MIAMI — MIAMI -- It's unfair, and it's life. Miami's Hurricanes are still paying for all that "fun" in the Cotton Bowl two years ago.
How else to explain the refusal of Associated Press pollsters to return Miami to No. 1 despite successive victories over No. 3 Florida State and No. 7 Penn State?
How else to explain Miami's infinitesimally small margin over Washington in CNN/USA Today?
Malcolm Moran of the New York Times perfectly described what Miami did successively against FSU and Penn State. Moran called it "one of the most remarkable achievements in the recent history of college football."
This, then, is the harsh fact of The Miami Poll Matter.
Many, if not most, participants in both polls believe Miami has been insufficiently penalized for its behavior in the 46-3 rout of Texas, Jan. 1, 1991.
So they keep on punishing the Hurricanes.
That's wrong. That's unreasonable. But the pollsters are human, and they have long memories.
The Hurricanes have changed. If they aren't all Little Lord Fauntleroys, they are no longer any more hot doggish than most college teams. Few touchdowns are scored anywhere on the globe without some sort of choreographic accompaniment. I remember O.J. Anderson doing the funky chicken in opponents' end zones 15 years ago.
One shouldn't have to keep repeating that Dennis Erickson has reversed the awful Hurricane behavioral act he inherited. After Saturday's 17-14 victory at Penn State, he seemed most proud that Miami was penalized only twice -- although the day's Hurricane captains refused to shake hands with Penn State's before the game.
He talked about "class," which is the hypothetical opposite of what Miami showed in that Cotton Bowl.
A season and a half has passed. Obviously, pollsters are going to need more time to give Miami a square deal. Obviously, more boll weevils came out of that Cotton Bowl than any Hurricane dreamt.
It wasn't enough that officials docked the Hurricanes 202 yards on 16 penalties. It was too much when Randal Hill ran all the way up into a ramp with a touchdown ball, and the Hurricanes generally behaved like louts.
If AP and CNN/USA Today pollsters were college students, this Miami team would be so far out front you couldn't see them with a Mount Palomar telescope.
They are not college students. They are older, much more conservative people who grew up in the belief that sportsmanship still exists.
That is why that Cotton Bowl image will not go away.
So, it isn't fair, especially to Hurricanes who weren't even playing on what college football still regards as The Longest Day.
It isn't fair, but it is realistic, and there is one way for the Hurricanes to beat this rap. They can keep playing their fannies off. And they can keep a lid on it.
It's all right to turn a nation's dislike into an emotional tool -- as long as you don't keep fueling the dislike.
That would be worse than unfair. That would be stupid. The one thing Miami doesn't need is as much stupidity on its part as we are already seeing on the part of the pollsters.