Florida State's win over the Miami Hurricanes had a very different feel than the FSU-Miami games of the past. Yes, the game meant a ton to Miami's players. They said as much, calling this game their "season" and their "superbowl."
Hurricane fans apparently didn't feel the same way. Miami returned roughly 5,000 of its 6,000 ticket allotment. Selling only 1,000 of your 6,000 ticket allotment against your biggest rival is an embarrassment.. Those tickets were quickly snatched up by FSU fans, and Miami's section was tiny and pathetic.
But Miami has a reputation for having really trashy fans. And on the whole, I didn't see that yesterday. The fans the 'Canes did bring were true Miami fans. Many of them actually attended Miami. And they were nice. They knew their team and did not start fights or throw piss bombs. And they stayed til the end. They were, dare I say, classy.
Miami's issue, however, is not one of quality, but one of quantity. The 'Canes have never traveled well, but these numbers were unlike anything I can remember. Miami is a small, private school with a limited alumni base; many of which are international students who couldn't be less interested in football. More than any team in the country, the Hurricanes rely on bandwagon fans. There is so much to do in Miami, and so many people in SoFla are transplants, that Miami doesn't get consistent support unless it is winning and winning in style. And it's become even worse since the move to Joe Robbie Stadium after the demolition of the Orange Bowl. Despite what the Baghdad-Bobs in the Miami athletic department say, TV shots have shown 'Canes home games at less than 50% capacity on multiple dates this season.
There is no support for an 8-4 team, and the 'Canes will be lucky to taste 8-4 anytime soon. Miami is one of the oldest teams in the ACC and loses a sizable amount of talent after this season. Al Golden is not recruiting at a high level (78%) of his current commitments rate as 3 stars or fewer according to Rivals.com). It's not bad, mind you, it's just not the level of player required to replace the departing talent, win 9+ games and get the bandwagon fans interested in the program.
Worse, the 'Canes are forced to schedule difficult non-conference games because they cannot afford to buy wins against lesser teams like major programs can. A declining level of talent and an increase in schedule difficulty doesn't sound like a recipe for a record that will get the bandwagon fans back.
All this is happening while Miami is without any hindrance from the NCAA. That's important to note, because heavy sanctions are expected as a result of the Nevin Shapiro scandal (hundreds of thousands of dollars to players over a decade, endorsed by the administration).
Miami is currently 5-5. There's about an 80% chance the 'Canes will make a bowl. Speculation has it that Miami will decline the bowl invite as a nod to the NCAA that the program understands the gravity of the charges. These attendance numbers, however, put Miami among the least desired bowl possibilities from the ACC. Bowls want to make money, and while Miami will give decent TV numbers, the fans just do not show up.
It was great to see the classy Miami fans outnumber the stereotypical 'Cane fans. They represented on the school well with their conduct. But quantity matters as well, and it's a major issue.
Like all Miami sports, they'll be back if Miami ever gets back. It's just tough to see it happening anytime soon.