Are the ‘Canes Doomed to Never Have a Home Field Advantage?
I had the opportunity to attend the University of Miami football home opener last weekend. Not so much entertaining, but the spirit of optimism is back, and the tailgates and stadium experience reflected it. Good times all around. It almost seemed that for one night, the endless cries of “God, this SUCKS compared to the Orange Bowl” were silenced, and everyone just enjoyed themselves.
But the jubilance will be short lived.
Sure, the team is looking better than it has in years, but the home field advantage the Hurricanes once enjoyed at the Orange Bowl is no more.
Even Thursday’s crowd of 45,000 made Land Shark Stadium look less than packed. The fact is that as long as the Canes continue to play their games at Joe Robbie/Pro Player/Dolphin/Land Shark Stadium, the words “Home Field Advantage” will rarely be mentioned.
IT’S HARD TO INTIMIDATE AT 100 YARDS AWAY
And it’s not like the Canes of old used to pack the Orange Bowl either. Even though that stadium was only a few miles from the UM campus, your average noon game against Rutgers rarely drew over 40,000. But even those spartan crowds made opponents wary of coming into the OB. The stands were just feet from the field, and the Little Havana location drew a contingency of fans who were less than friendly. But now with a half hour (without traffic) trek from Miami, even fewer fans are showing up.
So what the Hurricanes are left with is a perpetually-empty looking stadium with fans that are removed from the action. Not your ideal atmosphere for college football.
If you’ve ever been to a place like Penn State or Michigan or Tennessee, you know what I mean. 100,000-plus fans screaming their heads off, all right on top of the action, and all decked out in school colors. UM has never, or will ever, have that, But at least at the OB they had something. Now? It feels more like a mid-season Dolphins game against Kansas City.
ARE THERE ANY OPTIONS?
So what is UM to do? It’s not like the school can build an on-campus mega-stadium like some other schools have. Land in Coral Gables is far too expensive for that to happen, not to mention that most Coral Gablers wouldn’t exactly welcome 60,000 tailgaters with open arms. Tropical Park has been mentioned as a potential site for a UM stadium. But I don’t believe there’s even been as much as a County Commission study on the feasibility of the project.
Beyond that the Canes could always try and become co-tenants at the new Marlins stadium. After all, they play football games at the new Yankee Stadium and AT&T Park in San Francisco all the time. Just never during baseball season. Or maybe they could share FIU’s new stadium, which will hold about 45,000 fans when it is completed in 2013.
At least this way the stands would always appear packed.
Any other option would involve the school purchasing a sizable plot of land and building the stadium itself. While UM may have the money for such a project, do they really want to catch a whole world of flack from less athletically-minded donors for years to come?
This leaves the most successful sports team in South Florida over the past 25 years in a sad position. As it stands, one of the premiere college football programs in America is indefinitely playing its home games in a stadium that is too big for its average crowds, and a long drive in traffic away from its student body. I’m not sure whether or not this will ultimately be detrimental to the program, but only one other major program operates like this.
Ask yourself this – do we really want to end up like UCLA?
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