Building a Foundation (1973-78)
Miami’s basketball heritage began with the 1972-73 season and consisted of a team with no scholarship athletes and no indoor facilities with which to play. It is rumored that during the early years one game was actually rained out.
The Schimer Years
Miami’s first women’s basketball game took place January 9, 1973 as the Hurricanes, and first-year head coach Barry Schimer, lost 37-21 to Miami-Dade North. Miami would bounce back and record its first victory three days later, a 36-26 win over Broward Central on January 12, 1973.
In 1974-75, Schimer led the Hurricanes to an 8-6 record, their second consecutive winning season. Miami also won its first two games ever at the Florida AIAW State Championships defeating Florida A&M, 59-38, and Florida Tech, 53-32 that season.
Miami moved indoors to the William Lane Campus Sports and Recreation Center in 1975-76. The William A. Lane Center was made possible by a voluntary increase in the Student Activity Fee and a grant of $1.2 million dollars from the Dunspaugh-Dalton Foundation. The structure was named in the memory of William A. Lane, Sr., a long-time Miami attorney, the first president of the Foundation and staunch supporter of UM.
In 1975-76, Shula Feuer took over as head coach of the Hurricanes. After losing their 1975-76 season-opener, Miami exploded for 100 points in a 100-20 win over Homestead Airforce Base the next time out. Miami finished at 7-13 that season and, after a 9-11 record the next year, Feuer stepped down as head coach of the Hurricanes. The 1977-78 team went 8-8 under the guidance of 26-year old coach Yvette McKinney.
A True Baller
In 1977-88, Miami was led by Wendy Foote, Miami’s first 1,000-point scorer, who averaged a school-record 25.2 points per game as a senior. In the summer of 1979, Foote became the first University of Miami basketball player since Rick Barry to sign a professional contract when she signed to play with New Orleans Pride of the Women’s Professional Basketball League.
Dunn Puts UM in Position (1978-1988)
In 1978, the university made a move that would forever change women’s basketball at Miami. That year, UM hired Lin Dunn as UM’s fourth-ever head coach. Dunn, who left the University of Mississippi to come to Coral Gables, was also named an Assistant Director of Athletics upon her arrival. Dunn would coach the Hurricanes for nine seasons racking up 149 wins and leading Miami to six consecutive winning seasons, two 20-win seasons, one Florida AIAW State Championship and two berths in the AIAW Region III Tournament.
Following a 10-13 season in 1978-79, Dunn upgraded the Hurricanes schedule, taking on national powers Oral Roberts, Kansas and Alabama. The 1979-80 season also marked the first time that women’s basketball was given scholarships (seven) as Dunn finished her second season with an 18- 16 record. Miami gained three additional scholarships for the 1980-81 season, raising the number of scholarship athletes to ten.
Led by Sylvia Wilson, Dottie Richardson and Robin Harmony, the Hurricanes went on a successful 1980-81 campaign, recording the first 20-win season in school history after going 24-15. The Hurricanes also went on to win the school’s first Florida AIAW State Championship and earned a trip to the AIAW Region III Tournament.
The start of the 1981-82 season marked another first for the basketball program as it had a full complement of 12 scholarships. With the added scholarships, the Hurricanes continued their tremendous success under Dunn recording a 19-10 record and earning its second-consecutive berth to the AIAW Region III Championships.
One cannot talk about Canes greats without the mention of Sylvia Wilson, who played for the Canes from 1979-82. In just three seasons with Miami, Wilson totaled 1,713 points and 1,115 rebounds, one of two UM players to surpass the 1,000-mark in both points and rebounds. To this day, Wilson remains the record-holder for career rebounds (1,115) and career blocked shots (198).
Ups and Downs
The Canes saw several highs and lows over the next few years, under the direction of Dunn. In 1983-84, Dunn won her 100th game at the helm of the Canes. The following season, she tallied her second 20-win season, becoming the first UM coach to record two 20-win seasons.
Knight Sports Complex
The 1985-86 season saw the resurrection of men’s basketball at Miami and the completion of the Knight Sports Complex on the Coral Gables campus. Dedicated on November 12, 1985, the new building was made possible through a gift from the James L. Knight Charitable Trust. The facility was built to house the offices for the men’s basketball staff, while also serving as a home court for Hurricane women’s basketball games.
During the late 1980s, there was a beacon of hope for the Canes in the form of All-America candidate, Maria Rivera. Active from 1984-88, Rivera averaged 20-plus points in her sophomore, junior and senior seasons, and started all 112 games played for the Canes. Rivera finished her time at Miami as the then all-time scorer in program history with 2,358 career points. To this day, she is the Miami record holder for field goals made (891) and was the first women’s basketball player to have her jersey (No. 11) retired.
Changing of the Guard
On March 9, 1987, Dunn would coach in her final game at Miami as the Hurricanes defeated Florida Atlantic, 59-43. Dunn left Miami to take over the head coaching duties at Purdue, finishing her tenure with a 149-119 record. With Dunn’s departure, assistant coach Ken Patrick took over as interim head coach for the 1987-88 season. Under Patrick’s guidance, the Hurricanes went 14-13, once again taking on some of the best teams in the nation, including a 75-69 upset win at perennial power North Carolina.
The Labati Era Reigns (1988-2005)
Ferne Labati was appointed the University of Miami’s head women’s basketball coach on March 30, 1988 and immediately made an impact on the UM program. Labati coached the Canes for 17 seasons and left UM as the all-time winningest coach with a 303-195 record. She helped Miami to nine postseason appearances and six 20-win seasons.
In her first five seasons at the helm of the Canes, Labati coached UM to five consecutive 20-wins seasons, posting a 120-33 mark in those five campaigns. The Canes made their first trip to the NCAA Tournament in 1988-89, falling to Oklahoma State, 93-69, in a first round-game.
In 1989-90, the Canes finished with a 25-6 record, marking the first time in school history that women’s basketball team recorded back-to-back 20-win campaigns. Miami participated in its first National Women’s Invitational Tournament that season, winning its first ever postseason game with an 85-83 victory over Illinois State.
A New Conference
After playing as independents since 1972, Labati and the Hurricanes would play as members of the New South Women’s Athletic Conference in 1990-91. The Hurricanes posted their third consecutive 20-win season finishing with a 20-10 record including a 9-3 record in NSWAC play. The Hurricanes would also go on to win the conference tournament that season.
The Dream Season
The Hurricanes became the 10th member of the BIG EAST Conference and began league play in 1991-92—their “Dream Season”. Although Miami’s season started and ended with a loss, the Hurricanes put together 30-straight wins in between—going undefeated (18-0) in conference play for the first time in BIG EAST history, winning the BIG EAST Tournament and advancing to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament to finish with a top-10 national ranking.
UM’s season-opening 71-69 overtime loss to FSU on November 23, 1991 would mark the Hurricanes last loss prior to the start of the 30-game win streak that would span 124 total days. During those 124 days, the Canes entered the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time since 1985, celebrated five seniors in front of a record crowd at the Knight Sports Complex and closed out the regular season undefeated in the BIG EAST, the first undefeated season in BIG EAST history. Following the Canes only Sweet 16 appearance in program history, UM moved up to No. 6 in the national polls and Savage was named Women’s Basketball Player of the Year by Sports Illustrated. The BIG EAST would go on to recognize Savage as BIG EAST Player of the Year, Labati as the league’s Coach of the Year and Vicki Plowden and Savage as All-BIG EAST First Team picks. Labati was also heralded as the Kodak/WBCA National Coach of the Year.
From 1988-92, one of the best players to ever don a Miami uniform dominated the court and helped the Canes soar to new heights. Over those four years, Frances Savage etched her name throughout the UM record books. She remains the all-time scorer in Miami program history, averaging 23.2 points per game in her career.
Savage picked up countless accolades during her time as a Cane, including a pair of All-America honors, 1992 EIBG EAST Player of the Year and 1992 BIG EAST Most Improved Player. She has since been inducted into the UM Sports Hall of Fame and was recognized as an ACC Women’s Basketball Legend in 2005.
The BIG EAST
The Hurricanes followed up that “Dream Season” with another BIG EAST title in 1992-93 and, with its school-record fifth-straight 20-win season, the team advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Under Labati’s leadership, the Hurricanes would make three more NCAA Tournament appearances and advance to the WNIT twice. In 13 years in the BIG EAST, the Canes compiled a 224-155 record, but never got back to the top of the conference. However, Miami continued to produce exceptional talent on the basketball court, with players earning numerous conference awards including Player of the Year (Frances Savage, 1992), Defensive Player of the Year (Meghan Saake, 2002), Freshman of th Year (Holly Rilinger, 1992) and Most Improved Player (Frances Savage, 1992 & Kym Hope, 1998).
Home Sweet Home
The Hurricanes moved into a new home playing in the Convocation Center – a $48 million dollar, three-story, 7,000 seat, 200,000 square foot facility – on January 15, 2003.
Another rising star for the Canes in the 1990s was Deerfield Beach, Fla., native Octavia Blue. During her time in a Miami uniform, Blue was a four-time All-BIG EAST honoree in addition to being named a 1998 Kodak/WBCA All-America Honorable Mention. In 1997-98, Blue shot .453 percent (24-of-53) from 3-point range, which still ranks first in program history for single-season 3-point field goal percentage. Following the 1998 season, Blue became the first UM player to ever be drafted in the WNBA’s annual draft as she was selected in the second round, 15th overall, by the Los Angeles Sparks.
Tamara James, the all-time leading scorer in Canes’ women’s basketball history, burst onto the basketball scene in 2002, becoming the face of the Hurricanes. In her freshman season, James led the BIG EAST in scoring (21.0) and was the highest scoring freshman in the nation (10th overall), earning All-BIG EAST second team and freshman team honors. James once again headlined UM’s season in 2004-05, leading the ACC in scoring with 22.3 points per game to become just the second player in NCAA history to lead two major conferences in scoring.
A four-time All-American, James finished her career with a program-best 2,406 points and a program-best 520 free throws made. Upon graduation, James became the second Cane drafted into the WNBA after the Washington Mystics selected her eighth overall in the 2006 draft.
Joins the ACC
After a 13-year run as members of the BIG EAST, the University of Miami officially became members of the tradition-rich Atlantic Coast Conference on July 1, 2004. Joining UM’s move would be fellow BIG EAST departee, Virginia Tech, which would expand the already dominant conference into a new 11- team league.
UM’s 2004-05 inaugural season in the ACC would prove to be a difficult one as the Hurricanes posted their first losing season in four years with an overall mark of 13-16. Miami put together a ninth-place 4-10 finish in what would be considered the strongest conference in the country as eight of 11 ACC teams qualified for postseason play.
Meier Means Business (2005-present)
The 2005-06 season would mark the beginning of the newest era in Miami women’s basketball as Katie Meier took over the reins of the program. In her 15 seasons leading the Canes, Meier has amassed nine 20-win seasons and coached the team to 11 postseason appearances, including 10 straight from 2009-2019. Meier is the all-time winningest head coach of Miami women’s basketball by percentage (.617).
Starting Something New
In her first season at UM, Meier coached the Canes to a 17-13 record and a WNIT Second Round appearance. The following three seasons were rebuilding years, highlighted by the No. 21-ranked incoming recruiting class in 2008-09, which included future All-Americans Shenise Johnson and Riquna Williams.
The 2009-10 season marked the first 20-win season under Meier as the Canes soared to a 22-14 record, storming their way through the WNIT until falling in the Championship game. That season also marked the start of Miami’s 10 consecutive postseason appearances.
Bay Bay and Moe Moe
Miami went on to compile a 54-11 record over the next two seasons, thanks in large part to All-Americans Shenise Johnson (Moe Moe) and Riquna Williams (Bay Bay).
Johnson finished her career as one of just two players to reach 1,000 career points and 1,000 career rebounds as a Cane and ranked first in program history in career steals (401), career starts (131) and career games played (131). Williams etched her name into the record books as one of Miami’s most prolific 3-point threats, sitting first in both career 3-pointers made (272) and career 3-pointers attempted (839).
The duo made waves at the 2012 WNBA draft as both Johnson and Williams were selected by San Antonio and Tulsa, respectively. It marked the first time in program history that two Canes were drafted in the same year. Johnson was also the highest Cane ever drafted, going fifth overall in the 2012 draft.
The 2010-11 Canes ascended to new heights, earning a share of the regular season championship after finish with a 12-2 record in the ACC (along with Duke). Miami earned a first-round bye in the ACC Tournament before besting #10 NC State, 93-85, in the quarterfinals. The Canes came up short in the Semifinals, 83-57, to #6 North Carolina.
Home Sweet Home
For more than two seasons (Feb. 28, 2010 to Nov. 9, 2012), the Canes boasted a perfect record at home. Miami’s 41-game home winning streak marked a new recording program history for consecutive home victories. That streak included two seasons with a perfect home record (20-0 in 2010-11, 16-0 in 2011-12). At home in the 2010s, Miami recorded a 146-34 (.811) overall record and defeated 20 AP top-25 opponents. One of the most memorable victories at home during the decade came on Feb. 28, 2013, when Miami defeated No. 5/4 Duke for the first time in program history. It was the Canes’ highest victory over a ranked opponent at the time, and was particularly special Meier as she was a standout at Duke in the late 80s.
NCAA Tournament Regulars
During the Katie Meier era, Miami women’s basketball and the NCAA Tournament became synonymous as the Canes have made eight NCAA Tournaments in the last 10 years. Miami participated in five straight NCAA Tournaments from 2014-2019 and hosted the first and second rounds twice (2017, 2019).
In 2015-16 and 2016-17, Miami posted back-to-back 24-9 seasons, anchored by star guard Adrienne Motley. The No. 27th recruit in the nation heading into college, Motley made her presence known immediately, securing a spot on the ACC All-Freshman Team after averaging a team-leading 11.1 points per game. Over the next three years, Motely earned a spot on the All-ACC Team each season and was tabbed a WBCA All-America Honorable Mention in 2015-16. On April 13, 2017, Motely became the fifth Cane drafted in the WNBA after being selected by the Indiana Fever 32nd overall.
10 Days in February
The date is Feb. 7, 2019. The Miami Hurricanes are 19-5 and ranked No. 25 in the nation according to the AP and the USA TODAY Coaches Poll. No. 4/4 Notre Dame is coming to town and has won 19 out of the 23 meetings with the Canes. In front of a crowd of almost 2,000, the Canes battled the Fighting Irish for 40 minutes in a game that featured six ties and 14 lead changes. Led by a 21-point effort by Emese Hof, Miami came out on top, 72-65, handing Notre Dame just its third loss of the season. With the win, the Canes eclipsed the 20-win mark for the ninth time in the decade.
Just 10 days later, Miami traveled to Louisville to take on the No. 2/2 Cardinals at the KFC Yum! Center. Battling a home-court advantage in excess 12,000, the Canes shot 55 percent from the field to take down the home team, 79-73. The win over Louisville marked the first time in program history that the Canes defeated a top-three opponent.
With a 22-5 record and a pair of wins over top-five teams, Miami jumped up to No. 14 in both the AP top-25 and the USA TODAY Coaches Poll. Not only did the Canes best a pair of top-five opponents in the span of 10 days, but they also defeated two top-five teams for the first time in program history.
A Perfect 10
Throughout the 2010s, Miami quickly became synonymous with elite ACC basketball. The Canes consistently ranked in the top-five among ACC teams and the top-25 nationally, posting nine 20-win seasons during the decade. However, the most notable overall statistic for the Canes are the 10 straight postseason appearances by Miami. For 10 straight years, the Hurricanes have found themselves battling through the postseason against some of the best competition in the nation.
Eight of those 10 postseason appearances have been in the NCAA Tournament, with two of the NCAA Tournament weekends coming at home in Coral Gables, Fla. Miami began the decade with a WNIT Finals appearance and ended the decade hosting the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament.
The Canes’ postseason streak remains intact through the 2019-20 season as the 2020 postseason was cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Though she spent just two seasons with the Canes, Beatrice Mompremier had a lasting impact on Miami. Over her two years in a UM uniform, Mompremier averaged 16.7 points and 11.4 rebounds, marks that place her in 10th and 1st in Miami program history in career scoring and career rebounding, respectively. Mompremier was a two-time AP and WBCA All-America Honorable Mention and was the ACC Preseason Player of the Year in 2019-20, a feat she quite possibly could have accomplished had she not missed 13 games due to an acute foot injury.
The Miami native closed out her two-year career with an invitation to the 2020 WNBA Draft. She became the sixth Cane selected into the league, getting drafted 20th overall by the Los Angeles Sparks.