The Miami Hurricanes traded swaying palm trees and the Atlantic Ocean on Monday for majestic mountains and the Chihuahuan Desert.
They left South Beach, hip-hop and bikini-clad sunbathers for the Mexican border, mariachi music and colorfully costumed Folklorico Dancers kicking off Hyundai Sun Bowl week El Paso style.
“The music kind of hit them and took them by storm a little bit,” said UM interim coach Larry Scott at El Paso International Airport after his Canes clapped and sang and danced with the young women, most of them in high school. “A lot of fan support. It’s like ‘OK, there are Hurricanes on this side of the country as well.’”
The Hurricanes (8-4) will meet the Cougars (8-4) at 2 p.m. Saturday in the Sun Bowl, the nation’s second oldest bowl game (behind the Rose Bowl), dating to 1935.
El Paso is a border city in Texas that sits on the banks of the Rio Grande across the river from Cuidad Juarez in Mexico. Juarez, as recently as 2010 (the only other time the Hurricanes played in the Sun Bowl) known as the murder capital of the world, will be off limits to the Canes and their Washington State counterparts.
“No habla Español” joked Scott when asked before he left if the Canes could visit Mexico.
In other words, “No.”
Since El Paso is in the desert, it’s warmer during the day (upper 50s to low 60s) and cold at night (high 20s to mid 30s). The forecast calls for a cold, rainy gameday Saturday, with temperatures in the low to mid 40s. The rain, however, is forecast to change to a rare snowfall after the game ends.
In 2010, snow fell the night before the game, covering the artificial turf that morning with about an inch of ice and snow.
Scott said that part of the bowl preparation included getting players “to understand that they have to embrace and enjoy the whole experience. You’ve got to learn how to prepare through all of it. If you’re out at an event, enjoy each other and have fun.
“They’ve got a bunch of things for those kids to do. I want them to relish every experience.”
The Hurricanes are staying in the Radisson Hotel El Paso Airport, and practicing at Montwood High School, about 20 minutes away.
The week’s entertainment includes go-cart racing and a trip to the U.S. Army’s Fort Bliss military base.
“This was cool, man,” said safety Deon Bush after the dancing ended. “I love the culture out here.”
Freshman cornerback Sheldrick Redwine said he kept hearing about the Sun Bowls’ “tradition-rich” history, and Monday he got a taste of the community’s hospitality.
“I feel real welcomed here,” he said.