As the Miami Hurricanes prepare to begin what could be their most successful season in a decade, one begins to imagine 75,000 screaming Hurricanes fans packing Sun Life Stadium every Saturday.
For the last thirty years, the Hurricanes have had the type of success on the football field that most teams only dream about.
Five national titles. Two Heisman trophy winners. Endless swagger.
Nevertheless, the Hurricanes have always been criticized for their fickle, front-running and apathetic fan base. Despite all the success on the field, the Hurricanes come nowhere near their in-state rivals, the Florida Gators and Florida State Seminoles, in terms of attendance. Compared to national rivals like the Alabama Crimson Tide, Michigan Wolverines and Penn State Nittany Lions, Miami’s crowds look like an independent wrestling show at the local VFW.
The iconic Orange Bowl played host to the Hurricanes for seventy years until the decision was made to tear it down and replace it with a new ballpark for the Miami Marlins. The Orange Bowl earned itself a place in Miami lore when the Hurricanes won 58 straight home games there in the 1980s. However, even during those salad days, the Hurricanes never averaged full capacity. The highest average attended year during that time was 69,539 — well below the 75,000 seat capacity of the Orange Bowl. Now, Miami plays home games in sterile, decrepit Sun Life Stadium, and attendance averages between 45,000 and 55,000 a game.
Why? Hurricanes fans have used lots of excuses for their lack of attendance at football games: the expensive parking and concessions, the early kickoffs, the lack of an on-campus stadium, the smaller alumni base compared to the state schools and the lack of recent success.
All of those are legitimate excuses to one degree or another, but Miami fans are still mocked for having a half-filled stadium against other ACC teams, while Florida packs 80,000 Gator fans in the Swamp against the likes of the Lousiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns.
I’m going to offer up one reason for why there are so few Canes fans in the seats on game day:
They play in Miami.
See, if you took the University of Florida out of Gainesville, Gainesville wouldn’t exist. There is simply nothing there except cows and snakes. Florida fans live for Gator football because there is nothing much else there. Tallahassee, while the capital of Florida, is about as exciting as watching old people eat.
There’s nothing to do in either of those small towns. Neither are near the beach. Neither are home to professional sports. Neither are cosmopolitan cities with a vibrant night life. The same can be said for Tuscaloosa, Happy Valley, and Ann Arbor. They’re pretty boring, except on Saturdays during the fall, or the occasional rager at the Delta house.
Conversely, the greater Miami area is home to sun, sand, superstars and South Beach. It is where America comes to party. The weather is warm, the people are beautiful and there is a myriad of things to do on any given day, any time of the year.
Moreover, Miami is home to four professional sports franchises: the Miami Dolphins, the Miami Heat, the Marlins, and the Florida Panthers. The choices for a discerning sports fan in Miami are far greater than in any of the aforementioned towns. You simply cannot compare the city of Miami and Hurricanes fans with any other college town or fan base.
I’ll leave you with one last statistic to ponder that sums up my point: of all FBS football programs located in a major city with four or more pro sports franchises, the Miami Hurricanes have the highest average attendance.