A decade ago, the Miami Hurricanes football program was one that fell into shambles. Off-the-field issues, poor recruiting, and a lack of winning forced Larry Coker out of Coral Gables, and in 2007 Randy Shannon was tasked with leading the clean-up of the floundering Miami program. Unfortunately, the quality of performance on gameday only worsened in 2007. The Hurricanes finished 6-6 without a post season bowl trip, quarterback and skill position play continued to deteriorate, and the Canes slipped further into irrelevance. While 2007 was largely forgettable, it was the year that the Hurricanes family said goodbye to an icon than can never be forgotten, the Miami Orange Bowl.
Over its seventy years, the Orange Bowl stadium grew to eloquently epitomize and reflect the essence of the Hurricanes football program that it helped birth. From its commissioning in 1937, the Orange Bowl was home for the Canes, and it provided the locale and backdrop for some of the greatest moments in college football history. So much history was written in that stadium that it formed a palpable mystique that could paralyze visiting foes. Perhaps the power from an unseen aura or merely the stadium’s roots in Little Havana, the Orange Bowl became intertwined with the city of Miami’s exuberance and vivacity. Drawn from Miami’s diverse communities, it was the summation of Miami’s citizens and their underdog spirits that would lift the Hurricanes to victory time and time again. The Orange Bowl was a place to unite a troubled city where hard-working, humble peoples could stand together and root for the Hurricanes, a team in which they saw so much of themselves. The Canes were the city of Miami and vice-versa. To an outside observer, Miami was a place of chaos, violence, and poverty closely juxtaposed with opulence and wealth. Disparaging stereotypes were created which continue to this day, and any acceptance of Miami’s positive contributions or legitimacy were written off. However, to a true Miamian, the city was in fact Magic. Against all odds, a person regardless of background, heritage, or social status could work hard, seize the opportunities the city presented, and live his or her dream. Many people did so, and whether or not they forged success on a football field under the heat of the South Florida sun, their shared experiences and understanding would unite them as family. That is the city of Miami, that is the Miami Hurricanes, and that is to what the Orange Bowl provided witness.
As the success of the Hurricanes football program grew, so did the Orange Bowl. At its greatest, the stadium boomed with the voices of 80,000 fans, the West End Zone crew swayed field goal attempts wide-right, and the entire structure would rock back and forth on third downs. National titles were won, Heisman trophy winners were anointed, and the stadium did not allow defeat for nine consecutive years. Records were shattered, football legends were witnessed, and the greatest team of all time penned its story on the grass field of the Orange Bowl.
But in 2007, the magic show ended. The city gathered one last time to watch the Hurricanes appear through the smoke in the Orange Bowl. On that last night, the stadium and the team still mirrored each other as well as ever: falling apart, needing repair, lacking investment. In short, unrecognizable. It was a shameful ending to a partnership that deserved so much more. Miami Hurricanes fans may feel betrayed or disrespected that a seminal piece of their history was so easily demolished. Yet while the building no longer stands, its mystique carries on with the Hurricanes program, players, and fans. The feats and success achieved there by Miami and its football team cannot be forgotten; the influence carries on to this day. There is no way to duplicate what was the Orange Bowl or the events that took place there. Miami can only continue looking forward, as confident as ever with proof that dreams can become reality.