On Jan. 1, 1988, the University of Miami Hurricanes were set to play the Oklahoma Sooners for the National Championship in the Orange Bowl Classic.
Miami’s captains went to midfield to meet their Sooner counterparts. Jerome Brown, Miami’s mountainous defensive tackle, led the way. Meeting him at the 55-yard line was Oklahoma All-American linebacker Brian Bosworth and his gang of Sooners.
When it came time for the traditional handshake between the two sides, Brown did not offer any symbolic nicety to Bosworth. Instead, he simply looked down at him and said, clearly and boldly, “Don’t be scared.”
As Bosworth looked up at the warrior in front of him, fear indeed crept into his mind. As he returned Brown’s stare, he could not help but notice the Orange Bowl literally shaking in front of him, as Miami and Oklahoma fans alike made enough noise to rock its foundations.
Bosworth knew, much as every visitor that has entered the stadium to play the Canes has known, just how intimidating the Old Lady, that is the Orange Bowl, can be when it is rocking.
The Miami Hurricanes made a lot of history in the Orange Bowl.
They won 58 straight home games, an NCAA record.
They won three of their five national titles on the field.
It was on this field that the Hurricanes became the most feared, hated and dominant football program in the history of the sport.
And now the Hurricanes are leaving, moving across town to a ballpark they will share with the big boys in town, the Miami Dolphins.
The new stadium has two Jumbotrons and a higher capacity. It is a fine work of modern stadium building.
However, it lacks one integral quality: character.
That is what the Orange Bowl has in excess. The Orange Bowl is the Fenway Park of college football. For everything it lacks, and it lacks plenty, it makes up for in history and tradition.
The Miami Hurricanes will not be the same without the Orange Bowl. The community surrounding the stadium will not be the same without Hurricane games. Going to Canes games just won’t feel right.
While every other marquee program seems to have built a cavernous shrine to the game that gets bigger and fancier every season, the grit of the Orange Bowl has always seemed to represent the Canes so well.
And that is the problem as we face life without the OB.
Where do the Canes go from here? The physical destination is known, but how can the program ever be the same again?
In other words, I feel as Brown did all those years ago at midfield. I want to stare down at the future without the Orange Bowl, without flinching, and prove that it does not faze me, that football is football.
However, like Bosworth, I find myself intimidated by the prospect in front of me. I cannot help but be a little bit afraid. After going through so much, it seems impossible to envision this program without the Orange Bowl. With so much uncertainty, there is only one thing to say.
Rest well old friend. You will be missed.
Dan Stein may be contacted at email@example.com.