Miami Hurricanes Attendance: The Bottom Line

Those stands behind Henderson and Clements should be full.

It's no secret that for a long time, the Hurricanes have had the stigma of being a passionate but non-supportive fan base. Fans of the program hate to hear that, because they love their team. While understandable, sometimes it is necessary as a fan to step back, take an unbiased look at the situation, and realize that while there are plenty of excuses for why people don't show up, the real reason is you.

You know what to do.

The stadium is too far away. It's an NFL stadium. The Canes aren't playing anyone important. The team isn't good enough. I don't like what Mr. Coordinator is doing out there. This isn't how the team would have played in the 80's.

Sound familiar? The above is a short list of all of the most common excuses that "die hard" fans give when talking about why they don't go to the games. There are others that could be added to the list, most notably the time that the games are scheduled.Frankly, that's just a lazy opinion. Sure, a noon game helps out coaches in so much as it allows them to prepare more for an upcoming opponent, but what the hell does that have to do with the fans that show up? They aren't in the film room, they don't go to the meetings, and based off of previous year's attendance, they sure don't seem to be prepping for the next week.

The sad fact is is that the Miami Hurricane fan base, and Miami as a sports town in general, is as fair weather as they come. Look no further than the Marlins. Millions spent on a cavernous new ball park that is styled to reflect the cultural mixings of the town the team plays in, and it's packed with fans until they start to struggle. Then, attendance dips sharply, players get traded, the team falls back in the standings, and now the Braves fill Turner Field more than the Marlins fill their fancy new ballpark. The same goes for Miami, except their issues have been dragging on for almost 12 years now.

Let's start with the most overused excuse of all: I miss the Orange Bowl. SO DO I. We all do. The Orange Bowl was OURS, it was the embodiment of records, statistics, titles, and the Hurricanes of old. Guess what? When you look at the capacity of the OB compared to Sun Life Stadium, there's not much difference there. According to Wikipedia, here are the capacity numbers from the Orange Bowl starting in 1977 through 2007 (The Canes played there beginning in 1937, but we all know they weren't worth it until around 1980):

'77-'80: 80,010

'81-'90: 75,500

'91-'93: 74,712

'94-'02: 74,476

'03-'07: 72,319

Now, Wikipedia, as well as the Canes media guide, states that Sun Life Stadium seats 75,540 for football. As you can see, that is more seats available than every single year at the Orange Bowl outside of 1980. So that excuse that the crowds look smaller because the stadium was built for an NFL team holds absolutely no water. If you don't go to the games because of this excuse, you aren't going because you can't let go of the fact that the Orange Bowl is gone, and things aren't the same as they used to be. Just for fun, here are the announced attendance numbers straight from the media guide for 1980 to current:

YEAR G TOTAL AVERAGE

1980 5 120,007 24,001
1981 6 239,106 39,851
1982 6 180,602 30,100
1983 5 222,839 44,555
1984 5 247,852* 41,309
1985 5 225,353 45,070
1986 6 291,427 48,571
1987 7 377,444 53,920
1988 7 371,742 53,106
1989 6 309,805 51,634
1990 6 372,577 62,096
1991 6 347,785 57,964
1992 6 334,052 55,675
1993 6 287,319 47,887
1994 6 361,986 60,331
1995 6 229,223 38,204
1996 6 249,670 41,612
1997 6 173,495 28,916
1998 6 259,209 43,202
1999 6 235,578 39,263
2000 6 350,578 58,430
2001 6 282,972 46,162
2002 6 417,233 69,539
2003 7 406,945 58,135
2004 6 354,803 59,134
2005 6 271,862 45,310
2006 7 293,359 41,908
2007 7 305,124 43,589
2008 6 277,792 46,299
2009 6 285,306 47,551
2010 6 309,056 51,509
2011 7 393,451 56,207
*Includes home game against Florida in Tampa Stadium

What you are seeing there is about an average of 6 home games a season, and the average announced attendance each year is almost always 30 thousand people below maximum capacity. These attendance numbers reflect the number of tickets sold, not the number of assess in seats when the ball is kicked, so you can realistically assume that a lot of these numbers are higher than actual attendance. That is incredibly sad. Even during the heyday of Miami football, and the 2001 and 2002 seasons when the team fielded arguably the best if not the best team in college football history, the numbers were well below what they should be, so don't try and feed me that mess about you missing the 80's and wanting this team to bring the old swagger back. Kindly stop using that phrase, BTW, it's dated and no longer applies.

If it's not the Orange Bowl or the way the team used to play, then it's people saying they don't want to travel to see a home game. This is a bit more understandable. Obviously, there are going to be people who physically cannot travel to the stadium, or can't afford the gas as well as the parking, tickets, etc. If that applies to you, then feel free to skip this part of the article. If not, if you are able to afford a ticket (They were selling for as little as $5 this past weekend, by the way) as well as the gas and parking to get to the stadium, but you complain about having to do so, listen up. The distance from campus to Sun Life stadium is roughly 25 miles. Let's use this as a point of reference. If you were to use Sun Life Stadium as a center point and you drew a line straight to campus, then drew a circle extending out those 25 miles around your center point of SLS, you're hitting a fairly large population. Obviously this will not include the majority of Canes fans, but I would be willing to bet that that circle will cover more than 75,000 people (a quick Google search shows that as of July 2011, Coral Gables alone held over 47,000 people). Students at UM don't have much of an excuse. The school provides buses to and from the stadium, so you don't have to worry so much about gas. Is this system perfect? No. But the school is working on it, and it still exists, so why not make use of it? As far as those that aren't students, you're telling me that you can travel 25 miles each way, 50 miles round trip, 6 times a year to see your favorite team play football? That's a total of 300 miles a season. The Federal Highway Administration says that as of April of 2011, people between the ages of 20 and 54 drive an average of 15 thousand miles a year normally. That's about 1250 miles per month. This includes you, Guy Who Doesn't Feel Like Driving 50 Miles. What this tells you is that you are going to drive those miles regardless, so why don't you do something fun with them?

As far as blaming the coaches or the team for you not showing up. Come the hell on. Really? You're going to douse yourself in Miami apparel every day you can and then you're going to turn around and say that you don't want to go watch a game because the defensive coordinator doesn't coach like the guys used to in the 80's? Or the offense isn't as flashy as it was in 2001? If those are legitimately your reasons for not supporting the team, then kindly burn the Canes stuff that you have, because you aren't a true fan. That means you're a fan of The U documentary, a fan of guys dancing after a sack, or running into the tunnel after a touchdown. While that is all fine and dandy, and you are more than welcome to be a fan of that if you want, the bottom line is that those days are never coming back. The landscape of the game has changed, and fans have to change with it.

Here's where I am probably going to say some things that people wont like, but they need to be said. The main thing that annoys the hell out of me is when pundits from other teams will sit there and talk about how Miami is terrible, that they aren't a top tier team anymore, but then they turn around and say things like "Could Miami turn out to be a cupcake for KSU seeing that North Texas is putting up a fight?" Pick a damn side. That's talking out of both sides of your mouth, and it's not only lazy, but it makes you sound stupid. The fact is is that Miami is still a viable BRAND, but that is very different from being a viable football team. We are not a top tier team right now, and we haven't been for a long time. Fans expecting every year to be "that year" where things magically turn around and all of a sudden Billy Corben is doing a documentary again are expecting way too much out of way too little. Randy Shannon was a terrible hire, and while he did a lot of good for the image of Miami football, he did a lot of bad for the football itself. Al Golden was brought in not to quick fire the team into a perennial contender, but to establish a strong foundation and build up from there. He was brought in to gut the program and build it back into one that would be able to be a top tier team every year. This takes time, and fans are just going to have to settle in for the long run and expect us to take our lumps along the way. That's the state of the program right now, get used to it.

You know what helps, though? You know what get's kids excited to play for Miami? Fans being at the games to watch them, to cheer them on, regardless of the outcome of the game. In the offseason I saw so many of you brimming with excitement about kids like Duke Johnson, Tracy Howard, Malcolm Lewis, yet you don't want to go watch them play?

Make all the excuses that you want, fans and media people. The fact is is that attendance around Coral Gables isn't going to change until this team starts winning, because that's the type of town Miami is, and that's fine. Every team has its cadre of fair weather fans. But to those fans of Miami who are tried and true, who support the team regardless of game outcome, or coaching performance, or player performance, show up. Take the time out of your day to go to a game or two. If you buy a ticket, use it. Don't just show up for the tailgate so you can maybe get on local TV or in a picture as a "Canes fan". If I ask on twitter where you are for the game and your answer is "the parking lot", you are doing it wrong.

I know that I may be making some pretty big assumptions here about a lot of fans, and that there will be exceptions to every rule. However, I've been following this team for more than 13 years now, and the large majority of fans fall into this article's reach. Time to man and woman up, people.

It isn't your team until you struggle with them. You aren't a fan until you feel the pain of a loss and still show up next week. Stop making excuses.

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