2007 Monday Thoughts: Miami

There was a lot written and said about how this latest edition of VT-Miami
was a shadow of what this rivalry has been. Indeed, there have been some nasty,
vicious, dramatic games in this series. This wasn’t one of them. Throughout the
week leading up to this game, the media, including the three prognosticators of
this web site, summarily dismissed the Hurricanes. Once the ball was kicked off,
the Hokie football team did the same, notching a 44-14 win that was the
second-biggest beatdown Tech has ever laid on the ‘Canes.

Did you ever think you’d see the day where the Hokies would crush the
Hurricanes by 30 points, and the response from Hokie Nation would be, in
essence, a shrug? Maybe I’m dramatizing things a little, but there was
definitely something missing from this game.

You can directly attribute the lack of buzz around this game to the 48-0
thrashing the ‘Canes suffered the week before at the hands of the Virginia
Cavaliers, in the last-ever UM game at the Orange Bowl. Miami was already in the
throes of a mediocre season by Hurricane standards, but that whitewashing, the
worst shutout loss ever suffered by Miami at the Orange Bowl, highlighted the
stark reality that this is a Miami team that has fallen far from its early
millennium perch, when they won 46 of 50 games, including 39 regular season
games in a row, and looked as if they were pulling away from the rest of the
college football world.

Early in the week, a poster asked on the subscriber’s board, “What in
God’s name has happened to Miami?” I have some theories, most of which I
shared in my response to that post.

When the Hurricanes built their program from almost nothing in the late 70s
and early 80s, you needed two things to succeed: players and a coach. Players
were readily available in South Florida, and when Miami hired Howard
Schnellenberger, they got a great coach. Schnellenberger lit a fire under the
program that burned a long time.

But these days, with just 85 scholarships per school, the talent is spread
around to more schools, and the margin of error is thin. The state of Florida
has gone from three Division 1-A programs as recently as 1995 (Miami, FSU,
Florida) to seven today (including South Florida, Florida International, Florida
Atlantic, and Central Florida).

More importantly, to be consistently successful at the highest levels of
college football, you need to have money. A lot of it. The ‘Canes don’t.

I could write a book on Miami’s money problems, but their three biggest
problems are :

(1) Lack of strong home attendance. The Hurricanes currently rank 52nd in
average home attendance, at 43,589 fans per game. A look at Miami’s historical
attendance figures (from page
146 of their media guide
) reveals that only once in their history have the
Canes averaged more than Tech’s 66,233 capacity: 69,539 in 2002. In the last
three years, the Hurricanes have averaged only 43,517 fans per game. That’s a
ton of ticket revenue that isn’t coming in.

(2) Low donation figures. Like most private schools, Miami has a relative
small student base (15,000) and small alumni base. The alumni base tends to be
less loyal (i.e., donate less). And with 30,000 empty seats a game, there’s no
requirement to donate in order to be able to buy season tickets, like there is
at Tech or many other schools. While I couldn’t locate 2007 football season
ticket costs, Miami’s 2006 football season tickets could be had for $180 for six
games (general admission), and a “family zone” package for two adults
and three children went for just $375. Virginia Tech season tickets cost $308
apiece this year.

(3) Scholarship costs. Since Miami is a private school, tuition and fees
($33,018) and room and board ($9,784) are expensive, totaling close to
$40,000 per year (source: US
). While I don’t know exactly how much of that money the athletic
department must reimburse the university per scholarship, it’s no doubt a huge
figure. At
Virginia Tech