|As Miami's Orange Bowl era ends, ex-'Canes come to bid farewell|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 10 November 2007 17:34|
He thought back to 1956, when his father brought him to his first Hurricanes game. He thought about the three national championships Miami won on the Orange Bowl turf - which had two special orange logos painted on it for the occasion. He even thought about the unforgettable losses.
Countless memories, all of an era that was ending.
``I just wanted to remember the history and where we've been and what this stadium has meant to our program over the years,'' Dee said. ``The great events, the great plays, the Dolphins, the Orange Bowls, Super Bowls, other events. A night like this, you just want to take it all in.''
It was his way of saying goodbye.
After 70 years and nearly 500 Miami games, the Hurricanes' stay at the Orange Bowl ended Saturday night with a 48-0 loss to Virginia, the school's biggest shutout loss in Orange Bowl history. It topped the 44-0 beating Notre Dame put on the Hurricanes at the Orange Bowl in 1973.
M beat the Hurricanes 70-14.
They'll move next season to Dolphin Stadium, a newer and technologically superior facility 16 miles up the road. By the time that chapter begins next August, the Orange Bowl will almost certainly be demolished.
So on Saturday night, past 'Canes came to bid farewell.
``This is apple pie and Chevrolet, this place,'' said Pete Banaszak, who played for Miami in the 1960s before embarking on a 13-year pro career and was one of many former 'Canes in the east end zone before Saturday's game against No. 23 Virginia. ``This is magic turf.''
For so many years, it was.
Miami won nearly 70 percent of its games at the Orange Bowl, a stat boosted nicely by the Hurricanes' NCAA-record 58-game home winning streak from 1985 through 1994.
But the discussion over the demise of the building began in South Florida long before that run began, and eventually, a change became necessary.
``I'm overcome with emotion,'' university president Donna Shalala said. ``We really didn't want to move. In the end, we had to. We have a wonderful opportunity and future ahead of us. We want to do the best for our players and for our fans, so we're taking a giant step now. But tonight is about the Orange Bowl. Tonight is about walking in the steps of champions.''
When the gates opened 90 minutes before kickoff, at least a couple thousand fans immediately rushed to the west end zone seating area - traditionally one of the most raucous at the Orange Bowl. Some carried signs, most wore orange and flashbulbs popped almost every second, even with no players yet on the field.
A few fans even donned black armbands - with ``R.I.P.'' stitched in orange.
``Tonight is about the spirit of being a Hurricane and what that means,'' said actor Dwayne ``The Rock'' Johnson, who was a freshman defensive tackle on a Miami team that won a national title at the Orange Bowl. ``Not only that, but I'm excited about the change. The change is going to bring on new challenges. ... I have nothing but the utmost confidence in the move.''
The university voted in August to move north, despite the offer of $206 million by city officials to renovate one of Miami's best-known landmarks. Miami agreed to a 25-year lease and could collect perhaps as much as $5 million or more each year through new revenue streams created by the move.
Most agree, that's a good thing for a private university.
But leaving was still tough for many to swallow.
``If I had a couple hundred million dollars, I'd try to save it myself,'' said former defensive tackle Russell Maryland, the No. 1 overall pick in the 1991 draft. ``But you know what? They know what's right for the team and I'm just going to have to go with what the university says. If they say it's time to leave, it's time to go.''
Dee said it wasn't an easy decision when the move was announced, and it wasn't easy for him to talk about late Saturday afternoon, either.
``It's bittersweet, to be sure,'' said Dee, who'll leave his athletic director post next year and move into a role on Miami's faculty. ``It's a great place to watch football. The University of Miami has been guardians of the Orange Bowl since the day it opened. We stayed here, literally, as long as we possibly could.''
He paused for a moment.
``What's important here are the memories,'' Dee said. ``Everybody can take those home.''