SBD/August 30, 2011/Franchises

Gator Bait: Dolphins Under Fire For Plans To Honor '08 UF National Championship Team

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UF teammates Pouncey, Tebow now play for Dolphins and Broncos, respectively
Dolphins CEO Mike Dee said that the team's plan to honor the Univ. of Florida's '08 National Championship team prior to the Oct. 23 game against the Broncos "was conceived to generate ticket sales during a challenging time and not a slight" against the Univ. of Miami, according to Craig Davis of the South Florida SUN-SENTINEL. Dee said that UM "declined a similar proposal to honor the 10th anniversary of UM's last national championship during a Dolphins game this season." Dee: "We reached out to both schools at about the same time in early to mid July." Davis notes Broncos QB Tim Tebow and Dolphins C Mike Pouncey both played on the '08 UF team, and former UF coach Urban Meyer "has agreed to participate in the celebration." However, the idea "sparked an angry backlash from UM supporters on sports talk radio shows and social media sites." A SunSentinel.com poll showed that 76% of respondents voted the plan was a "ridiculous misread of the market," while just 12% supported the idea. Dee: "Are we surprised, yeah, maybe a little, given the fact that these schools don't play every year." He added, "I wish we were in a position where those kinds of marketing things didn't matter. We're not in that position, and there's over 100,000 active Gator alums in South Florida" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 8/30). Dee indicated that UM declined to participate because the school wants to "do that on their own." Dee: "We love the University of Miami. We can't afford to discriminate and only market to fans that are Hurricane fans. It's unfortunate some have viewed it as inflammatory" (MIAMI HERALD, 8/30). The UM football team has played in Sun Life Stadium since '08 (THE DAILY).

LOOKING FOR NEW WAYS TO SELL TICKETS: Dee said, "We never envisioned that the reaction we've gotten would be what it is. ... It'd be great to just open the doors and let 70,000 people come in. But now we need to be creative and aggressive. We've got to push." In West Palm Beach, Ethan Skolnick notes a blackout "was clearly a concern for that Oct. 23 date with Denver, which is not a Miami rival." Skolnick writes of Dee, "He did not convince me that Gator Day was a brilliant idea. Rather, he convinced me that the Dolphins are just about out of ideas when it comes to drawing fans during these challenging times. They've tried celebrity owners, an orange carpet, a nightclub, even an awful new fight song. Still, they're searching." However, Skolnick writes the "transparent tie-in with Tebow, a player on the visiting team, seemed beneath an NFL franchise that has touted its own tradition for decades" (PALM BEACH POST, 8/30).

BAD TIMING: In Miami, Greg Cote notes Dee is "working damage control," as the "timing of the announcement makes it seem like piling on" after the recent scandal involving UM and booster Nevin Shapiro. Dee said, "There may be a raw nerve at the moment." Cote writes the Dolphins front office "is making a habit of these sporadic embarrassments big and small, from Jeff Ireland/Dez Bryant to Stephen Ross' Jim Harbaugh mess to the team gift shop selling Jets jerseys to this." The team needs to "draw a line." Cote: "The Dolphins are a Miami team. This is Miami" (MIAMI HERALD, 8/30). In Orlando, George Diaz wrote under the header, "Worst Idea Ever: Dolphins Honoring Tebow, Gators On UM Turf." Diaz: "Dee obviously is clueless when it comes to all things involving Hurricanes, Gators and Seminoles. Nobody likes each other. Memo to Dee: Many fans actually hate the other side" (ORLANDOSENTINEL.com, 8/29).

SIGN OF THINGS TO COME? In West Palm Beach, Brian Biggane reports the Dolphins' game Thursday night against the Cowboys will be blacked out locally, which "could be a harbinger of things to come." The team has "sold out 101 straight games," though reportedly "thousands of tickets remain for the Week 2 home game against Houston" (PALM BEACH POST, 8/30). In Miami, Barry Jackson notes there is a "realistic possibility that a few regular-season home games also might be blacked out." Dee said of the game against the Texans, "If there were a couple thousand tickets left, we would figure out a way to get it done. But this is more significant" (MIAMI HERALD, 8/30).
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