It starts with my sister. She went to Miami for her undergrad. She was there for four years, got her degree in architecture and left Oxford a completely different person. She was changed because she embraced the experience in Oxford. Jess (thats her name, I hope that she doesn't mind that I am using it) did it all there. She saw the world while she was at Miami visiting London, and spending a few weeks building houses in Ghana. Those trips, and a whole lot of things besides changed her into the woman she is today. I saw the effects that the oft mocked college experience can have on someone, even if I didn't fully comprehend them.
But it was more than her transformation that ties me there. Miami at the time forbade freshmen from having cars on campus. So Jess was, in effect, stranded four hours from home, two hours from the nearest family. Not exactly ideal. So because of that*, often times my parents and I (and occasionally my brother), would embark on these insane day trips to Miami. When I say its insane believe me. We would get up at 6 or 7 in the morning, drive four hours to Oxford. Be with Jess for a couple of hours, no more than 7, occasionally less than four, and then we would then get in the car and drive four hours home.
* and because my parents were having a tough time, though they probably would never admit it
On top of that I always came down for the little sibs weekends and random events, like my first ever college basketball game**. When it came to seeing stereotypical college things (my first frat boy!, my first hippie!, my first douche bag!,*** my first drunk student passed out in a ditch at 10 AM) they all happened at Miami. For a lot of people the quintessential college might be Harvard, Virginia, Kenyon or Washington. For me its Miami, and it always will be.
**My sister graduated in the same ceremony with Wall Szczerbiak. I went to a game that year and will never forget him dunking on some poor soul from Kent State. You don't know how down I was with Wally at the time.
***I didn't register it at the time, I was 12, but that is certainly the first time I saw one
When it came time for me to pick a school I only visited three, Marietta (because I thought about playing football for a minute) Miami and Cincinnati. I ended up going to Cincinnati because I wanted to be in a city, and because I wanted to get as far away from Norwalk as I could without physically leaving the state (mission accomplished). But I still pull for Miami. I always want them to win every game but the Bell.
That is still true today, but I am still pulling for Miami, more so than ever. I have a connection with head coach Don Treadwell, or rather I had one. That connection was the reason why I started following Michigan State the moment the Dantonio staff left for Michigan State. There are still a lot of UC fans who root against Mark Dantonio, and will always do so. I will just never join those ranks. Just like I will never join the cadre of Bearcats who are always wishing for a lightning strike anytime MSU and Notre Dame play. I will root for Michigan State to kick Notre Dame's ass because BK can go fuck himself.
Though that connection has been severed forever I am still pulling for coach Tread, and will always do so. I know that Treadwell is not a particularly popular figure among Cincinnati fans for his offense during the Dantonio era. But most of that criticism is bullshit. When he had Gino, and some weapons on the perimeter the offense lit shit up. Likewise you can't deny that his play calling, conservative though it still was kept UC in games that the young Bearcats weren't really ready for (just look at that 2006 schedule). The dude can coach. Period.
He hasn't had a lot of success at Miami because he inherited a program that was falling apart from the inside out. Shane Montgomery tried to keep the good vibe of the Hoeppner era going, but didn't do much to enforce discipline on the field or off. When Montgomery was fired they brought in Mike Hayward who got Miami a MAC championship, albeit one strung together with duct tape and spit, but things spiraled out of control off the field. Which should have been a warning to Pitt but was not.
Treadwell took over a program that was gutted by instability and chaos off the field, and one that had seen rivals Ohio and Bowling Green lap them on it. I still think Treadwell is the right choice to stabilize things for Miami. Because stabilizing things is what he does, its his best attribute as a coach. But it remains to be seen whether he gets the chance to set Miami on stable footing for the first time since Hepp left for Indiana.
I want UC to win this game. But, as a human being, I would be quite happy if Miami pulled an Akron on Saturday. Stranger things have happened, and either way this week is going to suck.