Directed by Billy Corben

In the 1980s, America was shifting racially and culturally. The University of Miami football team was a microcosm for this evolution.

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About The U

Film Summary

Throughout the 1980s, Miami, Fla., was at the center of a racial and cultural shift taking place throughout the country. Overwhelmed by riots and tensions, Miami was a city influx, and the University of Miami football team served as a microcosm for this evolution. The image of the predominantly white university was forever changed when coach Howard Schnellenberger scoured some of the toughest ghettos in Florida to recruit mostly black players for his team. With a newly branded swagger, inspired and fueled by the quickly growing local Miami hip-hop culture, these Hurricanes took on larger-than-life personalities and won four national titles between 1983 and 1991. Filmmaker Billy Corben, a Miami native and University of Miami alum, will tell the story of how these "Bad Boys" of football changed the attitude of the game they played, and how this serene campus was transformed into "The U."

Director's Take

In 1980, three dangerous fronts collided in Miami. The explosion of public violence from the Cocaine Wars, the influx of thousands of criminal Cuban refugees during the Mariel Boatlift and deadly race riots following the acquittal of Miami-Dade police officers who beat a black insurance salesman to death.

Long before hip-hop superstars and thug culture filled our airwaves, shopping malls and iPods, the Miami Hurricanes brought street values and hood bravado into America's living rooms. If the 'Canes didn't invent the end zone celebration dance, they certainly popularized and perfected it.

By the late 1980s the Miami Dolphins were no longer capturing the collective imagination of South Florida as they once had. The Hurricanes had become Miami's team. My team. I remember my father paying 10 bucks to park on somebody's front lawn and then following the crowd a couple of blocks to the Orange Bowl. I remember watching these young warriors emerge through that smoke to the bloodcurdling roar of Miami football fans. They were not the steeped-in-tradition choirboys of Notre Dame, but they were our hometown heroes: diverse, brash and dangerous. Just like the city of Miami itself.

They spoiled us with national championships: 1983, 1987, 1989, 1991. And then a fifth in 2001. We literally expected to win a national title every year. Beano Cook called the 'Canes "the greatest dynasty since Caesar," and he was right. I watched this team, over the course of a generation, pump out some of the most thrilling, controversial and brilliant players in football history: Jim Kelly, Michael Irvin, Vinny Testaverde, Cortez Kennedy, Warren Sapp, Jerome Brown, Jessie Armstead, Ed Reed, Bernie Kosar, Clinton Portis, Jeremy Shockey, Jon Vilma, the list goes on.

This is my team. The team that forever changed how football was played -- and most certainly put the "nasty" into dynasty.

What's Everyone Saying?

Billy Corben

Billy Corben was born in Florida and graduated from the University of Miami where he majored in political science, screenwriting and theater. His feature documentary directorial debut, "Raw Deal: A Question of Consent," premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2001, making him one of the youngest directors in Sundance history. Examining the alleged rape of an exotic dancer at a fraternity house at the University of Florida, the film utilized extensive clips from videotape footage of the alleged assault. Considered by critics to be "one of the most controversial films of the modern day" and "one of the most compelling pieces of non-fiction ever produced," (Film Threat Magazine), "Raw Deal" has been seen all over the world.

Following that success, Corben and producing partner Alfred Spellman founded rakontur, a Miami Beach-based content creation company, and took on another Florida true-crime story, this one closer to home. The New York Times called "Cocaine Cowboys" "a hypervent-ilating account of the blood-drenched Miami drug culture in the 1970s and 1980s." The film tells the story of how the drug trade built Corben's native city of Miami through firsthand accounts of some of the most successful smugglers of the era and the deadliest hitman of the cocaine wars.

After a limited theatrical release in 2006, "Cocaine Cowboys" became a worldwide success on DVD. The sequel, "Cocaine Cowboys 2: Hustling with the Godmother," was released in 2008. The 2010 slate for rakontur includes a "Cocaine Cowboys" dramatic series for HBO, with executive producers Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay and the feature documentaries "Square Grouper," examining the free-wheeling pot smuggling era of South Florida in the 1970s, "Dawg Fight," a brutal expose on underground backyard MMA fighting in one of Miami's toughest neighborhoods, and a new installment of their hit documentary series: "Cocaine Cowboys: Los Muchachos."

Directed by:

Billy Corben

Executive Producers:

Keith Clinkscales
John Dahl
Joan Lynch
Connor Schell
Bill Simmons
John Skipper
John Walsh


Billy Corben
Alfred Spellman
Arunima Dhar


David Cypkin

Associate Producer

Evan Rosenfeld


David Cypkin

Original Score

Honor Roll Music

Music, "The U," Performed By:

Uncle Luke


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