Fans Reflect on Final Season with Orange Bowl

The Orange Bowl has long been a part of Miami's history. The Dolphins had the NFL's only undefeated season at the stadium in 1972, five Super Bowls have been decided here, and the University of Miami football team has played here for years. But no more. The Hurricanes opened their final season there Saturday.

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DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:

We college football fans have been waiting a long time for this weekend. For most schools around the country, this is the kickoff of football season. Go Bama.

Down in Miami, the University of Miami, they are also marking a milestone this year. This will be last season the University of Miami plays at the storied Orange Bowl, where the Hurricanes have played for 70 years. The Orange Bowl has hosted five Super Bowls, numerous college football national championships and even a JFK speech to members of the Cuban Invasion Brigade after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion.

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President JOHN F. KENNEDY: All of you, members of the brigade, members of their family, are following an historic road - one which has been followed by other Cubans in other days and indeed by other patriots of our hemisphere in other years.

ELLIOTT: NPR's Greg Allen went out today to speak with fans about the legacy of the Orange Bowl.

GREG ALLEN: It's a stadium built long before most Hurricane fans were born, back when players still wore leather helmets. It's the place where Miami won five national championships, where it won a record 58 straight games, and where there were great games even when it lost, such as in 1984 when Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie threw his famous Hail Mary, a desperation pass that gave Boston College a last second win over Miami.

Ryan Hoback(ph) has been a season ticket holder here for 15 years, beginning when he was 12 years old.

Mr. RYAN HOBACK (Resident, Florida; Sports Fan): Games in the Orange Bowl are like nowhere else - the stomping, the stampeding, the fourth quarter, hands in the air, letting everyone know that we own the fourth quarter. There's nothing like it. And it's a great place. It's very exciting.

ALLEN: No one denies, however, that it's a stadium that's been outdated now for decades. For the last few years, the Annual Orange Bowl game hasn't been played here but in nearby Dolphin Stadium. The city of Miami, which owns the Orange Bowl, has been unable to come up with the money to renovate or rebuild it.

So last month, the University of Miami announced what school president Donna Shalala said was a painful and sad decision, that the school would also begin playing its home games at Dolphin Stadium.

Fans tailgating today outside the Orange Bowl seemed uniformly resigned to the move, though few said they liked it. For one thing, there's the question of the name. Hurricane fans aren't happy to be playing in Dolphin Stadium. And then there were all the memories here.

SHANE(ph) (Sports Fan): Thirty-five shot.

Mr. LOUIS CARAYHO(ph) (Sports Fan): Nice shot.

ALLEN: On a grassy spot outside the stadium, Louis Carayho and his son Shane were running a few football patterns of their own before the game.

Mr. CARAYHO: One I remember, we were playing Florida State, I think it was '94. It was a night game. And Florida State came in favor by two touchdowns, and we dropped them. It was one of the 80,000 nights. It was unbelievable.

(Soundbite of cheering)

Unidentified Group: Whoosh. Whoosh. We got to change over here. Whoosh. Whoosh. We got to change over here. Whoosh. Whoosh.

ALLEN: The move out of the Orange Bowl comes at a less than stellar time for Hurricane football. The team is coming off a disappointing year and began the season unranked, the first time that's happened in years. At today's opener against Martial, there were plenty of empty seats. The fans were mostly students or diehards.

Dorothy Brown(ph) puts herself in the latter category.

Ms. DOROTHY BROWN (Resident, Florida): That's what I'm missing but the facilities here are horrible. Someday, I just think it's going to collapse. The bathroom facilities are terrible. But other than that, the atmosphere is great. There's nothing like the Orange Bowl.

ALLEN: Especially on a day like today, when the Hurricanes are winning, beating Martial 31-to-3.

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

ALLEN: Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami.

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