Tapping the ‘Hotline’

Thursday nights at the Rathskeller may evoke many image-oftentimes involving happy-hour pitchers.

But many students may not know that speaking directly to head football coach Randy Shannon could be one of them.

From 7 to 9 p.m. every Thursday during football season, WQAM 560, the radio flagship station of University of Miami athletics, broadcasts “Hurricane Hotline,” a preview show for the upcoming game. For years, the show was hosted at Gameworks, located across the street from campus at Sunset Place. Now, like so many other things Shannon has been involved with, it’s being brought back to the students.

“It was [Shannon]’s idea, and he’s committed to it. He likes the student involvement,” said Don Bailey, Jr., a former offensive lineman for the Canes who co-hosts the show with Joe Zagacki. “It’s great to be back. You smile the minute you hit campus.”

Shannon has shown his dedication to student involvement, from participating in new student pep rallies to leading his team in singing the school’s Alma Mater after each home game in front of the student section.

But fielding questions directly from the masses in such an open arena is very uncommon in the world of big-time college football, especially right on campus. Still, win or lose, Shannon comes to the Rathskeller, ready to take the inquisition. He doesn’t see it as a challenge, but an opportunity.

“Everything that we do is for the students on campus,” Shannon said after his most recent show on Oct. 18. “Students are the ones who get the crowd going at games. They’re always the most supportive. That’s why I’m always eager to hear from them.”

Students and others interested in speaking to the coach are simply brought up to the microphone down on the Rathskeller floor. Shannon, Bailey Jr. and Zagacki are perched above the action.

The show isn’t just about the coach, however. Last Thursday’s show featured Athletic Director Paul Dee and true freshmen Shawnbrey McNeal and DeMarcus Van Dyke. The player interviews are always a fan favorite, and especially enjoyed by Zagacki.

“It’s a chance to see them in a different light,” Zagacki said. “When you see them out on the field, people think they’re like pros. But talking to them, you really see they’re kids; they’ve got great stories.”

The show is just getting off the ground in its new location on campus, and turnout has been lower than what might be expected. But students who have grown loyal to the program are hoping that more students turn out for the opportunity to see the coach.

“I don’t think it’s been publicized at all,” said Adam Guercio, a junior who asked his question to the coach. “If students really knew about it, this place would be packed.”

Bailey Jr. feels as though it’s only a matter of time before the Rat is the place to be on Thursday nights.

“It’s a whole new opportunity for the students and faculty to come out and support the team. It’s really going to be a fun time.”

The next Hurricane Hotline will begin on Thursday, Nov. 1 at 7 p.m. Prizes, such as the opportunity to run through the smoke before a home game, are raffled to those in attendance.

Matthew Bunch may be contacted at m.bunch@umiami.edu.