ACC. With this move came the hype of Miami and Florida State, two of the nation’s top programs at the time, competing annually for conference championships in addition to bringing national respect to a traditionally basketball conference.

At the time this was supposed to bring balance to the ACC, a conference that had been dominated by Florida State since they joined the conference in 1991. Florida State had won 10 out of the 11 ACC football championships they were eligible for during this stretch and had finished in the AP Top 5 of the final poll rankings in nine of those years.

The expectation that this would bring balance and football prominence to the ACC was warranted based on recent history. In the 17 games between Miami and Florida State prior to Miami joining the league, they were both ranked in the AP Top 10 in 11 of those meetings. Miami had just come off of a National Championship season in 2001 and a BCS National Championship game appearance in 2002.

Expectation hasn’t been reality as the two teams haven’t met in the ACC Championship Game, have had only two games in which both teams were in the AP Top 10, and have a combined four ACC Championships (all by Florida State). Fans would struggle to remember games during the ACC era of the rivalry that would measure up to the classics of years past, including Wide Right I, II, and III. Matchups worthy of names to remember them by, instead of just a box score.

The closest the rivalry has come to the classics of years past is in 2013, when #3 Florida State hosted #7 Miami with both teams undefeated in November. Florida State would win the game 41–14 and go on to win the ACC and National Championship that year. While Miami would go on to lose three straight games and finish the year 9–4.

During this time ACC rival Clemson has emerged as the perennial favorite in the conference. Winning 6 straight conference championships from 2015 to 2020 and two national championships. This likely hasn’t helped, as Clemson has been able to pull talent away from the traditional powers of Miami and Florida State. Additionally, the Southeastern Football Conference (SEC) has emerged as the premier football conference in America, pulling talent from Miami and Florida State.

Given the importance of football as these two schools, it’s unlikely that the basketball game this weekend is actually the biggest matchup between the two since they joined the ACC. However, it still merits the thought of just how far this rivalry has fallen from where it used to be in the sport and wonder if the game can go back to deciding national and conference championships as fans of the sport had hoped nearly 20 years ago.

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Tyler Walz

Tyler Walz

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Writing to understand myself and the world | Sports Fan | Bookworm | Business Consultant | Twitter: @tjwalz | Referral Link: https://tylerwalz.medium.com/member