I saw an article today which referred to Miami and Notre Dame potentially renewing one of college football’s most storied rivalries. Months back you mentioned your desire to schedule a home and home with the Fighting Irish and with a new athletic director in South Bend, it seems that there’s finally interest on both sides for the first time in almost two decades.
As a long-time Cane, I digest this news with cautious optimism. I won’t legitimately be excited until I actually see Notre Dame running out the tunnel at Dolphin Stadium. Only then will I know this is real. A road game in South Bend or another at a “neutral” site? Both could happen, but that return game to Miami will be a sticking point — as is the case with a big time, big money rival who feels they call the shots. Sadly, that became the norm on former AD Paul Dee’s watch and it’s something that needs to change during your regime. Miami doesn’t have to bow down to anybody.
Should another bully AD try to paint you into a corner regarding Miami’s fan base and lack of road support, remind him (or her) about TV ratings when the Canes play a big time foe. Last year’s September showdown at The Swamp pitting an unranked Miami squad against a top five Florida bunch. The result? The eighth highest-rated show of the week, with 6,954,000 viewers. Florida wasn’t drawing those numbers for SEC foes, but people tuned in when the Canes came to town.
The Miami/Florida contest was the third most watched regular-season college game in ESPN history. The second most watched? Florida State at Miami in 1994, with 7,667,000 households tuning in.
ESPN’s most-viewed college football game in history remains the 2006 Labor Day match up between Miami and Florida State, two teams then barely clinging to top 15 rankings. The game earned a 6.9 rating with upwards of 6,330,000 households tuning in, edging out the highly-ranked Labor Day match ups of 2004 and 2005 for the Canes and Noles.
Even this recent post-season, a then 7-5 Miami team trekked west to play the unranked Cal Bears in the Emerald Bowl and drew a 4.6 rating with 4,535,000 homes tuning in. ESPN “won the night” on December 27th among all TV networks and was the ninth highest-rated bowl game last season (out of 34).
The common denominator here; Miami.
The Gators see their best regular season TV numbers when playing the Canes. Florida v. Florida State battle every year, both both see their best numbers against Miami. Same for Miami and Notre Dame. Last year’s SEC Championship (Florida v. Alabama) was the highest rated non-bowl game or the year, with a 9.3 rating — behind Miami and Notre Dame’s last meeting in 1990, which registered at a 9.7 rating. No matter the foe, played out as the phrase is – it really is all about The U.
Rumors were swirling this week that Florida is looking to get out of their 2013 return game to Miami. This was on the heels of Kansas State bagging out of an upcoming home and home. (Bill Snyder’s name is barely on the head coach’s office door and he’s already resuming his vintage cupcake scheduling…)
Once a Gator, always a Gator, Paul Dee lost the negotiating battle with UF’s Jeremy Foley. Miami trekked to Florida in 2008 and the Gators have five years to weasel out of the return trip, attempting to pay the Canes off in favor of scheduling another home game against Nobody U. That’ll be followed by a weekly reminder that the SEC conference is the toughest in the game.
I’ll bet the farm Florida doesn’t head south in five years. College football is cyclical and odds are Miami is back on top, while Urban Meyer has taken his road show to either South Bend or the NFL. No way he’s still kicking around Gainesville in ’13. Like Steve Spurrier before him, at some point the nature of the game will make it impossible to live up to the high expectations.
Don’t let Notre Dame pull a Florida. If Miami goes on the road first for a home and home, make the return date within a year or two and raise the stakes so no one can pull out. Should a “neutral” site be chosen for a third game, make sure it’s somewhere between Orlando and Jacksonville. Make it clear that Soldier Field in Chicago isn’t exactly “neutral”.
The upper portion of the Sunshine State would serve as a great locations. Local Domers and national diehard fans would fill any central or northern Florida stadium in fall. Look back at a recent home and home with Florida State, which was beneficial for both programs and UND was well represented, figuratively speaking.
Also, don’t let Notre Dame treat Miami like Boston College, drumming up a bogus reason to end the rivalry because the Irish simply couldn’t hang anymore. Nobody loves to take their ball and go home after a beating like UND.
College football fanatics are clamoring for a Miami v. Notre Dame series. This has to happen. That said, don’t sell your soul to get the holier than thou Irish back on the schedule. It has to be beneficial to Miami.
If not, get a Notre Dame rival on the phone as I’m sure college football wouldn’t mind a Southern Cal v. Miami showdown in the coming years.