Miami football: Orange Bowl was Hurricanes Field of Dreams

MIAMI - NOVEMBER 8: . (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images)
MIAMI - NOVEMBER 8: . (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images) /

The Miami football program played its home games at the Orange Bowl for 71 seasons. For the Hurricanes, the Orange Bowl was its Field of Dreams. Miami won 58 straight games at the Orange Bowl from 1985-1994. That is a record that still stands. The Orange Bowl had an unprecedented atmosphere.

Playing in the Orange Bowl or attending a game there was a special experience. When Howard Schnellenger took over as the Miami head coach in 1979, he built one of the best home-field advantages in college football. That advantage culminated with a National Championship in the final season under Schnellenberger in 1983.

The Hurricanes 31-30 upset victory over Nebraska in the 1984 Orange Bowl was the berth of the Hurricanes dynasty. Miami began their 58 game road winning streak after a 35-23 loss to Florida to begin the 1985 season. After three straight home games, the Hurricanes returned home and defeated Cincinnati 38-0.

The victory over the Bearcats was the fourth in a 10 game winning streak during the 1985 season. Miami ended the year with a 35-7 loss to Tennessee in the Sugar Bowl. That game cost Miami the National Championship. The Hurricanes played their first game at the Orange Bowl, then known as Burdines Stadium in 1937.

Miami had good teams, but never a sustained era of excellence until Schnellenberger arrived. Schnellenberger helped set the tone with a 4-0 home record in his first season. Counting the win over Nebraska in the 1984 Orange Bowl Game, Miami finished 24-2 at home during the Schnellenberger era.

Miami finished an uncharacteristic 2-3 at the Orange Bowl in its first season under Jimmy Johnson. The final two home games of the 1984 season were infamous losses to Maryland and Boston College. The home opener in 1985 began with the previously mentioned loss to Florida, the last at the Orange Bowl until 1994.

After losing four of its first six home games under Johnson, Miami won its last 22 at the Orange Bowl in his final four seasons. That is when the dominance began. It continued under Dennis Erickson who lost only two games during his Hurricanes tenure. The Orange Bowl was home for the Miami football program and fan base.

Games at night with the introductions through the smoke were particularly special. Usually in front of a nationally televised audience when Miami played a home game at night, the atmosphere was rarely rivaled by any college football program. The Orange Bowl was the Miami football program’s Field of Dreams.

As the White Sox and Yankees play their Field of Dreams game in Dyersville, Iowa on Thursday night it’s fun to contemplate what a college football Field of Dreams game would be. For the Miami football program, it would have to be played at some sort of re-creation of the Orange Bowl, even if it was temporary.

Next. Manny Diaz: no Miami football without Schnellenberger. dark

The Orange Bowl is long gone. Marlins AKA Loan Depot Park now sits on the site that was occupied by the Orange Bowl in Little Havana. The Miami football program remained at the Orange Bowl through the 2007 season before moving to now Hard Rock Stadium. The Hurricanes were mediocre at the end of the Orange Bowl era.