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Road Trip: University of Miami

Game day at the Orange Bowl will never be confused with a day at South Beach -- except on FSU weekend

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By Adam Duerson

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Miami Hurricanes
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The Hurricanes always come out smoking, but most games at the Orange Bowl lack the fire of last week's classic
Bob Rosato/SI

Where, you ask, would SIOC rank the University of Miami among the best college football weekends? The school didn't make the 25-team cut, but Top 50, perhaps? Top 75, surely?

The Orange Bowl plays host to six Hurricanes home games in 2004, and for five of those occasions one can make a solid argument for Miami falling far outside the Top 100. We're talking George Lucas "Far, far...." How many D-I teams are there?

The rap on a Miami home game: Parking is virtually nonexistent (and should never be done alone at night); navigating the Orange Bowl's innards requires Magellan-like skills; and characterizing stadium behavior as "barbaric" would simply be too kind. The Hurricanes' former roommates, the NFL's Dolphins, up and left the joint 18 years ago.

For one game, however, in even-numbered years, when Miami hosts Florida State, the Orange Bowl adjusts its tube top, straightens out its short skirt and shows America how it's done.

On national TV last week, four days late (thanks, Hurricane Frances), the Orange Bowl produced another big-game classic, this one an ACC matchup for the first time. Against the backdrop of touchdown cannons booming (albeit only twice) and the Miami faithful's providing never-ending crowd static, the FSU offense went virtually silent. When Frank Gore rumbled 18 yards for the score that gave Miami a 16-10 victory in overtime, you'd have thought the Hurricanes had pulled off the imaginary 21-point, triple-touchdown play.

This is the kind of fanaticism that 2 Live Crew rapper and black-sheep Miami diehard Luther Campbell fostered in the late '80s and early '90s, and it has defined the team since. Campbell, who recruited Hurricanes players to sing backup on an album, promoted taunt-fests with Miami-to-Tallahassee player conference calls on game week. He presided over Miami's sideline in 1987 when a dozen Hurricanes blew into the Fiesta Bowl in camouflage fatigues and eventually was banned from the field for offering bounties ($100 for a sack, $200 for an interception returned for a score). Today he counts among his close friends the program's most famous names -- Warren Sapp, Ray Lewis, Cortez Kennedy and the Rock, who in '92 chased the San Diego State mascot into the stands, screaming, "I'll kill you," back when he was a defensive lineman who went by the name Dwayne Johnson.

Campbell missed last week's game because he was coaching peewee football in town, but his bad-boy persona hasn't changed. To wit: In a cellphone message that day he referred to an upcoming peewee game as a "funeral" for the opposition and his 10-year-old players as pallbearers and burial marshals. Of course, as far as Miami officials were concerned, his absence was welcome. "The new guys -- they don't like me too much," says Coach Luke. "I don't know why."

Since coach Larry Coker took over in 2001, all nonmedia sideline credentials have been handled by his office, and this year's VIP list ran about as deep as Miami's current quarterback stable, which is to say not very deep at all.

Ex-Creed front man Scott Stapp, who briefly was an FSU student, made it. He's best friends forever with Coker's quarterback, Brock Berlin. Stapp's also a Christian rocker whose most recognizable song, the spiritual ditty Higher, is a far cry from Campbell's Me So Horny.

The normally populous Miami alumni crowd was headlined by former quarterback Bernie Kosar and a stable of interchangeable C-listers like Yatil Green and Melvin Bratton. No Sapp. No Lewis. No (sigh) Rock.

The Hurricanes are trying to reinvent themselves, and nobody's complaining with numbers such as 17 and 6, as in 17 straight night-game wins at home and six straight victories over FSU. Without Coach Luke, and with camo fatigues long since out of style, Miami still runs one hell of a show -- if only once every 730 days.

The Scott Stapp Playbook

Brock Berlin's mother, Nancy, taught Scott Stapp how to sing; the ex-Creed rocker showed Brock a thing or two about making a football zing. "The first time he threw one my way, I went right up to his dad, Rick, and told him he had to get Brock in a football uniform," recalls Stapp, who is eight years older than Berlin. "He was seven then." Stapp, whose solo album will be released in February, is a regular on the Hurricanes sideline. Here's his account of last week's Florida State-Miami game.

6:45 p.m. "I won't call Brock on a game day, but I'll get together with his dad, whom I also call 'Dad,' and we'll talk everything but football just to keep us from worrying about it. Then we head over to the game in my tour bus."

8:00 p.m. "I've got my son, Jagger [5], with me on the sideline, and I'm getting him ready, telling him, 'Uncle Brock's going to do this, and Uncle Brock's going to do that.'"

11:30 p.m. "Jagger heads back to the tour bus to get some sleep, and I'm up in the booster box because [security was] giving me a hard time on the sideline. Usually I'll see Warren Sapp or Jay Fiedler -- whoever's in town -- but tonight it's me and a bunch of people without much faith in Brock. I'll let 'em talk bad about him for a while, and then when he throws a good pass I'll yell, 'Way to go, brother!' They'll get quiet and avoid eye contact the rest of the way."

11:50 p.m. "I'm in that box till the very end -- Brock's always been the Comeback Kid, and I make sure everyone up there knows that. When I make it back to the bus after the win, Jagger's up playing poker with my mom."

2:20 a.m. "Brock calls, and for about 15 minutes it's: 'We did it.' 'No, you did it.' 'We.' 'No, you too.' Then we both well up, and it gets quiet. We've been sharing the same ups and downs for a while now -- him with Miami and me with my career. This was one of the highs."

Issue date: September 16, 2004

SI On Campus: September 16, 2004 issue 
SI ON CAMPUS

Sports Illustrated On Campus, a new magazine covering college sports and collegiate lifestyles, is available as an insert in 74 major college newspapers across the country every Thursday throughout the school year. Click any of the links below to see selected content from the latest issue.

Cover Story: Best College Football Weekends: 1-10
Cover Story: The Best of the Rest: 11-25
Road Trip: University of Miami
Scorecard: The Vibe at Vanderbilt
The Final: Not So Fast, Notre Dame
Previous issue: September 9, 2004
 

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