Miami vs. Ohio State: How 2003 Fiesta Bowl call actually changed both programs

Getty Images

Talk of the 2003 Fiesta Bowl national championship game between No. 1 Miami and No. 2 Ohio State usually focuses on a controversial call in the first overtime.  

That's when a late pass interference flag was thrown on Miami defensive back Glenn Sharpe, who was covering Ohio State's Chris Gamble, on what appeared to be the final play of the game. The call stood, and the Buckeyes would pull off a 31-24 double-overtime upset in an instant classic.  

ESPN will televise that game tonight at 8 p.m., and the network is billing it as “The Call that Changed it All.”  

MORE: College football 2020 bowl projections

That call not only changed the outcome, but it also impacted the trajectory for two major college football program through the Bowl Championship Series era in the College Football Playoff. Miami and Ohio State have trended in opposite directions ever since.  

Here are five effects from that game that still register today.   

Maurice Clarett's college career ended

Ohio State freshman Maurice Clarett scored the go-ahead TD in the second overtime, and he had a game-changing play when he stripped Miami's Sean Taylor of an interception in the third quarter.  

Clarett rushed for 1,237 yards and 16 TDs as a freshman for the Buckeyes, but he never played another down of college football. Clarett was dismissed from the team the next season as a result of an academic scandal, and he sued the NFL in an effort to enter the NFL Draft in 2005.  

Clarett's career remains one of the greatest “what ifs” in college football had he stayed on with Ohio State the following two seasons, and few college football fans would have guessed that TD run in the Fiesta Bowl would be his last carry at the time.   

Larry Coker's tenure changed 

Coker inherited a loaded team from Butch Davis after the 2000 season, and the Hurricanes finished 12-0 in 2001.  

Miami had a 34-game win streak heading into the Fiesta Bowl, and that was snapped by the Buckeyes. That changed the arc of Coker's tenure. The Hurricanes finished 11-2 and won the Orange Bowl the following season before joining the ACC.  

Miami struggled with that transition over the next three seasons. The Hurricanes were 25-12 with a 14-10 record in conference play.  

Coker would be replaced by Randy Shannon after the 2006 season.  

'The U' hasn't been the same

The Hurricanes are 96-70 overall and 57-47 in ACC play the past 13 seasons. Every attempt to restore the aura of “The U” has been side-tracked by coaching changes. Shannon, Al Golden, Mark Richt and now Manny Diaz have taken turns at the helm. A scandal involving former booster Nevin Shapiro in 2011 also tugged at the program, resulting in NCAA probation and a two-year self-imposed bowl ban in 2011-12.  

Richt did lead Miami to the ACC championship game in 2017, but the Hurricanes lost 38-3 to Clemson and the coach retired after the following season.  

Diaz's first year ended in a 6-7 record and a 14-0 loss to Louisiana Tech in the Independence Bowl. Miami is banking on new offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee and transfer quarterback D'Eriq King to reverse the fortunes of a program that is still searching for its first ACC title heading into the 2020 season.  

It's been a different story at Ohio State.   

Jim Tressel built the Buckeye machine

The Clarett drama did not slow down Ohio State's return as a college football powerhouse. Tressel compiled a 106-22 record in 10 seasons with the Buckeyes, and the national championship season solidified his tenure.  

Ohio State lost just 14 Big Ten games in that stretch and played in the BCS championship game in the 2006 and 2007 seasons. Tressel's 9-1 record against Michigan also remains a signature accomplishment.  

Tressel's tenure ended as a result of the TattooGate scandal, but after a one-year bowl ban Urban Meyer restored that dominance in 2012, and it extends to the present with second-year coach Ryan Day. The Buckeyes won another national championship in 2014 and have made three College Football Playoff appearances.  

The Buckeyes enter 2020 looking to a win a fourth straight Big Ten championship.  

The call overshadows the game 

The pass interference call lives on with the game, but it's not the only factor that led to Ohio State pulling off an improbable upset in the Fiesta Bowl.  

The Buckeyes' defense limited Miami's rushing attack to just 65 yards, and star running back Willis McGahee left the game with a gruesome leg injury. Miami committed five turnovers in the loss, and Ohio State produced four sacks on Ken Dorsey.  

The Buckeyes' methodical game plan with quarterback Craig Krenzel worked for four quarters. It was a masterful plan by Tressel, and it culminated with a two-overtime finish that, while disputed, ended with the Buckeyes pulling out the victory.  

That is the legacy that lives on nearly two decades later.  

Latest News

SEC is about to welcome one superpower from the Big 12, not two
SEC is about to welcome one superpower, not two
Exploring Big Ten's best expansion plans for building a superconference
Bender: How Big Ten can build best superconference
Bob Bowlsby's signature in cease-and-desist letter to ESPN gets Twitter's attention
Bob Bowlsby's signature in cease-and-desist letter to ESPN gets Twitter's attention
College football realignment updates: Latest news as Texas, Oklahoma reportedly leave Big 12
College football realignment updates
Scott Frost-092218-GETTY-FTR
With Scott Frost, Trev Alberts, maybe now is Nebraska's time to step up in Big Ten
Bender: Nebraska needs to step up in Big Ten