The Miami Hurricanes football team and the Orange Bowl made magnificent memories together.
Now the home of avid Cane fans who once lived in South Miami and Coral Gables, East Ridge at Cutler Bay is known around the University of Miami’s campus as its most loyal retiree cheering section.
As the 2016 spring football practice got underway, Gary Sisler, 81, and ex-OB announcer, James Covell, 91, a newcomer to East Ridge, joined fellow-Cane fans to watch a film tracing the 75-year history of the home field for the Canes since the mid-1930’s.
Sisler screened the “History of the Orange Bowl” documentary and joined Covell to recall its glory days that included hosting 18 national championship games, including three won by their beloved Canes.
From the 1950s on, Covell sat in the OB press box, spotting players and numbers announced over the stadium loudspeakers by Wilbert Bach. “We didn’t do play-by-play,” explained Covell. “We just wanted the fans to know who made the plays to give them credit.
“Wilbert was near 70 one day when he turned to me after a game and said, ‘Jimmy, I’ve done it enough. Why don’t you take over?’ And I did. They paid $25 a game but I got free parking,” he chuckled.
Now retired from Florida Power & Light, Covell started with the utility company by “visiting homeowners to see if they were happy with the service. “You can imagine how much fun that job was,” he laughed after 40 years with the utility, winding up in public relations.
As his ‘best ever’ Bowl memory, Covell picked the 1983 Hurricane win over Nebraska, the first UM championship, recalling how a penalty “put Nebraska at our goal line with us ahead, 31-30, with seconds to play. A Cane cornerback batted away a last-second pass and we were national champs for the first time ever!”
A moment he really enjoyed most? “About 30 of us went to South Bend when we played Notre Dame and we sat amidst all those Irish fans. Me, being a bit of a smarty then, decided to call out in a loud voice: ‘By the way, who are we playing today? Are they any good?’ And yeah, they raised a rumpus all around me, all game long. Sad to say, we lost big that day.”
“By the way,” added Sisler, “I’ll be going to Notre Dame this fall. I’ve already got my tickets. I’ll cheer ‘em on for you, Jimmy.” UM fans well understand that.
As they say: ‘It’s a Cane thing.’