University of Miami

Thousands of Hurricanes fans descending on Charlotte hoping to witness a coronation

UM fans show their support as the Seminoles host the Miami Hurricanes at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee on Sat., Oct. 7, 2017.
UM fans show their support as the Seminoles host the Miami Hurricanes at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee on Sat., Oct. 7, 2017. adiaz@miamiherald.com

Clemson fans have to travel just two hours up I-85 to get to Saturday’s highly anticipated ACC Championship showdown between the top-ranked Tigers and seventh-ranked University of Miami. The Hurricane faithful have a much longer journey — 730 miles by air or car — to get to Charlotte, North Carolina.

But that isn’t stopping thousands of UM fans from making the trip. The school sold out of its initial allotment of 5,000 tickets, requested another 2,500 and sold out of those, as there were more than 10,000 requests, according to Jesse Marks, UM’s Associate Athletic Director for Development.

Nobody knows for sure how much orange and green will invade the 75,000-seat Bank of America Stadium, but there could be as many as 20,000 to 25,000 Miami fans based on interest on TicketMaster and the secondary ticket market.

Harry Rothwell, general manager at AllCanes sporting goods, said the store has been overrun this week by fans looking for ski caps, hoodies, and thick UM socks, as the Charlotte forecast for Saturday is high 57, low 38.

“We’ve had the busiest November in the history of the store,” Rothwell said. “There’s just a great buzz around this team. I wouldn’t be surprised to see 25,000 UM fans up there.”

AllCanes is hosting a pre-game “Shindig in Charlotte” Friday night, along with former Hurricane players Jon Beason and Damione Lewis, both of whom played for the Carolina Panthers. More than 300 people had already RSVP’d as of Thursday morning, and Rothwell said another 200 are expected.

It goes without saying that Lazaro Armando Arribas, aka Cutler Ridge Laz, is making the trek along with his wife, Maureen, and hundreds of his “Green Lot CanesFam” friends who plan to take over the parking lot at Smith and 6th Streets in Charlotte for a giant tailgate. He said UM fans he knows are also coming from Kentucky, Louisiana, New York, and Los Angeles.

It’s amazing. It’s the first ACC championship game for Miami, so you’ve got to try to make this one after all these years of abuse.

Cutler Ridge Laz, Hurricanes fan

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Cutler Ridge Laz and his wife, Maureen, are making the trip to Charlotte.

Laz, as he is known to local fans from his frequent calls to WQAM, helps organize massive tailgate parties at Hard Rock Stadium, and is doing the same for Saturday’s game along with another super-fan Sherry Wright. They hired Chef Andrew Hughes to cater the event, and for $15, tailgaters get chimichurri marinated beef sirloin tips, smoked gouda mac-n-cheese, Creole jambalaya with chicken and sausage, and dirty rice.

“That whole area is going to be full of Canes fam,” said Laz, who is flying up Friday night and paid $140 for tickets in Section 300. “It’s amazing. It’s the first ACC championship game for Miami, so you’ve got to try to make this one after all these years of abuse.”

Like many of the most dedicated Hurricane fans, Laz did not attend UM. His love for the Hurricanes was born as a young boy, son of Cuban immigrants who lived off Flagler and 15th Ave., a few blocks from the Orange Bowl in the early to mid-1980s.

“I wasn’t fortunate enough to go to the school, but when my family came from Cuba, they ended up living around the Orange Bowl and we grew up parking cars at our house for games, ‘10 dollars, no blocky,’” Laz said, laughing. “My Mom and the neighbors used to make Pan con Lechon [pork sandwiches] and I sold them for two bucks and all the UM fans would eat them up.”

The Miami Hurricanes are making their first appearance in the ACC Championship game against Clemson on Saturday. Coaches of both teams believe the winner gets into the College Football Playoff.

He said the reason he believes the Hurricanes football program is different from most around the nation is that its fan base is made up largely of people who didn’t go to the school.

“The way I see it, the school belongs to the alums who went there, paid through the nose to get a diploma from there and put in the work, but the team also belongs to the city. Through riots, through whatever, the Hurricanes unite the city. We were street kids from Little Havana, didn’t have much, but the one thing we all looked forward to was Saturdays for the Canes and Sundays for the Dolphins.”

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Cutler Ridge Laz and his wife, Maureen, along with the “Green Lot CanesFam” friends.

Ralph Nunez of Miami Springs turns 50 in December and is treating himself to a trip to the ACC Championship as an early birthday gift, taking along a lifelong friend from Ocala. He is taking off work from his hydraulics shop Friday and driving up. They are sitting in the end zone nosebleed seats, but Nunez doesn’t care. Like Laz, he did not attend UM but grew up a diehard fan.

“There hasn’t been a buzz like this about UM football since 2002, and I wasn’t going to miss this game,” Nunez said. “I’m superstitious, so I’ll be wearing my old No. 8 Duke Johnson jersey, because it’s been working so far this season, and Braxton Berrios is No. 8. The atmosphere at the Notre Dame game was amazing, and this should be fun, too.”

I am passing the legacy down to my son, so he can understand what I’ve been talking about for all these years.

Onel Garcia, UM Class of 1992

Onel Garcia, UM Class of 1992, is an insurance agent in Coral Gables. He is taking his nine-year-old son, Daniel, to his first away game.

“I am passing the legacy down to my son, so he can understand what I’ve been talking about for all these years,” Garcia said “He’s seen videos, but now he will see it live. I went to my first UM game in 1979. It was against Louisville, and I was hooked. I was 13 in 1983 when UM had that miracle season. I love being able to share my love for the Hurricanes with my son now.”

It feels like the ’80s all over again, with a young, exciting UM team. I am so jazzed up.

Chris Anelli, Hurricanes fan

Albert Gonzalez, Brad Carter, Chris Anelli, and Miguel Hernandez are longtime friends and Canes fans. They’ll be sitting together at Saturday’s game. Anelli recently moved from Miami to Columbia, South Carolina, but his allegiance is still with the Hurricanes. He grew up in New York, and became a UM fan when he was working for the Florida East Coast Railroad.

“It feels like the ’80s all over again, with a young, exciting UM team,” said Anelli. “I am so jazzed up.”

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