For all intents and purposes, basketball is the only sport that is active in South Florida.
The Miami Heat has long been on this platform, but now joining them on the stage is the University of Miami Hurricanes men’s basketball team.
The Hurricanes’ digital media department, earlier this season, launched a mission entitled Operation Sellout, which tracks the number of tickets sold and makes it easy for fans to buy tickets. Operation Sellout culminated on Jan. 23 when the BankUnited Center reached its capacity of 7,972. And then the Canes beat Duke.
As is typical Miami form, heaps of fans jumped on the Hurricanes’ bandwagon as they logged sellout after sellout. The energy that now runs through the BankUnited Center is something unseen – for any UM athletic event.
This is the way to build a struggling college athletic team. Bring in hoards of fans, treat them to an enjoyable time and then beat the number one team in the nation.
Not only are they winning, but they are doing so in style. When the Canes beat number one Duke, they “slapped the floor,” an affront to the long-time Blue Devils tradition. When they defeated the North Carolina Tar Heels, Shane Larkin and Kenny Kadji paired up on a backboard alley-oop, wowing the sold-out arena.
The Hurricanes’ resurgence is in no small part due to head coach Jim Larranaga.
He took a team without a winning record in the ACC and transformed it into a top-tier basketball team with very few weaknesses. He has also fostered a basketball culture at the university by going dorm hopping.
“We brought Buffalo Wild Wings and pizza to the students trying to drum up interest in our program,” Larranaga said recently.
And drum up interest he has. Row after row of raucous orange and green fans now populate the section behind one of the backboards. Adjacent to them is the UM pep band, now louder and more powerful than ever.
In all likelihood, the Canes will make it into March Madness. The support they will receive will be impressive because if there is anything that Miami does well, it is support a winner.
However, unless the Canes continue to win, fan support will dwindle. This is the nature of the Miami sports fan. The unlimited- capacity bandwagon is a nice entry point for new Hurricanes fans. It needs to be more than a part-time commitment. Whether this team is ranked in the top five of Division I basketball teams, or whether it is unranked, it still needs your support.
As is the nature of college basketball, recruits want to play for a winning team and a team with die-hard fan support. College sports is one of the few places where fan support really creates a pragmatic, noticeable difference.
The University of Miami men’s basketball team has done everything that it can do to lure in fans. Now, it is time for you to do your part. Support this team through its ups and its downs. It will be rewarding in the end.
Preston Michelson is a senior at Palmer Trinity School where he is the public address announcer for all varsity sporting events. Contact him on Twitter at@PrestonMich or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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