THE U captures Miami and the UM football team in the 80s.

It is that time of the year where the college football season is underway and our Golden Panthers are geared up for their first game of the season against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. With those things in mind, I find it appropriate to review a DVD copy of filmmaker Billy Corben’s The U. As part of the ESPN’s 30 for 30 film series, The U drew in 2 million viewers when it premiered on ESPN last December.

  In the 1980s, the city of Miami was overwhelmed by riots and racial tensions. Around the same time, Coach Howard Schnellenberger came to the University of Miami to resuscitate their football program on the verge of collapse.

  In order to succeed into bringing a national championship to Miami, Schnellenberger started recruiting the most controversial and brilliant in college football history from some of the toughest ghettos in South Florida. With newly attained swagger and fueled by the growing hip hop culture, the Miami Hurricanes quickly became the “Bad Boys” of football who changes the rules of the game and won four national titles over the course of eight years since 1983.

  Director Billy Corben is no stranger to the world of South Florida in the 1980s as he explored the criminal and drug underworld in Cocaine Cowboys. While his mindset is still in the 80s, he has shifted his focus to his favorite college football team, the Hurricanes. Not only is he a fan of the Canes, he also allowed Luther Campbell of 2 Live Crew fame to record the theme song for his documentary even though he was involved in the pay-for-play allegations at UM.

  Corben also manage to get a majority of people who have been involved and linked to football program former Hurricanes coaches and players that include FIU’s football head coach Mario Cristobal, Michael Irvin, Lamar Thomas, Bernie Kosar, Howard Schnellenberger, Dennis Erickson and Jimmy Johnson, who was declared in the documentary by Dan LeBatard as “UM’s first black coach”.

  Former UM student Corben and his producing partner Alfred Spellman strikes a balance between what made the Hurricanes so powerful and dominant on the field and what made them the targets of critics.

  The U not only captured the high points of the football program, but also the low points that include many Hurricanes players were involved with several off-field scandals whether it was a drug charge or an attempted murder charge. The film is also filled with unforgettable game footage with the highlight of the shown footage being several moments in the 1986 and 1990 seasons with the players’ over-the-top celebrations on the field that antagonize many traditional college football fans and caused the NCAA to restrict celebrating in college football.

  While The U is not the first ESPN 30 for 30 film to come out on DVD, it is the first 30 for 30 film to receive the two-disc special edition treatment. Aside from the documentary, the first disc of The U DVD features several five or more minute featurettes that include clips from the premiere of The U at the Lyric Theatre, Miami City Hall and the Cosford Theater on the campus of the University of Miami.

  There are also several deleted scenes from the documentary not featured in the film that include Michael Irvin telling a story how he sent a life-size cutout of himself to Lamar Thomas and how Sebastian the Ibis got detained by the Tallahassee Police Department when the Hurricanes faced the Florida State Seminoles in 1989. On the second disc, there are four twenty minute condensed Miami Hurricanes games that include Miami vs. Alabama in the 1990 Sugar Bowl and their 1991 rival game against FSU.

  The U is one of the best sport documentaries made from the 30 for 30 series. Billy Corben explores the monumental efforts of the Miami Hurricanes from 1983 to 1991 on the football field. While it might be a tribute to football program in the 80s, Corben does not gloss over the negative publicity the team received for their off-the-field antics and their cocky bravura behavior.

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