For those of you who didn't know, Tom Kearns is a Hurricane legend. Having attended the university from 1937 to 1942, Kearns is a Hall of Famer in football and boxing. It was Mr. Kearns desire to preserve Miami's past, present and future that resulted in the groundbreaking for this building almost 40 years ago. The current building has been in place since former AD Sam Jankovich made its completion a priority in 1989. This vision is why Miami fans have our own mini-Smithsonian chock full of Hurricane memories, tradition and accolades.
I recently visited the Hall of Fame smack dab in the middle of a humid Miami summer day, only to find the doors locked. Not good. I peered through the window and caught a glimpse of an empty reception desk and a few other objects in the background. With digital camera and notepad in hand, I was ready to shed a little light on Mr. Kearns' hidden treasure. I strolled over to the Hecht Athletic Center to find out what it would take to spend a few minutes in the museum, already concocting a story in my head for the unsuspecting receptionist. I'd fib my way in if I had to. I didn't want to come back some other time. I wanted in, now.
"Let me walk you over and let you in. Just let me know when you are through," came straight out of the receptionist's mouth before I even needed to go the deceptive route. I was automatically let down. What could truly be in this moderately sized building if the security was so lax? I soon found out and was blown away.
With the lights turned on, I saw what those scattered items were behind the receptionist desk – two of our four National Championship trophies. Beautiful hardware. To the left was the 1987 and to the right was the 1989 UPI Coaches' Trophy. The thought of Jimmy Johnson and Dennis Erickson receiving these $50,000 Waterford Crystal mementos after downing Oklahoma and Alabama in their respective bowl games, well, it gave me chills. Seeing other teams hoist these beauties over their heads after winning the title is one thing. Having these pieces of work a foot in front of your nose and seeing "University of Miami" emblazoned on them truly brings you a sense of pride. This was a good start, so I ventured left into the Edward G. Rubinoff Founders Gallery.
Once inside, one can't help but notice a seven-foot wooden canoe standing upright. Upon further review I noticed that this was the infamous Seminole War Canoe. Awarded to the winner of the annual Miami vs. Florida classic. A rivalry fans haven't been accustomed to since 1987 – the War Canoe symbolized magnificent spirit and fighting determination. Something we have grown accustomed to as Canes fans. We won't tolerate anything less.
Also in the Founders Gallery are laminated sports pages of Miami Heralds and news clippings of past. From January 2, 1984 – the day after the Miracle in Miami up to baseball National Championships and major wins over the Noles, there is enough reading material in here to keep fans occupied for many an afternoon.
From there I strolled into the Walter Kichefski Championship Lobby and was overwhelmed by the amount of memorabilia in front of me. Three feet into the room I was greeted by the 2001 Sugar Bowl trophy in all its glory. A bittersweet feeling washed over me while memories over the 11-1 season danced in my head. I should have been staring down the 2001 Orange Bowl trophy after we'd have received after trouncing Oklahoma. Down with the BCS. Still, a site to behold as is every item in the Championship Lobby. "One For The Thumb" this season, you hear that Coach Coker and the boys?
This room is for fans of every sport. Made up of almost thirty glass-enclosed exhibits, it is in here that fans will find Rick Barry's autographed and game-used hi tops, tributes to baseball Coach Ron Fraser, a towel used and signed by Miami swimming legend Greg Louganis to memorabilia from everyone's favorite Mad Stork – Mr. Ted Hendricks. You'll also find Vinny Testaverde's retired jersey, Gino Torretta's Heisman Trophy and both quarterbacks' Walter Camp Awards. For the tennis enthusiasts there are Doris Hart's and Gardner Mulloy's winning Wimbledon racquets. Each exhibit has its own uniqueness and story to tell. One could get lost in the history of this room for a long while. How many other universities boast such tradition?
Behind the lobby I stumbled into the Ruth and Irving Karp Conference Center. My friends, there is some history in this room. More of the glass-enclosed exhibits line the back and front walls of the room with pictures of National Champion football and baseball teams of the years decorate the side wall. It is in the Conference Center the you will find Orange Bowl trophies of years past, complete with decorative oranges. Other knick-knacks such as a picture of the 1987 team with former President Ronald Reagan with a Canes jersey, the 1991 AP National Championship trophy as well as other bowl game trophies and letters from the City of Miami declaring certain days "University of Miami Football Day" and commemorating Championship seasons past.
The final room is a hallway that leads you back to the front door and in this room you will find a list of all the Hurricanes who made their way to the professional level in their respective sports after their tenure at Miami came to a close. It almost read like the Vietnam Wall. Names as far as the eye could see. It was in this room that I realized how much talent has passed through this little campus over the years.
In all seriousness, who is Miami? How did we attain all of this tradition? Just a little private school tucked away in Coral Gables. Where do we get off sporting four football National Championships while state powers Florida and Florida State only have three between them? Let's not forget about our four rings in baseball while the Gators and Noles are still sporting the goose egg in regards to achieving the ultimate success in Omaha. Miami's history is rich. Universities four times in size and longevity don't have half of our tradition. Be proud Cane fans. We are truly blessed.
The Tom Kearns Hall of Fame serves as a reminder to Cane fans how far our athletic programs have come over the years. So far in such a short time and plenty more where all that came from. Miami isn't going away and to all those who wonder just who we think we are – well, it's still a Canes thing, baby and you probably wouldn't understand.
We will be bringing you a four part series of photos from the Hall of Fame very shortly!