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From the Bird’s Nest: Road Trip–Miami

It was the third road trip in four weeks for the Ragin’ Cajuns.  We’re all looking forward to being at home the next three weeks.

Because we were flying to the Eastern Time Zone, we had to be at Landmark Aviation by 11:15 for a 1pm departure.  As always, Olde Tyme was waiting for us.  After two weeks of turkey, I chose ham and swiss this time.  There’s something about an Olde Tyme Po-boy that just makes a trip better.

As always, we got an opportunity to visit with some folks who were going to be on the flight with us.  We talked about the upcoming game, knowing this was going to be a tough one to get on the road.  But, you gotta love Cajuns fans.  They were ready to go to Miami and come back with a big win.

Coach Hud got to the airport with his wife, Tyla.  Tyla was carrying an oversized basket with mini candy bars.  On the OSU trip, the basket was full of Mentos (green apple rocks) and gum.  She said the lack of chocolate on the first trip was a point of contention with those on the flight and she was making up for it with this basket full of Snickers and Three Muskateers.  I told her the pressure was on her this week.  She was on the OSU trip (a loss) and missed the Kent State trip (a win.)  I told her if we didn’t get the win, she might be a jinx.  No problem, she said.  “I’m wearing my boots to the game…and those boots are made for winnin’.”

Hey, works for me.

We all boarded the plane for the (just under) two hour flight to Ft. Lauderdale, which was uneventful, except when Tyla walked through bearing chocolate for everyone.  She laughed and said people were asking for gum and Mentos.

When the flight landed, we de-planed and made our way to the waiting buses.  We thought it was a little strange that there were four buses waiting, as usually there are just three (offense, defense and guests).  The crew loaded the bags onto one of the buses and we were ready to go.

Only one problem.

Those weren’t our buses.  They were Kansas State’s buses.  The Wildcats were there to play Miami.

So we got off the bus and got on the right one.  Then the bags had to be reloaded to the right buses.  That made for a delay, but nothing earth-shattering.

We were staying in Plantation, Florida, which is west of Ft. Lauderdale.  It was a somewhat curious choice as it meant we’d have about a 45 minute bus ride to the stadium with the police escort.  But Assistant AD John Dugas made a great choice, as we would find out.

We stayed at a Renaissance hotel in Plantation.  It’s the same hotel the Miami Dolphins stay at when they’re playing a home game.  For those who are unaware, the Renaissance is part of the Marriott family.  It’s a step above the normal Marriott.  Upon arrival, three men came out to meet the buses to personally escort Coach Hud and Tyla, Athletics Director Scott Farmer and booster Charlie Moncla to their rooms.  Nice touch.

And, for those who didn’t get that personal escort (I”m still trying to figure out how Steve and I were left out), there was a hotel employee stationed by the elevator on each floor to make sure everyone found their rooms and they were there in case there was a problem.

Understand, this doesn’t usually happen.

Steve and I got to our room and it was pretty impressive.  Scott had invited all of the guests to his suite for a reception with wine, cheese and other libations.  Scott’s suite had a kitchen area, dining area and a balcony facing the ocean, although we were too far from the water to see it.  We all visited in the suite for a little over an hour and then it was time to load the buses to go to Bokampers, a sports bar, for dinner.

Bokampers was huge, with lots of outdoor seating.  They had two large tables reserved for us.  And, (if you read these blogs, you know how important this is) they had Yuengleng on tap.   Steve and I each ordered the Cuban sandwich and fries.  And Yuengleng.  The Cuban was great.  For those of you who have never had one, it’s sliced ham and pork with swiss cheese, pickles, mustard and mayo, served on grilled Cuban bread.  I’ve had them here in Lafayette and they’re really good.  But this was exceptional.

After dinner (and Yuengleng) it was back to the buses for the short drive back to the hotel.  Steve went back to the room.  I went back to Scott’s suite to visit.  A couple of others came as well.  Scott didn’t have Yuengleng, but he had Michelob Ultra.  Finally, it was back to the room for the night.

Steve and I both woke up a little after eight and had breakfast.  Then back to the room to get some work done and watch Gameday.  We saw the short piece they did on FIU.  It was good to see the Sun Belt get a little pub.  Chris Fowler asked if anyone could name the two bowl tie-ins for the Sun Belt.  Kirk Herbstreit got the New Orleans Bowl.

At about 2:30, we went downstairs to check out and put our luggage on the buses.  The cheerleaders were there to greet the team as they loaded.  Tyla was there as well, and she pointed out her boots.  “These boots are made for winnin’,” she reminded me.

As we got ready to leave, there were thunderclouds everywhere and we got a pretty good shower shortly after leaving the hotel.  The police escort took care of us and we got to FIU stadium in good time.  We had to walk from the northeast corner to the west side to get to the elevators.

We stepped off the elevators and entered radio broadcast hell.

FIU is doing their stadium in phases.  My understanding is phase three will actually include a broadcast facility.  I hope they raise the money soon, because no Division I stadium should have a (lack of) setup like this.

Phase two has donor suites.  A lot of them.  We had to walk to the north end, go through a suite where the FIU radio crew was set up, and then outdoors past the end zone.  There was a long table, with a canopy.  That was our broadcast area.  When we got there, there was no power supply.  The box with the phone lines was about thirty feet away.  They brought us a power supply so we could get set up.  There would be no stat monitor, no tv monitor.  Binoculars would be critical, especially once you passed the twenty yard line on our end.  Even with the glasses, we’d be guessing when play was at the other end.  That canopy was going to keep the sun off of us, but it wasn’t going to do much good if a thunderstorm hit, and they were in the forecast.  Our biggest issue wasn’t getting wet, it was our equipment getting wet.  If we got a real thunderboomer, there was a chance we couldn’t broadcast and/or our expensive equipment could be ruined.

Back inside, the press box (where the writers and sports info staff is headquartered) was at the other end of the suite complex, some 120 yards away.  That’s where the men’s room was located as well.  Pregame meal was rice, grilled chicken and curry sauce.  It was delicious.

Despite the primitive conditions, being at FIU is always good.  They’ve always been some of the friendliest folks I’ve come across.  They had plenty of workers upstairs taking care of those in the suites.  And they smiled constantly.  Even after the game, those same folks offered congratulations with big smiles.  I like the people in Miami at FIU.

And, we saw an old friend.  Doug Greenwald lived in Lafayette for a brief time.  He was the first play-by-play man for the Bayou Bullfrogs.  Doug is now broadcasting AAA ball in Fresno and happened to be in Miami on vacation.  He came to the game and stayed with us during the broadcast.  Doug will be in the bigs one day.  He’s really, really good at what he does and he’s a really good guy.  It was great to see him.

About a half hour before the broadcast began, we got a brief shower.  It wasn’t a bad one and there was no thunder or lightning involved.  The equipment stayed dry.  I went downstairs and walked around a bit.  I told a young worker who was manning one of the gates that she needed to do a “no-rain” dance, since there were clouds all around us.  She said she’d take care of it.  I saw her again at halftime.  She was proud of the fact it had not rained.  I told her there was lightning in the distance and to keep dancing.

Fortunately, those thunderstorms didn’t make it to the FIU campus.  We got knocked off the air one time by a power surge and wound up having to go to our backup equipment (we always bring a spare, just in case.  Well, we do now.  We learned a lesson on a previous trip.)  The rest of the broadcast went fine, except no one bothered to bring us quarterly statistics.  I went down to the press box at halftime and got halftime stats and Steve ran the 120 yards each way at the end of the third quarter to get updates.  I took care of the 120 yards in the postgame so we could get final stats.

We were at the stadium for about 40 minutes after we got off the air so Sports Information Director Daryl Cetnar, his assistant Jeff Schneider and The Advertiser’s Tim Buckley could get all their writing done.  Then the five of us said our goodbyes and headed back to the airport.

When we arrived, the team was still going through security.  Coach Hud was outside.  I walked up to him and said “I want a hug.”  We embraced and I congratulated him on the big win.  He asked how I liked the uniforms and I told him we could wear teal if it meant winning.  (The unis looked sharp..and the players loved them.)

It was time to go inside for screening.  I saw Tyla sitting on a sofa.  When she saw me, she pointed at her boots.  “I told you, Jay, these boots are made for winnin.”  I fist bumped her and told her she was allowed to make another road trip with us.

The crew on the Allegiant flight was pretty excited that we won and praised the team for their play.  The flight home was uneventful and when we landed, the crew played a recording of the fight song and the whole plane clapped in unison.

I’ve been doing this a while now.  There were a few flights back when the late Nelson Stokley was coach when there would be a few folks who would meet the plane after a Cajuns win.  But it’s been a lot of years.  There were 50-75 fans who were at Landmark Aviation when we arrived to offer their support and congratulations.  I know the coaches and administration really appreciated that as did the team when they bused through.

The Cajuns are now 3-1 with a three game homestand coming up.  FAU is next.  The Cajuns will be favored, but as we learned this week, being the favorite doesn’t ensure a win.

But I’ll feel confident for the next game.

As long as Tyla Hudspeth wears the boots.  Those boots are made for winnin’.

Babes

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