I keep looking at the Miami Hurricanes football schedule and it keeps looking like a misprint.
Miami vs. Appalachian State, Sept. 17, at Boone, N.C.
Not exactly the road trip everyone has been fixated on in Mark Richt’s first season as Hurricanes coach.
Miami vs. Notre Dame on Oct. 29 at South Bend has been getting slightly more play.
App State is a solid program. Three national championships in a row from 2005-07, all at the FCS level. Beat Michigan at Ann Arbor in 2007. Oh, and the Mountaineers went 11-2 last year with a win over Ohio in the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl.
Still, getting a home game with the five-time national champion Hurricanes, all at the big boy level, is a completely new deal. You can tell it by the excited comments of the folks in Boone when the contract was announced last fall.
“You call around and see who needs a game,” App State athletic director Doug Gillin told the Watauga Democrat newspaper in Boone. “It’s an art, not a science. We called a lot of teams. If you can name a team, we probably called them. Some were interested in playing in Boone and some weren’t. Miami had an opening and it was just a great opportunity for us and it just worked out.”
The amazing thing is that Miami athletic director Blake James called back. With temporary stands dragged in, App State’s on-campus stadium was built for 23,650 spectators, and the record attendance there, with temporary seats dragged in, is 31,531. That, by the way, was for a big rivalry game against Elon.
Not the kind of habit Miami wants to get into but the Hurricanes also played last year at FAU to an announced crowd of 30,321 that really didn’t look that crowded, especially when the lightning meter stopped play and sent people headed for the exits.
This reminds me of Miami’s trip to Shreveport to play Louisiana Tech in 2003. The Hurricanes were No. 3 in the nation at the time but quarterback Brock Berlin was from Shreveport and it was a chance to some recruiting out there. Besides, the game was at Independence Stadium, which took in 43,279 for the game with plenty of empty seats to spare.
Richt and the new Hurricanes get absolutely nothing out of playing at App State, expect for the chance to be embarrassed. Hey, it happens. On the same November afternoon in 2013 that Richt’s old Georgia Bulldogs team was pulverizing Kentucky, the Florida Gators were losing in the Swamp to Georgia Southern, not yet graduated from FCS to the Sun Belt.
As it stands, Richt figures to get off to a good start at Miami with home games against FAMU and FAU. Then comes the trip to Boone, one of the most beautiful vacation sports you could hope to find, tucked high in North Carolina ski country. Miami fans really should consider going, but they won’t in any large number, which will come as another surprise to the Mountaineer crowd.
“Miami coming here is a big deal,” Gillin said. “When they called us, they asked, ‘Where do we stay? Where do we eat?’ They might stay in Hickory. They might stay in Banner Elk. And they’re going to bring however many thousands of fans. Miami travels pretty well.”
Well, maybe, but my guess is that App State will bring more to Miami in 2021 when the teams complete this rare home-and-home deal. Boone, though lovely as mentioned above, is probably not on the football road-trip bucket list for most Hurricanes fans.
Back in February Blake James, who scored a major coup in landing Richt, talked to our Matt Porter about the less glamorous side of his job as Miami’s athletic director’s job.
“Scheduling’s a complicated thing,” he said. “It wasn’t our first choice. You have to fill out your schedule. We’re excited to go to App State and finish out our schedule.
“There are a lot of moving parts any time you schedule a game. Like I said, it wasn’t where we had targeted, but it was what was best for us when it came time to finish the schedule.”
All the same, it looks like a misprint, and when Richt starts trying to mentally prepare his team for a trip to Sun Belt country, it’s going to feel like a royal pain. If his program takes off like it’s supposed to, awkward arrangements like this will vanish right quick.
Looking at future schedules, the only other power-five conference team planning to play at App State any time soon is Wake Forest in 2017. Probably wasn’t what they had targeted, either.