From a football perspective, May 21, 2013 will forever be remembered as a dark day in the typically sunny Miami, Florida.
It was the day the city went 0-for-2 in Super Bowl bids, as Super Bowl L was awarded to the San Francisco Bay Area and Super Bowl LI went to the Houston, Texas.
The Super Bowl miss is the latest development in the relatively rapid process that has seen South Florida go from one of the country's most thriving football regions to a place devoid of team success and general interest at both the collegiate and professional levels.
Super Bowl Miss
There were many reasons the city of Miami wasn't given Super Bowl L or Super Bowl LI, but the central cause of the bid failure was the lack of a plan to build a new stadium or the needed financial backing to upgrade Sun Life Stadium.
Florida lawmakers voted against a proposal to grant the Dolphins public funding in early May (h/t NFL.com).
Frank Supovitz, the league's senior vice president of events, said the following to Jeff Darlington of NFL.com, which shed more light on why Miami will struggle to be awarded Super Bowls in the future:
There are more and more cities interested in hosting them. They've gone to non-traditional sites, those you don't automatically associate with the rotation. The number of competitive regions has increased.
Darlington then wrote:
It takes more than sunshine and hotels to land a Super Bowl these days. An exceptional bid is required to even gain consideration. And an exceptional bid, of course, requires a venue of exceptional potential with regard to hosting the big game.
He finished by summarizing everything perfectly:
However, the bottom line for Miami, which has relied on its desirable geography and exceptional social scene, is that it will have fewer opportunities to host the big game. And without a first-class venue, those opportunities will be even more difficult to win.
Miami should consider itself fortunate to be one of the few cities that has hosted a handful of Super Bowls in the past, but its inability to gather enough money to fund stadium upgrades, and the changing culture of how Super Bowl sites are chosen aren't good developments for South Florida.
Though it's been a problem for the league as a whole over the last five years, the Dolphins are struggling to fill the seats in Sun Life Stadium.
This from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:
The home average of 57,795 (29th in the NFL) is down 3,000 a game from 2011, and is the lowest since 1989 (figures available prior to 1997 are for actual, rather than paid, attendance).
Dan Le Batard of the Miami Herald wrote this in an April 2012 article about the Dolphins season-ticket base:
From 1995 to 2005, Dolphins season-ticket sales were always around 60,000, but one source says the team is presently laboring to be at half that number.
The experience of staying home to watch games is getting better each year, which is deterring some from trekking to all NFL stadiums. But four consecutive losing seasons and no playoff wins since the 2000 postseason hasn't helped to attract fans, either.
Also, the Miami Hurricanes have experienced a eerily similar downward spiral over the last decade.
The U's Downfall
After the memorable 1970s for the Dolphins, the Hurricanes took center stage on Miami's sports stage and stayed there for years. They rose to national fame under Howard Schnellenberger before morphing into the bad boys under Jimmy Johnson. Then came the highly successful Dennis Erickson era.
Finally, after Butch Davis' relatively ineffective tenure—one that was clouded with controversy—Larry Coker lifted the "U" to new, unprecedented heights.
But following his firing in 2006, Randy Shannon's teams fell drastically short of expectations, and since then, the Hurricanes haven't been able to recover in the ticket office.
This from a student article on Miami.edu:
The bottom line is that Miami is only filling Sun Life Stadium to about 61.4 percent of capacity, numbers that can cause the professional stadium to look empty at times.
The Atlantic Coast Conference has had decent turnout among the 12 conferences that the NCAA recognizes. They have been ranked fifth since 2004 with average attendance of 54,186 in 2009, a number fairly noticeably higher than Miami’s personal 47,551 average in 2009.
The Al Goden era has started with record of 6-6 and 7-5, and the program has been marred by a NCAA recruiting scandal.
When the Hurricanes are thriving, so are their ticket sales. They just need to reestablished their national prominence, which isn't easy with today's SEC supremacy.
While many casual Dolphins fans loved the team's offseason spending spree in 2013, this tweet from NBC's Evan Silva illustrates the caution in what general manager Jeff Ireland did:
While Ireland certainly proved he's making a diligent effort to significantly improve his team this year, it's not crazy to see his free-agency binge as a desperate act to keep his job.
Wide receiver Mike Wallace was given $27 million guaranteed.
He will represent a $3.2 million cap hit in 2013, but that hit sky-rockets to $17.2 million in 2014 and, per Ben Volin formerly of the Palm Beach Post, if Wallace is on the roster on the fifth day of the 2014 league year, his 2015 base salary of $9.85 million is guaranteed.
Certainly, Ireland didn't weigh the long-term cap situation as much as he did the short-term.
There's a chance the Dolphins and quarterback Ryan Tannehill thrive with an assortment of new toys on offense and defense. But if the free agents flop, although rolling over money will be an option, Miami will be in a rather undesirable salary cap position in the future.
After years of being one of the nation's most exciting and prosperous collegiate and professional football areas, one steeped in triumph and tradition, South Florida has reached a lull in its progress.
The relative slump of the Dolphins and Hurricanes has come at a time when the Miami Heat have transformed into the NBA's most high-profile team. They've won two titles since 2005.
There's promise for the city of Miami and its surrounding areas from a football standpoint, though. Its favorable weather and unparalleled night life will always be attractive to players and coaches, and the Florida International football program could help revitalize the college scene.
The Super Bowl misses reminded everyone that, right now, South Florida is more football irrelevant than ever before.
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