Last week, the Canes broke into the top 10 in the AP poll, coming in at No. 8. The team is on an 11-game winning streak since Nov. 2016, with notable wins against FSU, Syracuse and Georgia Tech this season.
They’re sitting comfortably atop the ACC Coastal division and have a clear path to the ACC Championship Game in early December. Why, then, is it so hard to fill the student section at Miami home games?
What’s needed is a culture shift; a true change in students’ priorities. To bring about such a shift, we need to increase awareness of UM’s football history and traditions – and keep winning.
Students should want to spend their Saturdays at a football game. They should feel like being at the football game is the best way to spend their precious time. This is because the sense of community and school spirit fostered by attending a home football game is unique. Though the university has other sports teams, none have the same atmosphere as football. At the most storied football programs across the country, students attend games because they feel that they are more than just spectators; they feel like they’re participating in the legacy.
This is what UM needs to build and promote. Category Five’s fan zone is a game-changer with free food, giveaways and the hottest commodity at Hard Rock on a Saturday: shade. Despite the hard work promoting traditions and making game days more enjoyable, there needs to be more.
Any attempts to shift culture should start with students. The goal would be exposing students to the legacy of the football program and allowing them to feel like they’re participating in the continuation of this legacy, not just watching from afar.
This could be done by inviting former players to participate in activities on campus, such as pep rallies, autograph signings or screenings of noteworthy games. The university could also offer discounts at the Rathskeller or bookstore for having a game wristband, or host screenings of Billy Corben’s 30 for 30 films.
These opportunities would serve as long-term investments. If students have positive experiences at football games as undergraduates, they’re more likely to continue following the team after graduation.
While building more awareness of game-day traditions and the program’s history may spur greater attendance, the only surefire way to achieve a culture shift is to keep winning. Not everyone views going to a football game as a moral obligation or important part of being a student at the University of Miami, and that’s okay. But our continued success will bring a greater number of students on board, hopefully enough to finally fill the student section.
Dana McGeehan is a senior majoring in history and media management.