They built it in 2003. The Bank United Center, originally known as the Miami Convocation Center. Being a student at the time, I remember seeing the signs around campus that read "If we build it, U will come."
Yeah, they built it. Sure, students came. Miami tipped off their first game on January 4, 2003, a riveting overtime win against North Carolina. They upset #8 UConn at the buzzer there a few weeks later. Fun times seemed to be starting.
And the Convocation Center became host to world-class events and concerts, including the 2004 Presidential debate between President Bush and John Kerry. Kanye West, Green Day, and John Mayer were among musical groups that rocked the house.
But the venue never became a true home court advantage for UM throughout the first few years in the ACC, even though the Canes fought and scrapped for postseason play. They built it, but the students weren't coming out like they should have been for a small on-campus facility. Yes, there was the Miami home upset of Duke that ultimately sprung the Canes into the NCAA tournament in 2008. Beating Florida State last year at home proved to be an exciting atmosphere. Sprinkle in an exciting W over Maryland or NC State here or there.
But mainly, that promise remained unfulfilled through the years. If we build it, U will come. The chants of cheerleaders and the squeaking of basketball shoes was as common a sound as an opposing fan base applauding a big play by their team. The frequency of such occurrence varied by how important (and thus how many home fans came forth) the game was.
But it wasn't until yesterday that the BUC, the Canes hoopsters, and the Miami student body, finally came together and created an unforgettable atmosphere together that I'm sure the administration hoped they would see when the project was greenlit over a decade ago. Deafening. Electric. Crazy. And intimidating as hell.
Hordes of fans lined up outside the BUC, hoping just to get into the 1300-seat student section. Coach L brought them food. Dickie V took pictures with the excited Miami fans. (Now, I lined up early once in 2003, but that was just with a few dozen other folks to try to get front row seats to Carmelo Anthony and the 'Cuse.)
As the Canes put foot to ass in the first half on their 25-1 run to blow the game open, the crowd grew more and more raucous. With each Duke brick and Miami basket, the crowd exploded a little bit more. Through the TV, it sounded like the bleachers were about to break. Thunderous roars that rendered the vocal Dick Vitale almost inaudible at times. On the bench, Duke looked flat out broken and not wanting to be in the pressure cooker heating up around them. They might not have admitted to being intimidated, but their eyes, and their play, seemed to tell a different story.
The final horn sounded as a sea of orange rinsed a residue of blue off the floor, as the fans covered the BUC floor from baseline to baseline, holding up their roundball heroes in what was undoubtedly the biggest win in school history.
The players had given their best effort of the season, and the fans had created the most awe-inspiring, daunting basketball home-court atmosphere the school had seen in recent memory.....so it was only fitting that they took in the moment together.
The better sign is that the FSU game Sunday is already on the way to a sell out, so hopefully that momentum creates the same home-court advantage we saw last night. This team is exciting and fun to watch,and we've got a great home venue to watch them make a run at (I can't believe I'm saying this) an ACC Championship.
They built it. You came. Keep rocking the BUC, Cane fans.