It is three seasons from now. If you believe the hopeful supposition that the Miami Hurricanes’ ascending football program might realistically be a few seasons from truly being back — from being national championship back — then start dreaming, South Florida.
UM has won three of its five national titles (1983, 1987, 1991) in its home stadium.
It could happen again.
The chance of that, at least, arose Wednesday like fireworks over the Miami skyline, when the College Football Playoff unexpectedly awarded the 2021 national championship game to South Florida and Hard Rock Stadium. It will be the title game following the 2020 regular season, to be played on Jan. 11, 2021, the seventh championship game of the CFP era and first played here. Is that enough incentive for you, Mark Richt?
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This is a victory for Miami football fans, for chamber of commerce types coveting national publicity, for politicos hearing cash registers ring over economic impact, and of course for the venerable Orange Bowl Committee, the civic giant that quietly and masterfully took the lead in orchestrating the winning bid for the game.
Mostly, it is a seismic victory for Stephen Ross, the Miami Dolphins and stadium owner whose $500 million personal investment in massive Hard Rock renovations — including a canopy and new state-of-the-art scoreboards — is specifically why the CFP anointed his stadium and this community for its next championship game not previously awarded.
Coincidentally, just two hours before Wednesday’s CFP announcement, the Miami Super Bowl Host Committee had separately announced plans for a “Kickoff Party” commencing the long buildup to Hard Rock also hosting the previously announced 2019-season Super Bowl, to be played in February 2020.
So that will be a Super Bowl and a college national championship inside of an 11-month span on our horizon — both the direct result of Ross’ vision and expenditure, and his gamble that both would be rewarded.
The Super Bowl will be the record-11th held in Greater Miami, most recently following the 2009 season.
The college national championship will be the 21st determined here, all previously under the auspices of the Orange Bowl game, most recently following the 2012 season.
Miami’s rich history as the recurring epicenter of major football championships, and the refurbished stadium, were inseparable from each other in Wednesday’s decision.
“We are impressed with the recent renovations to the stadium that has been host to so many significant college football games,” noted CFP executive director Bill Hancock, who undoubtedly meant city as much as stadium since the old Orange Bowl Stadium did the heavy lifting for Miami long before Dolphins stadium came along by its various nomenclatures.
The news about the 2021 national championship game coming here happens as the current Hurricanes are 7-0 and ranked 10th in the initial CFP rankings out this week — still with an outside shot to work up into the CFP’s coveted final top four pending results this Saturday against No. 13 Virginia Tech and then the following week against No. 3 Notre Dame, both here. On the pro side, the Dolphins are not as strong, although their 4-3 record nearing mid-season has them (for now) in NFL playoff contention.
But there is a happy reminder in Wednesday’s announcement awarding South Florida a college national championship game less than one year after hosting host another Super Bowl.
It doesn’t always take the Hurricanes or Dolphins winning big for Miami to win big.