Indeed, Barry's 'Canes were virtually unbeatable at home, wherever that happened to be. But in 1965, after Barry left, things started to sour. First the crowds began to thin. "Sometimes there'd be more gamblers in the stands than fans," recalls Wittman. Then Hale, who had kept the program afloat with his irrepressible salesmanship, bailed out in 1967. Miami would win 17 games the following year, 14 the next, then nine, then seven. Only 75 fans bothered to track the team down for one home game in 1971. When the decision to drop basketball came, it was announced as a temporary suspension, "until such time as a permanent field house can be constructed on the main campus."
Of course, Miami still doesn't play on campus. With its auditorium configuration, the Knight Center is an incongruous site for big-time sports. There are permanent seats on only one side of the court, with a handful of temporary seats on the other. The plush carpeting and velour seats discourage good, clean collegiate rowdiness. Also, the university reserved most seats for fat cats. Many of the corporate tickets stay locked in desk drawers, so home games have been plagued by no-shows. "The people who do come just sort of lay back and say, 'Good shot,' " says Brown. "What they need is an on-campus gym," Wittman says. "Then there'll be fever."
So if we're to interpret the 1971 decision literally, the game won't really be back at Miami until it struts onto campus. A convocation center is in the school's master plan, and no Biscayne Babbitt will be spared the Mad Serb's fund-raising rap until it gets built.
•1987—Students brave the muggy tropical night outside the Knight Center to queue up for tickets to the Sun Belt Conference tournament, which Miami, the league's newest member, is hosting.
•1988—During the early signing period, the Hurricanes ink their first local studhorse, Miami's Enrico Yvon McGee, a 6'8" Cuban-Haitian-A fro-American who can dunk in three languages. The 'Canes crack most preseason Top 20s, and the sports publicity people send out posters that read VISIT MIAMI AND GO HOME EITHER BROWNED OR BURNED.
•1989—The Hurricanes maul UCLA 109-64 in the nationally televised dedication game at the Hale-Barry Center. Al McGuire mistakenly calls it the Hail-Mary Center.
•1990—In an emotional ceremony at the Center, the university retires the Mad Serb's shirttail.