No, Miami Hurricane Supporters Aren't "Bandwagon Fans"
Photo by Devin Peppler

No, Miami Hurricane Supporters Aren't "Bandwagon Fans"

The University of Miami Hurricanes are back on top of the college football world, and their return to dominance has, predictably, brought back the haters. A very wise man once said that with great power comes great responsibility. The responsibility that comes with kicking opponents' asses every Saturday is that Miami must once again play the role of college football's professional wrestling heel.

Cool. No problem. UM has always been an outsider in college football, so why change anything now? Stick to the script. That's fine. Canes fans are ready and willing to embrace the hate.

But there's one thing they should not accept: being labeled bandwagon fans. That label is totally unfair, and Hurricanes fans deserve better.

Just because Miami now draws 60,000 fans every Saturday to Hard Rock Stadium doesn't mean those same people weren't huge fans when the team routinely drew 25,000 fans during the Al Golden era. There's more to it than that. Canes fans have been through the ringer over the past 15 years. Facts matter. Tweets comparing attendance numbers don't matter.

An outsider with a 20-story-high view of the Hurricanes program might not understand why UM fans haven't exactly packed the house Saturday afternoons over the past decade. It's too easy to juxtapose the Canes' golden Orange Bowl days with some photos of UM players running through smoke with 10,000 people in the stands.

It's not that easy, though. To fully understand the circumstances, you need to take a closer look at what Canes fans have been through to get to this point.

First of all, one thing needs to be cleared up once and for all: South Florida fans aren't bandwagon fans; they just take being a fan a tad less seriously than most others. There are many reasons for this (we won't mention the beach or weather because that's just clichéd). If this rubs you the wrong way or you don't understand how it's possible to not live and die sports 24/7, well, Miami probably isn't the city for you. We do things differently here. Our priorities are our priorities. You do you. We'll do us.

People in Miami give sports teams the time and, more important, the money they deserve. If you're selling a great product, they are in the market to be buyers. If you consistently waste their time, they will find a different place to spend their money. Period. Respect is earned, not given.

When was the last time the Dolphins, Hurricanes, Heat, or, hell, even the Marlins didn't receive game-day support that at least equaled their play on the court or field? It doesn't happen. If you have a great product in Miami, it will sell out. If you don't, put it on eBay. We aren't interested.

Beyond Miami sports fans' DNA, Canes fans have had far more recent reasons to avoid going to games: NCAA probation and, more specific, Al Golden. No, the two aren't related. But now that we think about it, the entire Al Golden era could have been a setup.

Golden went 32-25 at Miami. For perspective, Miami lost only 29 games from 1991 to 2003. To say the Golden era was a shock to the system would be an understatement. Miami fans stuck it out through the Randy Shannon era and its 23 losses from 2007 to 2010, but probation and Golden's mediocrity were too much to stomach. Even the greatest fan base would have needed a break from all of that vanilla football.

Golden purposely neutered the Miami of three things it had always identified itself with: speed, swagger, and confidence. He brought in more players from New Jersey than he did from South Florida. But you know what? Thousands of Canes fans bought into it. They wore orange ties to games. They gave his style a chance. But the losses piled up, and so did the doubt.

Now that Mark Richt and the Hurricanes are back on track and playing a brand of football that is recognizable to Hurricanes fans, stadium attendance and TV ratings are reflecting the mood of the fan base. The Hurricanes are drawing bigger crowds and better ratings than the Dolphins. The market has corrected itself, just like it would in any other business.

The Hurricanes football team might be "back," but don't say the same about UM's fans. They never went anywhere. They were just patiently waiting to see something they recognized.

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