Traditions and rituals are an integral part of all societies. Customs, practices, superstitions, whatever one may call them, exist: in homes, in communities, in societies, in cultures, and especially in sports.
When a team is winning, and even more so when a team is losing, player’s superstitions run high. With the Hurricanes off to their worst starts since 1997, it is only fitting to take a look at the rich history of one of the winningest organizations in college football, a history that is full of traditions and rituals.
From holding up four fingers to running out through the smoke entrance to individual player customs, the University of Miami football team has developed a number of traditions and rituals along its 81-year run.
One of the earliest traditions in UM football history began as a way of increasing fan interest. Since then, the “smoke” has become a home tradition, in which the team runs through a huge, inflatable UM helmet filled with smoke on their way out of the tunnel and onto the field.
“As a player, when they run through the smoke, the guys feel the pride,” Randy Shannon, defensive coordinator, said. “They feel like they have something to play for. They play for themselves. They play for the fans. They play for the university.”
This tradition has carried over since the 1950s, and is one of the oldest and most famous standing traditions in college football. Former UM transportation director, Bob Nalette, came up with the idea of blowing smoke out of fire extinguishers as the team entered the field. In his spare time, Nalette constructed the mechanism that is still used today to create the tunnel filled with smoke that the players and coaches run through.
Now, this gimmick has turned into a full blown tradition. The players get pumped up as they enter the field to songs such as ‘Rock You Like a Hurricane’ blasted over the loudspeaker., in turn thrilling the crowd as well.
“It is a very inspiring thing to come out through the smoke,” Head Coach Larry Coker said. “It is something we take pride in.”
Along with this, Hurricane football also has a tradition of holding up four fingers at the start of the fourth quarter of home games. This symbol demonstrates the UM ownership of the fourth quarter, the most decisive portion of the game.
Coupled with these team traditions and rituals, individual players also have their own special ways of gearing up for a game.
“I have a routine like almost everybody else’s routine, where you listen to an Ipod or a Walkman,” Sam Shields, wide receiver, said. “That’s what I do. I listen to different kinds of rap, and that gets me motivated and ready. I also stay to myself and think about what I have to do.”
Whether listening to music like Shields or contemplating the task ahead like tight end Greg Olsen, players find a way to mentally prepare for the game.
“I try to think about what my job is going to be,” Greg Olsen, tight end, said. “I think about what I need to do and try to get myself prepared.”
Although these things may seem normal, they hold a special value for each player.
“Every time we run out of the tunnel, right before the game, I go down to the right corner of the endzone,” Calais Campbell, defensive end, said. “I get down on one knee and pray. I remember to do this as something my Dad taught me as a kid.”
Having already fallen out of the AP Top 25 rankings with a 1-2 start this season, the Hurricane’s must hope their prayers are answered sooner rather than later, and that their most important tradition, that of winning, will continue.
Pravin Patel may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.