Miami-Notre Dame 2017: Most in-demand Hurricanes home game in years

Fans sing the University of Miami alma mater after UM’s win over Virginia Tech. (Andres Leiva/The Palm Beach Post)


[Ed Reed helping Miami safeties this week]

[Updates from Richt’s press conference Tuesday]

CORAL GABLES — The thought of gold helmets and all those top-10 games a generation ago will get old-school fans pumped. The memories of how they lost last year in South Bend will get current players riled. Then Brandon Wimbush said this:

‘”We didn’t dominate our opponent and we’ll go back and evaluate the film,” Notre Dame’s quarterback said Saturday after his team beat Wake Forest 48-37. “I think next week when we head down to Miami it will be the same outcome, with a ‘W’ — but a more dominant and convincing way.”

Wimbush is heading toward an unfriendly welcome at Hard Rock Stadium, in what promises to be one of the wildest environments for a football game in South Florida in some time.

This region has a reputation for sleeping on its teams unless they’re winning, but it is fully behind the unbeaten Hurricanes (8-0, 6-0 ACC). Miami, one of five unbeaten teams left in the country, is on track to play for the ACC title, and could add a major piece to its growing College Football Playoff resume if it beats the Irish (8-1) on Saturday (8 p.m., ABC).

The Hurricanes moved up three spots to No. 7 in the latest batch of CFP rankings, released Tuesday, while the Irish held at No. 3.

Those stakes mean fans have gobbled up nearly all the available seats. UM Athletics Director Blake James said the school has no more tickets available. Only a few suites remain.

At 4:50 p.m. Monday, the lowest ticket price on was $180. Fewer than 100 tickets were left for less than $200. According to StubHub, 7,144 people were on the website looking for Miami-Notre Dame tickets at that moment.

After he became coach in Dec. 2015, Mark Richt pleaded with fans to show up to games. This year, he has reminded them. Lately, he’s thanking them.

“It’s amazing what happens when everybody gets together and starts yelling at the same time,” he said. “Super loud. When you feel the noise, it’s impressive. It’s just like if you’re at a concert and they’ve got these big giant speakers, and they’re hitting the bass and you kind of feel it — it’s the same thing with a crowd like that. You feel the noise. It changes your outlook on the day. It creates energy in such a big way that your adrenaline lasts a little bit longer.”

“A lot of programs have great fan bases,” he said. “We won’t take a back seat to anybody on that.”

With Miami winning high-profile games, a national audience is starting to learn about the Turnover Chain, UM’s flashy reward for its defense. Richt called it “good, clean fun,” and wondered how many “kids will get a Turnover Chain for Christmas,” whether in necklace or T-shirt form. Little league teams in South Florida, he was told, are handing out their own versions.

“It is a cool chain. It is Miami, for sure,” Richt said. “I don’t see our guys taunting anybody or making fun of anybody. I see them just enjoying the pure joy of making a big play and having your teammates and fans celebrate with you.”

Fans are plenty eager to see the chain come out for Notre Dame, Miami’s old rival from the 1980s. This game was circled on many calendars before the season, even though the Irish were coming off a 4-8 campaign. Now, it’s essentially a College Football Playoff elimination match.

“Most demand I have ever seen for a Miami home game,” said UM Associate AD Jesse Marks, who graduated from UM in 2004 and began working there the following year. He cited the importance of the late-season game and the fact ESPN is bringing its signature college football show, College GameDay, to Miami’s campus.

Fans should be there in droves for GameDay, which hasn’t visited UM since Nov. 17, 2001. There’s lots of social media buzz about whom ESPN will trot out as “guest picker” for the “Saturday Selections” portion of the show. Could it be superstar actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, the former UM defensive lineman? Could it be Miami entertainer Pitbull or rapper Rick Ross? Obviously, there are a host of proud former Hurricanes to choose from, like Ed Reed, who sat in with UM safeties Tuesday in their meeting and offered tips on how to stop Notre Dame.

Including Reed, expect to see more than a few celebrities in the house Saturday. Last week, a host of former Hurricanes were in attendance, including Warren Sapp and recent graduates David Njoku, Tracy Howard, Stacy Coley, Deon Bush and Rayshawn Jenkins (they were on the sideline celebrating). In a luxury suite, Miami superfan Alex Rodriguez was clapping and wearing a bootleg Turnover Chain next to his girlfriend, Jennifer Lopez. They were shown on the video board several times. Lopez made a good effort to throw up the ‘U.’

NCAA records show UM is averaging 55,141 fans per game at Hard Rock Stadium, which has an official capacity of 64,767. The former Sun Life Stadium, which became Miami’s home in 2008, held more than 76,000 until capacity was reduced in 2015. The Hurricanes drew more than 70,000 for five rivalry games: FSU in 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016, and Florida in 2013.

Last week was not a sellout — some 63,000 were in the building — but it sure felt like it. Left tackle Kc McDermott said players began “rocking the buses” when they pulled up and saw how packed the tailgate lots were.

“I’ve got chills right now just thinking about that crowd last Saturday,” he said.  “I can’t wait to see what it’s like this Saturday.”

More Miami-Notre Dame

[DE D. Jackson hurt, but focused on community]

[Report: WR Mullins dismissed]

[Virginia kickoff time announced]

[Hurricanes recruiting going ‘great,’ Richt says]

[Richt Sunday: Enjoying these wins, this season]

[15 stats, notes facts about Miami-Notre Dame]

[5 things we learned from Miami-Virginia Tech]

[UM No. 7 in AP poll | Canes home ‘dog to Irish]


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