CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The day University of Miami fans have been waiting for since Miami entered the Atlantic Coast Conference has finally arrived. The Hurricanes are playing Clemson in the ACC Championship game Saturday, and Miami fans are letting the college football world know just how badly they have wanted this.
UM entered the ACC 13 years ago, and the thought was the one-time powerhouse program would be a yearly guest of the conference title game.
Of course, it hasn't worked out as hoped. "The U" has been the disappointment of the ACC with mediocre season after mediocre season. Poor coaching, a frustrated fan base and a local and national media wondering if Miami would ever be back were the only story lines.
Finally, the narrative has changed, and Hurricanes fans are eating it up.
Arriving here to Charlotte, I knew Clemson fans would outnumber Miami fans, given the proximity of their fan base in South Carolina. This basically equates to a home game for the Tigers.
Yet, in just one day here in Charlotte, it's been amazing to see the amount of UM fans who made the trip and the passion they've had in trying to paint this town orange and green.
Maybe it's the desperation of the frustrating wait to get here. Maybe it's the excitement of the turnover chains that everyone here seems to be wearing. Or maybe it's just that Miami fans really know how to party, but the support has been very impressive.
From the airport to local bars and restaurants to just walking down the streets of this town, UM fans are out in full force.
I'm sure Clemson fans will be filling into Bank of America Stadium on Saturday night and be loud about their support for their team. But, with 13 years of building tension and frustration, Miami fans are ready to unleash an energy I'm not sure any ACC title game in this town has seen.
I give UM fans credit. Just like the team, they're back. They've had to sit and watch for more than a decade as the 'Canes became an afterthought program in a conference they were supposed to dominate.
It hasn't been easy to watch, and it's certainly understandable why many fans lost hope.
Now they're finally being rewarded. Enjoy this, Miami fans. You deserve it. It took longer than it needed to, but the 'Canes finally matter again, and fans are letting the world know.