During Saturday's Miami Dolphins at Tampa Bay Buccaneers preseason game, Dolphins Chief Executive Office Mike Dee announced the plans for the Dolphins to host a reunion of the 2009 Florida Gators National Championship Team during the team's October 23 match-up with the Denver Broncos.
And, somehow, the announcement of a halftime ceremony most people won't even see, set off a firestorm in Miami.
University of Miami Hurricane fans felt slighted that the Dolphins would invite the Florida Gators into the Hurricane's home. Forget the fact that the Gators won that National Championship in Miami. Forget for the fact that the stadium is owned by the Miami Dolphins/Stephen Ross, and that the Hurricane lease the stadium, much like the Florida Marlins.
The Dolphins, coming off two straight losing seasons, have seen ticket sales slump along with the team. The NFL lockout, adding doubt to the NFL's future right during prime ticket drives, hurt sales as well.
But, Hurricane fans were calling for Stephen Ross's head at this obvious use of Broncos' quarterback Tim Tebow's popularity, as the Broncos visit that weekend, to try to sell tickets.
However, Hurricane fans ignore the fact that, the reunion was happening anyway. Tebow was going to be there. Tebow is one of the largest drawing players in the NFL right now, love him or hate him. And, Dolphins' rookie center Mike Pouncey was a member of that National Championship team as well.
As much as University of Miami fans may hate to admit it, they do call the state of Florida home. And, in the state of Florida, there are more universities than the one that calls themselves "The U."
Oh, and to top it off, Dee stated that the Dolphins did extend an offer to honor the Hurricane's 2001 National Championship team in their 10th anniversary. "They politely declined and said that they were going to do something to honor that team at one of their own home games. We reached out to both schools at about the same time, in early to mid July."
Are the Dolphins simply using the opportunity to try to sell tickets? Sure. And they don't dispute that.
"We're not where we want to be, but we're working hard, trying to be creative, and trying to be aggressive to keep our sellout streak, and decade long tradition of having games on local television," Dee explained. "I wish we were in a position where those kind of marketing things didn't matter. We're not in that position, and there's over 100,000 active Gator alums in South Florida."
In fact, the Dolphins sellout streak reaches back to October 18, 1998, when Miami hosted the St. Louis Rams. Since that time, every game has been seen on local television, and gimmicks - and that's what this is - such as a University of Florida reunion were unimaginable. But, today, its needed. The Dolphins are currently blacked out for Thursday's final preseason game against the Cowboys, and the early indications are that regular season games will be blacked out as well.
"Are we surprised [at the backlash]? Yeah, maybe a little, given the fact that these schools don't play every year," Dee stated. "I know both have very passionate fan bases. We certainly root for the 'Canes. They are a partner of ours, a tenant of ours."
Maybe, however, we shouldn't be surprised by the Dolphins move. After all, if we were buying out the stadium, they would not be forced to find tricks like this.
And maybe, just maybe, it's really the Florida State Seminole who should be upset. After all, the Dolphins seem to have ignored them in the reunion invitation plans.