This story was originally published on risemiaminews.com on June 11, 2015.
By Santiago Archieri
Growing up in Miami, there was one clear-cut favorite of who I would root for.
When my best friends and I would gear up in our orange and green outfits, we screamed our hearts out in Sun Life stadium. The “U” was what it was always all about.
As the college years went on, I saw two of my best friend’s transition to Duke and Gator fans, while some of us went to Florida International University. Although the University of Miami was my dream school for as long as I can remember, I had to become a Golden Panther.
I was there at every tailgate, stayed till 1 AM at a football game, hell, I even became an FIU cheerleader.
But up until a few weeks back I was conflicted.
It was one of the biggest college baseball games in Miami in recent memory, as FIU traveled 9 miles to Coral Gables to play the Hurricanes. For me, was it going to be UM or FIU gear that I donned at Mark Light?
Turned out to be FIU.
But not everyone has a smooth transition to acquaint themselves with “Panther Pride”. The University of Miami is the big brother school of FIU, and they never are humble about it.
This is completely understandable. I know the legacy “The U” holds, I know their 6 football national championships (and yes I include 2002), I know the bad boy Hurricane days.
I know it all, but going to FIU makes me realize how much pride I have for my own school.
As FIU is celebrating its 50th year as a university, it is well on the rise. FIU is one of the biggest schools in the nation when it comes to students enrollment, has some top notch undergrad programs and a fast growing law school.
And like some other sports in South Florida, fans start to fill the stadium when FIU starts winning.
The glory days of T.Y. Hilton displayed that fact, as fans started to stand on the top deck of the small stadium to cheer on the then conference winning football team. T.Y. led us to a new conference, led us to constructing a bigger stadium, and potentially saved FIU football.
This year, Panther fans saw our swimming and diving team win the conference, they saw the baseball team win the conference title as an 8th seed, they tuned into ESPN to watch FIU own the number one play on SportsCenter when Dennis Mavin hit a ridiculous half court, double pump buzzer beater in the conference tournament for basketball in Birmingham.
All these small things start to add up for FIU fans. The UM-FIU baseball matchup was a perfect example. As I walked in, it was amazing to see so much navy blue and gold.
In a sea of Hurricanes, I could see fellow Panthers, and even though it was a loss, I am sure every FIU fan there was beyond excited to root for their team.
Bring up the empty stadiums, the tough sports history, and the fact that FIU might not have an amazing reputation. But this is all going to change in the future, and it starts with people being proud of their school.
The biggest question I received all my senior year in high school was “Why FIU?”
And now, I know it to be the best decision I ever made. I see those true FIU fans, and know that they are starting to create a trend that can’t be stopped.
What do you think? Should FIU grads stop cheering for UM and better support their school? Let us know in the comments below.