In college football’s era of endless sideline props, one has taken hold of our national consciousness more than any other: Miami’s turnover chain.
In 2017, the Hurricanes started putting a giant chain with their logo on any defensive player who came up with a takeaway. It was both extremely fun and extremely Miami, the perfect little tradition for a program known for flashiness.
The turnover chain is back for 2018, per Canes leadership.
Safety Jaquan Johnson said at the ACC’s media days in July that it was “definite” that the chain would return.
“Last year we really wanted to emphasize on finishing the game, and in close games we needed to win them,” he said. “That’s what we were able to do last year. I mean, the turnover chain itself is definitely like the 12th man. As soon as it comes out -- as soon as we get the turnover, it starts; you start to hear all the yelling and the shouting, but once the turnover chain goes on our neck. It’s like a whole ‘nother notch, like man.”
Receiver Ahmmon Richards said he wants the offense to get its own version of the chain.
Coach Mark Richt called the chain “the greatest thing since sliced bread. It’s really the greatest thing since the 10-bite sandwich, actually.”
The chain is cool while Miami is winning, and it might even help.
The Canes won their first 10 games in 2017, their best season since 2003.
Maybe the chain provided tons of extra motivation, or maybe Miami’s defense was just full of ballhawks, or maybe it was a mix of both, but the Canes forced lots of turnovers. They finished the year with 31, tied for third-most nationally and tops in the Power 5.
Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz to SB Nation’s Bill Connelly:
“The weird thing about the turnover chain, for sure, this is no doubt a reality ... when we hit our stride in October, into November, I think it hurt the other team more than it even helped us. Once it became a thing, and you knew that it was something that the other team was talking about during the course of the week: ‘We’re not gonna let ‘em get the chain out.’
That’s great. But the chain subjects Miami to some devastating roasts. Literally every team that beat the Canes in 2017 made fun of them for it.
The Canes were 10-0 and ranked No. 2 when they visited 4-7 Pitt for the last game of the regular season. Miami lost. Pitt’s Avonte Maddox wore a fan-made chain:
Pitt's Avonte Maddox with a turnover chain of his own. A fan handed it to him as he walked off the field after the game pic.twitter.com/oAwbO6YgKw— Craig Meyer (@CraigMeyerPG) November 24, 2017
Along the way, countless people made basically the same Photoshop:
The next week, Clemson weaponized the chain while trouncing Miami in the ACC Championship ...
... and then cut one in half in the locker room:
And Wisconsin took things to a whole new level while beating the Canes in their own building in the Orange Bowl. There was this repeat of Clemson’s move:
But things got ugly at the end:
Wisconsin player snaps the Turnover Chain ☠️ pic.twitter.com/11da8CkuLe— CFB Gif'er (@CFBgifer) December 31, 2017
More Turnover Chain, courtesy of Nick Nelson. pic.twitter.com/biFHpSZTuN— Matt Fortuna (@Matt_Fortuna) December 31, 2017
Even the coach participated:
"Turnover chain my f***in ass" - Paul Chryst pic.twitter.com/acd7wx3lxp— Born Salty (@cjzero) December 31, 2017
(Sure enough, LSU whipped out a turnover towel while destroying Miami in Week 1 of 2018.)
It’s not all bad. If teams try to use the chain against Miami and fail, its powers increase.
Before a game in Miami, a Notre Dame coach told a bunch of his players, “They can have the chain. We’re gettin’ the fucking rings!” Then the Irish gave up four turnovers and lost.
Others have embarrassed themselves trying to co-opt the chain:
smh The U needs to send a cease and desist to Oregon NOW pic.twitter.com/KwYe8MLzJc— Jack McGuire (@JackMacCFB) November 19, 2017
The case for getting rid of the chain is simple.
Whether within two years or twenty years, Miami will at some point face a 7-5 season or similar where the defense passes as average or worse. If Miami is mired in mediocrity, the same vigor cannot be expected from players and fans when an interception is made and the chain is unboxed. The truth is that at some point, people will say enough is enough. The cameras will stop panning to the turnover chain, the t-shirts will stop selling, and a once meaningful honor will become a joke.
But the case for keeping the chain alive is strong.
It’s fun and motivational.
“We definitely look forward to getting a turnover and then putting the chain on our neck,” Johnson said. “It motivates the team. It excites the crowd, and it bothers the other team.”
For now, the latter argument has won out.
Maybe that won’t hold forever, but for now, it gives Canes games some extra spice.