Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?

Some of the planned possible improvements include these new palm tree goal posts in an effort by the Dade County Convention & Visitors Bureau in an effort to increase tourism

It appears that the Miami Hurricanes are in danger of being a team without a home-- much like Bruce Banner in The Incredible Hulk TV series. Evidently the U had decided to move on to a new crib-- Dolphins Stadium in Sunny Fort Lauderdale-- much like every other major tenant of the giant Erector Set just west of Little Havana (see the Dolphins and the actual Orange Bowl Game). However, the fine tuning of the deal hasn't been as smooth and now it's a 50-50 chance that the Boys from Coral Gables will continue to beat the stuffing out of foes at the OB. One of the catching points? The Canes don't want to play in a Stadium named Dolphin Stadium (because it might look as if they don't call the shots there. Welcome to the world of the Florida Marlins, kids.). There are other items to be haggled over, but that's the most entertaining one.

In my opinion, it's very rare that the shared Pro/College stadium arrangement works out. Someone's always a loser and seems somewhat out of place, no matter what steps are taken. And usually, the deal ends up with the teams going their separate ways. And more often then not, it's been the college teams that end up worse off. Let's examine:

  • SMU and the Dallas Cowboys shared not only The Cotton Bowl (which the Cowboys left for more money from controlling their own stadium), they also shared Texas Stadium (which the Ponies flocked to in the Pony Express Days) only to see them not fill the stadium and return to campus after the Death Penalty Days. WINNER: NFL. The Ponies never bounced back from the Death Penalty.

  • USC and The LA Raiders. Al Davis's crew came to SoCal in 1982 and played in The Coliseum, always complaining of the lack of luxury suites in the massive stadium made it tough to compete in the NFL economic model. When LA balked at building a new stadium for him, Davis packed up shop and pulled a boomerang back to Oakland in 1994. WINNER: COLLEGE. Al Davis got what he wanted in Stadium renovations in Oakland and is still threating to move the team.

  • The University of Houston and The Houston Oilers shared the Harris County Domed Stadium, a.k.a. The 8th Wonder of the World--The AstroDome. The Oilers are a class unto themselves on this topic. Prior to moving to the Dome, the Powder Blue Crew played at Rice Stadium (home of the Rice Owls and at that time, also the UofH Coogs) and before that had played at Jeppensen Stadium over on the University of Houston main campus. Of course, with Bud Adams' trek from Houston to Nashville had stops in the Liberty Bowl (home of the Univ. of Memphis Tigers) in 1997, then on to Vanderbilt Stadium (1998) and finally to Adelphia Coliseum (now LP Field) in Nashville. The University of Houston played at Jeppenson and Rice Stadium before moving into the AstroDome between 1965-1998. The Coogs had some great teams behind Bill Yoeman's Veer in the 1970s and Jack Pardee's Run and Shoot teams of the late '90s (including Heisman Trophy winner Andre Ware), but never drew consistent, substantial crowds. They moved back to a renovated Jeppensen Stadium, now named John O'Quinn Field at Robertson Stadium in 1998. WINNER: PUSH- The Titans are bouncing back in Tennessee (including a Super Bowl appearance), the Cougars are experiencing some success on campus. The Harris County taxpayers seem to be losing the most.

  • In 1982 The University of Minnesota and The Minnesota Vikings both moved to the Hubert H. Humphrey MetroDome for the obvious reason of getting out of the frigid Minnesota weather. While the Vikes have improved over the previous Metropolitan Stadium, it appears that the sterile atmosphere pushed the Golden Gophers to build the new TCF Bank Stadium on campus and will return there in 2009. The Vikings are also looking for a new home as the HomerDome has grown outmoded for the current NFL, but through previous threats to move, the Twin Cities are looking into it. WINNER: NFL. The Vikes have blossomed in the Dome, while the Gophers struggle to fill it up.

  • Arizona State University and The Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals was created as a strange marriage of convenience when St. Louis owner Bill Bidwell moved his Cardinals to the Desert in 1988. Obviously, ASU's Sun Devil Stadium was the only facility in the metro Phoenix area that could host the games with its capacity (as proven by the Arizona Wranglers and Outlaws of the USFL in 1983-1985). However, the income streams available to the NFL club were less than desirable, which some might argue reflected the usual outcome on the field for most of the 1990s. The Cards have since moved to The University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale that is a retractable roof stadium and the club's economic model fits better. Even better, the University of Phoenix doesn't field a football team to overshadow the Cardinals like the Sun Devils' on-field success often did. WINNER: NFL. The Cards left, but for a much better deal and are now an up-and-coming team.

  • Tulane University and The New Orleans Saints have seemingly flip-flopped positions in history. The Green Wave of Tulane were once a force to be reckoned with yet have now fallen on hard times-- just barely dodging the budgetary axe a few years ago and then the damage of Hurricane Katrina. The Saints have gone from laughing stocks to the 2007 NFC Championship game (yet still hold the title of one of 6 teams that have never been to the Super Bowl). And this Ying-Yang relationship goes back further. When the Saints were granted to New Orleans (allegedly in a backroom deal to help get Congressional approval for the NFL-AFL merger) in 1967, they first played at Tulane Stadium over in NOLA's Garden District (also mistakenly referred to as The Sugar Bowl since the bowl game had been held there since the 1930s). When they moved to the Louisiana SuperDome in 1975, they went together--partly because it was a better facility, and partly because Tulane Stadium was condemned on the same day the SuperDome opened. Perhaps one of the reasons that both the Saints and the Green Wave have had such futility in their new stadium is the simple fact that above-ground Girod Street Cemetery was cleared to make room for the SuperDome. WINNER: NFL. While the 'Aints haven't always been great, their future is bright.

  • Temple/Pitt and The Philadelphia Eagles/Pittsburgh Steelers. There is great irony in the fact that the most recent example of teams moving into and sharing a stadium are both located in Pennsylvania. Yes, Three Rivers and The Vet needed to go. Both were the outmoded 1970s cookie-cutter multi-use facilities that provided poor sightlines for all of their multiple uses. Pitt and Temple have been seemingly smart enough at the time to jump in on somewhat publicly funded initiatives to provide new facilities (Pitt left Memorial Stadium after 75 seasons to play 1 year in Three Rivers while Hienz Field was being completed/ Temple left the old Temple Stadium for The Vet after 50 years). WINNER: NFL.Both NFL teams run the show on both deals with the Steelers and the Eagles being the main reason that Heinz Field and Lincoln Financial Field were constructed.

  • Some places simply share the facility for short term periods while construction for new stadiums is going on. Recent examples include The University of Washington and The Seattle Seahawks sharing Husky Stadium while Qwest Field was being built (2000-2001); The University of Illinois and The Chicago Bears splitting Memorial Stadium in Champagne when Soldier Field was remade (2002); The New York Giants/Jets letting Rutgers University use Giants Stadium at the Meadowlands when the second edition of Rutgers Stadium was being built(1993). WINNER: PUSH. These were only seen as short term solutions to start with.

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