Brad Kaaya, Baseball and The U Swagger


College World Series-bound Miami baseball renewed the exhausting debate on celebrations, prompting reactions from all corners of Sports Twitter — including from Hurricane quarterback Brad Kaaya.

For those who missed it, below is Edgar Michelangeli’s bat-flip and home-run trot, which set off Super Regional opponent Boston College in a bench-clearing fracas.

Love it or loathe it, Michelangeli’s show-boating embodies the kind of swagger that long defined University of Miami football — and has been absent from the gridiron Hurricanes for as long as they’ve been members of the ACC.

Sure, Miami’s had moments reminiscent of the old U. since leaving the Big East 11 years ago. But The Seventh Floor Crew didn’t exactly pile up the kind of hardware of Miami teams in the 1980s, when the Hurricanes defined an attitude that’s now standard around college football.

For as much consternation as Michelangeli’s bat-flip caused, I can’t help but imagine the debates those classic Miami teams would have sparked had Twitter existed at The U’s pinnacle.

That’s part of why Brad Kaaya sounding off intrigues me. His reaction is predictable; I imagine you lose a scholarship at Miami if you fail to embrace swagger.

But swagger without results isn’t really swagger. It’s bravado. Michelangeli’s celebration invoked reaction both because of the prominent stage, and because the moment itself was rooted in genuine emotion.

Miami’s made efforts to manufacture the style on which it once staked its reputation, but that’s not something that can be forced. I think of former Miami head coach Dennis Erickson, who presided over The U. at the tail-end of its original run in the 1990s.

While at Arizona State, Erickson allotted time during preseason practices for celebrations. That Sun Devil team played with an attitude, racking up more penalties than any team in the nation in 2011 by a considerable margin, but it didn’t have what one could call true swagger. Not with a 6-7 record.

Mark Richt isn’t exactly the kind of coach who exudes the attitude, despite having played his college ball at Miami. His commitment to personal conduct at Georgia perhaps sacrificed a few wins, with is a cardinal sin among some of the more overzealous in any fan base, say nothing of the rabid SEC.

Richt’s not Jimmy Johnson, the head coach when Miami really became “The U.” But Richt’s Georgia teams had their moments that showed off a real edge.

For all the criticism he endured as head coach, Al Golden recruited well in his time at Miami. Richt inherits a well-stocked cupboard in his homecoming season, which includes one of the best quarterbacks in the nation, Brad Kaaya.

Any genuine attitude of winning that comes from the Hurricanes in 2016 will come from Kaaya. In his third season as starter, Kaaya’s earned the cachet necessary to strut with some confidence if — or when — Miami makes real headway in the ACC for the first time in program history.