Spirits, appetites high at basketball pep rally

Prior to Wednesday night’s women’s basketball game at the Convocation Center, all UM students in attendance were invited to a tailgate inside the Hurricane 100 room where free food and drinks were available. The tailgate, sponsored by Hurricane Force, looked to boost student attendance at women’s basketball games, which has been lacking this season despite the teams’ best start in school history.

“Our students haven’t found this place [the Convocation Center] yet,” President Donna E. Shalala explained. “Once they find the place and see how much fun it can be when they are all here, the students will come.”

The Hurricane 100 room, located beneath the student section and usually used for commencement ceremonies or by donors and trustees for meetings, took on a more spirited role in accommodating not only students but also cheerleaders, Sebastian the Ibis and even Hurricane Frank.

Head coach Fern Labati was also a part of the festivities, giving students an enthusiastic pep talk about their role in supporting the team.

“I want you to know it’s not about the game tonight – it is about the future of what we can achieve here for the Miami Hurricanes. We need your support in the stands,” she said.

The tailgate produced, by far, the largest student turnout at a women’s basketball game this season and may have served its purpose in trying to drive students to attend future games.

Tom Falconer, who has attended several men’s games but had not attended a women’s game before Wednesday night, said the tailgate was a success and helped him become aware that the team is among the best in the nation.

“I know I’m jumping on the bandwagon, but I’ll start attending games now,” he said.

Others felt the tailgate was just a starting point and it would be interesting to see if the attendance could be kept up.

“This is a good starting point, but it’s just a starting point and you have to figure out where you go from here,” Kim Walker said.

Shalala also invited former ticket-holders of the now extinct Miami Sol to the tailgate in order to make the event even more pronounced. She also made it very clear why the Convocation Center was built.

“We built the Convocation Center on campus for the students. The Convocation Center belongs to the students, and tonight we will make that very clear,” Shalala said.

Paul Fajardo can be contacted at p.fajardo@umiami.edu.