When the Hurricanes announced their "Go to Fewer Games!" campaign before the season began, this is not what they meant. This past Saturday, the paid crowd of 41,519 for the Hurricanes' 41-20 win over Arkansas State looked like half that number in cavernous Sun Life Stadium, and it was a smaller crowd than that at any home game all last year. It's a disappointing trend for a team that once held arguably the greatest home-field advantage in college football.
OK, so Arkansas State isn't exactly a marquee matchup, but this week's game just emphasized a larger trend. The lack of support is puzzling on the surface. How could a fan base that was so in-your-face-vocal only a few years ago be so nonexistent today?
Many on the outside will take the easy route, labeling Hurricanes fans as "fair-weather," "bandwagon," or "frontrunners." But that's nonsense. There are real, uniquely local factors that add up to Sun Life Stadium's emptiness at Canes' home games.
As always, it is Miami we are talking about here, and for better or worse, some things just aren't the same as they are around the rest of the country.
Sun Life Stadium is 45 minutes from the University of Miami campus.
This is by far the most obvious and worst issue. The University of Miami is located in Coral Gables, yet the team plays at Sun Life Stadium, located in Miami Gardens -- that's not ideal. Though the University offers free shuttles to students looking to attend the game, the idea of taking a field trip just to go see the Canes destroy Arkansas State isn't exactly every 18-year-old's ideal Saturday morning. Students should be able to crawl out of bed, grab a beer, and head over to support their team. The Hurricanes are basically a program without a home they can call their own, which is exactly what a lease is at the end of the day.
It's Saturday afternoon in Miami. Do we really need to explain?
I went to Florida State, where the Saturday-morning options were either the FSU game or, well, the FSU game. Outside of some apartment complex pool filled with a thousand other college bros, or a sinkhole full of snakes and mystery, those are pretty much your choices in Tallahassee. Saturday mornings in Miami obviously offer more options for every type of Hurricanes fan, most of which don't include missing the game, just watching it where other people across America save their pennies to vacation once a year.
Chances are you didn't go to Miami, and your face looks like this on Saturdays.
It's no secret that the main problem with the Miami fan base is that it has all sorts of sleeper cells populated by other team's fan bases. The majority of kids growing up in South Florida don't end up going to Miami, so the "casual fan" (i.e., your girlfriend who never liked sports until she went to UF) is less likely to ride out to a Hurricanes game compared to most other schools. This is by far the most slept-on reason Canes games have attendance issues: They don't get as many nonsports fans at their games. It's not a place to be seen. It's not a place to go because your girlfriend is going and Tim might be there. It's a hot place where a football game is happening. At a lot of these schools, the action happening on the field is just background noise, kind of like a DJ at a club.
Everyone just got home at noon.
Most college towns close up shop at 2 a.m., but here in Miami, many kids are just going out then. Fact is, Miami isn't a college town, and most everyone has nothing to do until Monday. Yes, I know other people wake up hung over in other cities; I'm just saying people in Miami go harder and later than folks in those places. With a fan base that is so spread out all doing their own Friday-night ritual, it's harder to get everyone excited about waking up to go sit in the South Florida sun after a hard night out. Them just the facts -- Miami goes hard.
Sun Life Stadium is the plain oatmeal of stadiums.
It's not that it's bad, but it's just a place. Renovations and improvements are coming to sexy up the place, but right now, Sun Life is just a bore. The stadium was built to be multipurpose, so seats are set back farther than those in most stadiums, creating the feeling that you're just watching the game on the best TV set ever. It's not the worst; it's just far from the best place to watch a game. Totally missable, like for years at a time, because when you return, it will still be there, all orange and Sun Lifey (but probably with a different sponsor name). The new stadium in Dallas poops Sun Life Stadiums twice a day, three times if it has Mexican food.
Miami Hurricanes Parking Pass North Carolina Tar Heels 11/01/14: $25.00 End Date: Monday Sep... http://t.co/oTCUYAFc44— Blog Certified (@BlogCertified) September 16, 2014
Parking your car is the most expensive part of going to a Hurricanes game.
Before kickoff Saturday, you could buy a ticket to the Hurricanes-Arkansas State game for $3 online. Not included in that price was the opportunity to park your car for eight times that amount. In cities like Gainesville and Tallahassee, it's incredibly easy to walk out your front door and into the game. Here, you're basically asking some kids to choose three hours of car storage over grocery shopping. I mean, in college I gave blood for money when I was broke! Add gas into this equation and it's not hard to see why some younger people stay home.
Saturday, September 20, the Miami Hurricanes head to Lincoln, Nebraska, to face the #24 Cornhuskers. Kickoff on ESPN2 is set for 8 p.m..