As the anti-Golden-D'Onofrio outcry continues to build, I can't help but think that the Hurricanes' football program's problems are even bigger than just over-tired players and passive defensive schemes. While the on-field product is ultimately what sells, to both recruits and the fan base alike, I'd like to think that first impressions made upon both would further elevate the program.
According to the official box score from the late September ‘Canes victory over Duke at Sun Life Stadium, paid attendance was 44,559. As one of those in attendance, I would argue that many of the 44,559 got lost on their way to Don Shula Drive. And don't think that potential recruits miss that image when sitting at home watching Miami games on ESPN.
FYI, a week later against Cincy, things were arguably worse!
Miami-Cincinnati at kickoff. pic.twitter.com/YNVKe1s1fe— Matt Porter (@mattyports) October 11, 2014
Despite the enthusiastic support of fans who do show up at Miami Hurricanes games, Sun Life Stadium provides anything but a home-field advantage when the opponent isn't Florida or Florida State. Even then, there's more than a handful of Gators and ‘Noles fans in the building.
The players-- and yes, even the coaches-- deserve the benefits that having a home-field advantage provide. As vocal as the student body and other fans are now, imagine how much louder they'd be if they weren't sitting in a cavernous, mostly-empty stadium. Our ‘Canes deserve a 12th man too!
Sun Life Stadium seats 75,540. The undergraduate enrollment at the U is about 10,000. Sun Life Stadium sits 17 miles from campus in Coral Gables. While that may make for a great SAT question, it doesn't make for an ideal situation for a major college football program. Actually, it's 17 miles from ideal, but since an on-campus stadium will never be a feasible option, the powers-that-be should at least explore better ones.
And several students seems to agree. Out of 62 students surveyed, only 10 said that they believe Sun Life is an acceptable stadium to host UM's football games. That's 52 unsatisfied students, out of just a handful of the student body, who would rather cheer on the 'Canes from an environment that feels more like that of a major college football program.
"I don't like that I have to go on a bus for 30 minutes to an hour because it takes up the entire day, and it discourages students who aren't interested in football from going in the first place," UM student Rachel Cox-Rosen expressed to me.
Nicole Egorov, another dissatisfied UM student, addressed the issue of the empty seats. "We're lucky if we can even get half of our student-base to come, so how are we supposed to fill up the other 70,000 seats?"
Twenty-four FBS teams currently play their home games at off-campus stadiums, but none has to travel farther to get to their games than the U. While a perfect solution doesn't exist, a far more appealing one may thanks to soccer icon David Beckham.
When Beckham was in Miami earlier this year to announce he was bringing a Major League Soccer expansion franchise to town later this decade, he and his monied partners made it clear that building a new stadium was part of their master plan. It was then speculated that the MLS team could invite the Miami Hurricanes to share the facility, an idea that I think is very attractive.
While Beckham's dream site adjacent to American Airlines Arena was rejected, there's talk of his group being invited to build a 20,000 seat stadium on the site of the partially-demolished Miami Herald building on Biscayne Bay as part of the planned Resorts World Miami complex.
For those of you doing the math at home, Resorts World Miami is being built just 8.8 miles from the U's Coral Gables campus, cutting the dreaded game day commute in half and undoubtedly creating easier access as well. In addition, calling a state-of-the-art, 20,000 seat venue home would go a long way towards creating a real home-field advantage, while also giving the ‘Canes coaching staff a new gem to sell to recruits.
20,000 seats not nearly enough for the UF or FSU games? Fine. That's a valid point. Play those games at Sun Life Stadium or even Marlins Park, either of which would be easy to fill against interstate rivals from up north. For the rest of the home schedule though, it's back to ‘Beckham Stadium's' intimate setting, where ‘Canes fans can be seen and heard in full voice and where ‘Canes players and coaches can finally utter those elusive words, "Home Sweet Home!"