Sports

These are my reflections

Every other Saturday was an adventure during the fall of 2007.

My group of friends and I would walk from Stanford Residential College through the thick foliage in front of the BankUnited Center to the Metrorial and then take a public bus to football games at the Orange Bowl.

During orientation a few weeks prior, we had learned the traditions of one of the nation’s most successful programs. Head coach Randy Shannon himself taught us how to properly throw up the U and talked about the promise of a new era.

Funny how things turned out.

Now, the Serpentine lot provides additional parking spots for commuters.

Instead of the (un)friendly Orange Bowl confines, games take place at the lifeless Sun Life Stadium where Sebastian the Ibis no longer dances to songs such as Soulja Boy Tell Em’s “Crank That.”

Shannon was fired as head coach of the football team this past December after a 28-22 record that included no division or conference championships as well as no bowl victories.

This came a few days after under 30,000 fans show up for the regular season finale against South Florida in which the Hurricanes were upset by the Bulls.

It marked a low point for the program, even more so than the final game at the OB when the Virginia Cavaliers annihilated the Hurricanes 48-0.

Yes, the team that season finished 5-7 instead of 7-6, but at least the fans showed up.

On the sidelines at Sun Life, all I could hear was the roar from the USF section as players rushed the end zone and the fan section became a blur. At the OB’s swan song, I was at least able to pick up some grass as a memento. Those in the stands even snuck away with seats.

In the span of a month in 2011, Frank Haith bolted for the University of Missouri after his men’s basketball team underperformed once again this year, bowing out in the third round of the NIT. Athletic director Kirby Hocutt resigned and took the same position at Texas Tech.

After seven seasons under Haith, the Canes won just 38 percent of their Atlantic Coast Conference games and made the NCAA Tournament once. Fans that showed up at the BUC or watched on TV often found themselves in the sorrowful position of predicting the last-minute collapses that came every game.

Hocutt lasted less than three years in Coral Gables, but did get things done: the field house came into fruition and renovations occurred at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field, the Neil Schiff Tennis Center and Cobb Stadium.

Although it’s been well documented that these last four years haven’t been the best in the history of University of Miami athletics, the future shows the same promise that Shannon once told the Class of 2011.

Al Golden has brought passion and charisma as the new face of Miami football.

Former players are welcomed back to talk to the team. Scrimmages have been held in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. Fans seem to believe that the glory days aren’t too far off.

Optimism can also be found in the men’s basketball program with the recent hiring of Jim Larranaga. At 61, the former George Mason head coach has more energy than some college students and seems eager to produce in a top-tier basketball conference.

New AD Shawn Eichorst’s first hire, that of Larranaga, has him starting on the right foot.

When people look back on UM sports years from now, they might think differently of the stretch between 2007-2011.

It might have been the worst period since we became the U, but hopefully the start of its rebirth.

Christina De Nicola may be contacted at cdenicola@themiamihurricane.com.

April 27, 2011

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Christina De Nicola

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