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What's the story with Miami's turnover chain?

Off The Ball
Off The Ball

20:24 17 Nov 2017

The decision by the NFL earlier this year to reinstate the post-touchdown celebration should have lead to a big increase in the amount fun talking points to focus on for fans. 

What prop had been used this week, how over-elaborate and pre-rehearsed can they get before we realise that actually the ban might not have been the worst thing in the world?  

Matters off-field have been drawing more attention than the return of whimsical celebrations, so it's over to college football to provide us with our "wtf" moment of the year: The Miami Turnover Chain. 

Alabama's championship belt has been moved to second place in the unnecessary taunting category as the Miami Hurricanes, famous for producing players such as Andre Johnson, Warren Sapp and Frank Gore, have raised the bar. 

The 10-karat gold chain measures 36-inches long, weighs 2.5-kilos and is studded with orange and green sapphires. Its purpose is simple; if you're the member of the defence that forces a turnover from the opposition, you get to wear the flashy piece of kit. 

Vince Wilfork, former Hurricane and New England Patriots star was apparently involved in the chain's creation, as he happened to be in the store when the team called to get it made up. He suggested that it should be a Cuban link chain, to add to the overall aesthetic. 

The idea behind it is fairly simple - incentivise the team to turn the ball over, and doing so in a way that encourages them to have the most fun possible. In particular, given that college athletes are not supposed to be paid, the love of the game and the joyous nature of the whole thing can get a little bit lost in the wall to wall television coverage and stadiums full of screaming fans. 

It has become a phenomenon, in particular on social media, where bemusement has turned to fascination. That in turn has fed in to traditional media, with one member of Miami's defence recently getting the title "turnover chain recipient" on a graphic with his name on ESPN.

It is the brainchild of defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, who admitted to Sports Illustrated that he was not sure whether the gimmick was going to work when he brought it in.

"It sort of puts blood in the water, and maybe it’s planting a seed in the other team’s minds," Diaz stated, and given that his team's defence looks to be on a bit of a roll, he might be right. 

The turnover chain has already become the target of ire for opponents, as Notre Dame defensive coordinator Mike Elko's foul-mouthed rant ahead of their game against Miami proved.

Miami won the game 41-8, forcing four turnovers. 

While the chain might be a flashy motivational tool, other colleges take a more rustic approach to it. Kennesaw State University, based in Georgia, have opted to go for a plank of wood with a smiley face drawn on it which serves broadly the same purpose. 

The chain does seem to have started off as something of a fun idea, but it has morphed into a tool of sporting psychology, for both Diaz's players and their opponents.

Speaking to the Sun Sentinel, he explained that it has had an added effect that seems to lead his team to getting bunches of turnovers in short succession.

"All week, it’s probably such a major point of emphasis for them to not the turn the ball over, they talk about how they’re not going to turn it over against us, and then all of a sudden, when a turnover occurs, they’re suffering a letdown as much as much as we’re benefiting from a boost by getting our first turnover of the game.

"It just feels like when a team turns the ball over the first time in a game, it gets better for us and worse for them from there."

Getting any psychological edge in a game can prove to be a huge difference, and given the form of the Hurricanes' defence so far this year, the over-the-top piece of jewellery looks to have caused a chain reaction for Diaz's side. 

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