With each step Trajan Bandy took towards the Irish end zone, the fever pitch inside Hard Rock Stadium ratcheted up a notch. As he crossed the goal line and crashed into the waiting arms of the field-level fans in the back of the end zone, it hit me just how special the moment was.
Ok, well, maybe not in that EXACT moment. We were tackling each other, hugging and high fiving strangers, and screaming like we’d just discovered Forrest Fenn’s million-dollar treasure in the Rocky Mountains.
Right after that moment, it began to set in. Looking around at the far recesses of the Rock, in which there was a butt in every single bucket in the joint, I realized like many that something special was taking place right before our eyes. Something I thought never was going to happen after the 2007 season.
Miami had a new home.
Not a stadium. A new home. A home field advantage. A place that is not only intimidating for opposing players and fans, but also is as galvanizing for the home fans and players as well. A place where special, generational moments happen that we remember for years. A place where opposing fans go back and say, “holy crap, that was a freaking madhouse.”
And, to me, that’s what a home is in the context of football. The unforgettable moments. That’s a big part of what made the Orange Bowl what it is to all of us Canes fans today.
I have written to the University of Miami once, and that was to beg the UM brain trust not to abandon the Orange Bowl. To fight for it. To do whatever they could and exert whatever influence they had in saving the old girl and giving her a facelift. I thought that stadiums made programs. I thought tradition and history, while it makes college football great, defined the sport more than it actually does.
So, I was disgusted when the decision came down to move the Canes north into Joe Robbie/Landshark/SunLife/This-Name-Space-For-Rent Stadium. It was a logistical nightmare to get the students and south Dade Cane supporters up to the games. The Canes would again be sharing a stadium with the Dolphins, whereas the O.B. had become the Canes’ home since the 1980’s. The Canes were leaving the place of the unmatched 58-game home winning streak. The list went on. Everything that everyone has repeated ad nauseum countless times before.
And my fears were correct, and least for a while. It never gained the traction that I’m sure the administration had hoped for. Of course, let’s be serious. Miami is a city that supports a winner. Always has been and always will be. The Randy Shannon and Al Golden days did nothing to motivate fans from Palm Beach, Broward, and South Dade to spend a gorgeous Saturday going to see Miami take on Wake Forest at noon on ESPNU.
But winning breeds excitement, and Mark Richt has done that more recently than we’ve seen in a long time. He’s a proven coach with a track record of success at the highest level of the sport, who was here during the time when the Orange Bowl changed from the home of Sun Tan U to a house of horrors for opponents.
But was Richt’s arrival the turning point for Hard Rock Stadium’s metamorphosis into a home field advantage?
I was having a Twitter discussion with a Cane fan about when Hard Rock Stadium became a home. He said it was when Richt took over the program and the Canes had their first game at the Rock on his watch in September 2016.
I beg to differ.
Yes, that’s when the program took a 180-degree turn for the better, but it was on November 11, 2017 when Hard Rock Stadium effectively became Miami’s home. I watched the joint rock on TV when the turnover chain busted out time and again in a convincing win over Virginia Tech. I had no idea what I was about to experience when I stepped inside the Rock the following week.
It was a deafening, stick-your-head-inside-a-jet-engine volume level that the proudest and loudest of fan bases boast about. Maybe it was the finished roof. The collective roar of over 65,000 Cane fans vocally releasing 14 years of frustration in a three-hour period against a historical rival. Maybe it was being on national TV on a Saturday night with playoff implications on the line.
Whatever it was, it was the perfect ending to the best day of Miami football since Ken Dorsey was in the huddle. College Gameday lit the fuse, and the Miami Hurricanes provided the explosion.
And the Canes finally can say they have a home.
As Kirk Herbstreit said: “We go to a lot of great stadiums and a lot of great scenes, but right now, I don’t know if I’ve heard anything louder than this.”
So what say you, SOTU’ers? Is the Rock the Canes’ home, and if so, when did it become a home to you? Let’s hear it....