by Rob Joyce
Miami is basically back to being “The U”. Undefeated, ranked third in the nation and in prime position to compete for a national championship, one of college football’s premier program during the 1980s through the early 2000s is back with the big boys. And with Hurricanes football comes the swagger that helped define their program’s personality. This year it’s in the form of a gaudy piece of jewelry: the “turnover chain”.
Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz decided to create the piece – a thick gold chain with an even larger U logo dangling from it – to entice his defense to force more turnovers. When they do, the player responsible gets to wear it on the sideline. And it’s become a phenomenon, with shirts and make-shift chains popping up all over Hard Rock Stadium. But it’s hardly a revelatory gimmick. Here are other teams around sports that reward their players with goofy prizes:
Many children of the 1990s will understand why Kennesaw State’s “turnover plank” is great. With a face drawn on it like the Plank character from “Ed, Edd &Eddy”, a scout team wide receiver brought the piece of wood with him to practice everyday and it wound up on the sidelines during a November game. When safety Taylor Henkle picked off a pass he was handed Plank, showed it off to some fans, a picture went viral and the Turnover Plank was born.
New York Rangers:
For the last few seasons the Rangers’ best player after each win gets to wear the Broadway Hat in the locker room during postgame interviews. According to a Swedish paper New York was playing a preseason game in Sweden in 2011, where then-Ranger Brad Richards met a local model and was infatuated with her fedora. One hundred dollars later it was his and the legend was born, though after each season the hat is replaced with a new one.
NHL teams are quite fond of postgame prizes: the Penguins used to pass around a shovel, and last year had a rock, while the Panthers, Bruins, Stars, Blue Jackets, Blackhawks, Canucks and others all have had some variation over the decades.
There have been a lot of weird baseball props, especially at the college ranks. Consider in 2016 that Oklahoma had a rally baby (no, not a real baby) and their Bedlam rival Oklahoma State had a toy T. Rex they found on a sidewalk. But they can’t compare to Coastal Carolina’s Rafiki the Monkey. After being swept at Georgia Tech, the Chanticleers bought the furry fella at a truck stop for $20. After that they won 24 of the next 28 games, ending with a College World Series championship, the school’s first title in any sport.
Wrestling-style belts are a popular sideline prop. Alabama introduced the “Ball Out Belt” in 2015, while Colorado State, Boise State, Ole Miss and Memphis, among others, all have some form of belt readily available on their sidelines for players who have earned it.
Anything can be used as a motivational prop, apparently. Tennessee brought notice to it in Week 1, when a player forced a turnover and proceeded to dunk the ball into a trash can being held up on the sideline. SMU and Texas A&M have been spotted having a similar gimmick. It’s fitting, seeing as most football coaches have the personality of Oscar the Grouch.