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'The U' is the latest film from ESPN

JOHN SCHEIBE / ON SPORTS MEDIA

Documentary looks at the swaggering Miami Hurricanes of the 1980s.

December 04, 2009|By John Scheibe | On Sports Media

The brash and controversial Miami Hurricanes of the 1980s, the taunting, end-zone-celebrating villains of college football from that decade, are the subject of a new documentary called "The U," a film by director Billy Corben, which is part of ESPN's "30 for 30" series.

The documentary is scheduled to be televised at 6 p.m. on Dec. 12, following the presentation of the Heisman Trophy.

"Whether you're a lover or hater of the Hurricanes, it's a fun two hours," Corben said during a conference call this week.

Corben, a Miami native and alumnus of the university, uses interviews with former players, coaches and school administrators to take an introspective look into the Miami teams that won four national championships, produced a steady stream of NFL players between 1983 and 1991 and, for better or worse, played with an intimidating swagger.

The film begins in 1979 when the university was considering dropping football because the sport was losing money. Corben notes that Miami was striving to become "the Harvard of the South," and its priorities were on academics in the upscale community of Coral Gables, Fla.

But Coach Howard Schnellenberger was determined to resurrect the football program. The film focuses on his efforts to develop community support by recruiting players from the Miami area, including its inner city.

"He was a P.T. Barnum, a carnival barker," Corben said of Schnellenberger, whose favorite movie was "The Music Man."

Coaches Jimmy Johnson and Dennis Erickson appear in the film, along with such players as Bennie Blades, Melvin Bratton, Alonzo Highsmith, Bernie Kosar, Michael Irvin, Brett Perriman, Santana Moss and Jeremy Shockey.

Corben said he wishes he could have talked to defensive tackle Jerome Brown, who, while a member of the Philadelphia Eagles, died in an automobile accident in 1992.

"If Miami was the team of the '80s then Jerome Brown was the player of the '80s," he said.

Who can forget Brown leading his Miami teammates, all wearing military battle dress, off the plane after arriving to play Penn State in the 1987 Fiesta Bowl?

As Shockey says in the film, "It's a 'Cane thing."

World Cup draw

ESPN2 will devote three hours today to the FIFA World Cup draw in Cape Town, South Africa, beginning at 9 a.m. Bob Ley will host from the network's studios in Bristol, Conn., with former World Cup players Efan Ekoku, John Harkes and Alexi Lalas providing commentary.

Also, Jeremy Schaap will report from Cape Town.

ESPN Deportes will cover the draw in Spanish with David Faitelson anchoring the show.

Ratings note

According to ESPN, the Monday night game between the undefeated New Orleans Saints and the New England Patriots was the second most-watched cable program of all-time in households and viewers. More than 21 million viewers saw the Saints improve to 11-0 with a 38-17 win. The game had a 15.0 rating, which represents an average of nearly 15 million households.

Other worthwhile sports programs this weekend:

Today

All-Star guard Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat visit the Lakers tonight at 7:30 on ESPN and FS West. The game is the second of two on ESPN, with the Chicago Bulls meeting LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers at 5.

Saturday

The Bowl Championship Series sweepstakes is on the line when several top-10 teams play either in conference championships or final regular-season games. Channel 2 televises the Southeastern Conference title matchup from Atlanta between Florida and Alabama at 1 p.m. At 5 on Channel 7, Texas and Nebraska line up in the Big 12 Conference championship game at the Cowboys' new stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Preceding the Big 12 showdown is unbeaten Cincinnati meeting Pittsburgh at 9 a.m. and USC playing host to Arizona at the Coliseum at 12:30.

Sunday

The UCLA basketball team has a matinee date with No. 1-ranked Kansas at 2:30 p.m. at Pauley Pavilion. And, in what should be the game of the day in pro football, quarterback Brett Favre leads the one-loss Minnesota Vikings into a desert night game against the Arizona Cardinals at 5:15 p.m. on Channel 4.

john.scheibe@latimes.com

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