The 1989 Alabama squad finished the regular season with an 10–1 record, as conference co-champions. Following their loss against Auburn in the first ever Iron Bowl played at Jordan–Hare Stadium, university officials announced they accepted an invitation to play in the Sugar Bowl. The appearance marked the eleventh for Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and their 42nd overall bowl game appearance.
The 1989 Miami squad finished the regular season with an 10–1. Following their victory over Notre Dame, university officials announced they accepted an invitation to play in the Sugar Bowl. The appearance marked the second for Miami in the Sugar Bowl, and their sixteenth overall bowl game appearance.
Miami opened the scoring with a Stephen McGuire, 3-yard touchdown run to take an early 7–0 lead. In the second quarter, Alabama tied the game on a 4-yard Gary Hollingsworth touchdown pass to Marco Battle. On the next drive the Hurricanes retook the lead after Craig Erickson threw an eighteen-yard touchdown strike to Wesley Carroll. After the Carlos Huertaextra point was blocked by Thomas Rayam Miami led 13–7. The Tide cut the lead to 13–10 midway through the quarter on a 45-yard Philip Doyle field goal. The teams then traded touchdowns to end the quarter with Miami scoring on a three-yard Alex Johnson run and the Crimson Tide scoring on a four-yard touchdown pass from Gary Hollingsworth to Lamonde Russell to make the halftime score 20–17.
In the third quarter, the Hurricanes extended their lead on an eleven-yard Erickson touchdown pass to Rob Chudzinski and after a second missed extra point the score was 26–17 entering the final period. In the fourth, Miami scored again on a twelve-yard Randy Bethal touchdown reception from Erickson and Alabama scored the final points of the game after Prince Wimbley had a nine-yard touchdown reception from Gary Hollingsworth to make the final score 33–25.