men in front of stadium

A lifelong passion for baseball, football, and the ’Canes

Mike Rosenthal, left, in front of the Orange Bowl with fellow alumnus Alan Karmin, and the duo in front of Hard Rock Stadium (inset).
By Pamela Edward

Mike Rosenthal, left, in front of the Orange Bowl with fellow alumnus Alan Karmin, and the duo in front of Hard Rock Stadium (inset).

A lifelong passion for baseball, football, and the ’Canes

By Pamela Edward
Fifty-two years ago this fall, Mike Rosenthal, A.B./M.F.A ’78, M.S. ’84, began a streak that is still going: attendance at every Miami Hurricanes home football game. It’s part of a profound devotion to his hometown university and alma mater.

When Mike Rosenthal was growing up in suburban Miami-Dade County, there was only one game in town for avid sports fans like him.

“Back in the late 1960s, there were no Marlins, no Heat, no Panthers, the Miami Dolphins were just starting, and Don Shula hadn’t come to town,” he said. “So, UM football was a big deal.”

For Rosenthal, a Miami native and double ’Cane who taught college mathematics for more than three decades, cheering for the ’Canes has been a lifelong passion. In middle school he was a regular listener of Hurricane baseball games on WVUM, the University’s acclaimed student-run radio station. In 1970, when he was in eighth grade, he started making regular treks to the Orange Bowl for home football games.

He has not missed one since. And he has not missed a road game in the state of Florida since 1975, his first year at the U, or a bowl appearance by the Hurricanes since 1979. He holds season tickets for football, baseball, and, until the pandemic struck, basketball.

Rosenthal recalled his earliest visits to the Orange Bowl before his 52-year football home game streak started. “My dad would take me, and I remember seeing Ted Hendricks, the all-American linebacker [and NFL Hall-of-Famer]. That was around 1967, and was probably my earliest exposure to UM football,” he said.

“I miss the Orange Bowl tremendously—it had a great atmosphere. But Hard Rock Stadium is certainly a much more [physically] comfortable experience. And you don’t have to park in the neighbors’ yards.”

In high school, Rosenthal’s ambition was to be a sportscaster. “Two or three classmates and I used to go to baseball or basketball games at our high school and announce [the game] into a tape recorder,” he said.

Rosenthal had only one university in his sights: “There was really no place else I wanted to go … the [question] was getting the financial aid to pay for the University of Miami.” Scholarship funding and a work-study job at the Richter Library helped bridge the gap, and Rosenthal became a fully-fledged ’Cane, majoring in broadcasting, in the fall of 1975.

WVUM swiftly became his second home. His practice play-by-play announcing in high school proved useful when he joined the station as a volunteer in his first year. “I got to announce seven baseball games. At the time [it] was highly unusual for a first-year student to get that many games on the air,” he said.

By his senior year, Rosenthal was sports director at WVUM and the play-by-play announcer for baseball and home football games. The latter were on tape delay so as not to compete with the commercial station that had paid the University for broadcast rights.

After graduation Rosenthal worked for a commercial station, but after 14 months a career change beckoned. “I was looking for another job and a friend of mine suggested substitute teaching to make some money … I found that when they put me in a math class, I remembered enough of my high school math to teach the lesson plan. And many students said they understood me better than the [regular] teacher.”

Rosenthal went back to school, first to catch up on undergraduate math as a non-degree student, then back to the U for a Master of Science in math. His return to campus meant a return also to WVUM, where he called baseball and football, and not just home games.

“By the time I was back in graduate school, [WVUM] was doing road games,” he said. “One of the highlights of [that] year was when the sports director took me to do the radio broadcast of the Miami-Notre Dame game from South Bend.”

Soon after earning his master’s in 1984, Rosenthal was hired as an instructor at Florida International University. During his nearly 32-year career, he received numerous teaching awards until he retired in 2016. Through the years, the University of Miami and its sports teams have provided the backdrop of his life—and many of its most memorable experiences.

There was the 2002 Rose Bowl, in which the Hurricanes defeated Nebraska 37-14 to finish the season undefeated and clinch their fifth national championship. “When I was growing up the Rose Bowl game was always the Big 10 champion versus the Pac 10 champion,” Rosenthal explained. “I never thought I would have a chance to go. It was certainly a big thrill.”

Another iconic college football venue, Michigan Stadium (a/k/a The Big House), was the scene of a famous victory in 1988. Seventeen points down with a bit more than five minutes to go, the ’Canes came back to edge Michigan 31-30. Rosenthal was one of more than 105,000 spectators that day and as was his habit, he recorded the game to rewatch at home. “I’ll always remember ABC had this reaction shot of a girl in the Michigan band and her jaw just dropped. She couldn’t believe Miami had come back like that.”

A truly epic adventure happened last season, just prior to the Florida State game. “I was flying up [to Tallahassee] on Friday out of Fort Lauderdale,” Rosenthal recounted. “The plane wasn’t there, and they started pushing the flight back. Finally, at about 11 p.m., after hours of delays, they canceled the flight.”

There were no alternative flights that would get Rosenthal to the game on time, so he and some other ’Canes fans persuaded the gate agent to arrange a passenger van and driver to take them to Tallahassee. “The driver was not prepared for an all-night drive, and he quickly became very tired,” Rosenthal said. “He stopped four times to get coffee and he drove so fast, it was scary.”

2020 was the year that Rosenthal’s home game streak nearly ended, due to COVID-related capacity restrictions at Hard Rock Stadium. A friend who chose not to avail herself of her season ticket allotment that year transferred it to Rosenthal instead, and the streak was maintained. “I’ve always told my friends that if there is a UM game and you don’t see me there, you need to start calling local emergency rooms,” Rosenthal laughed.

Rosenthal’s devotion to the U also includes financial support for his alma mater, primarily through a planned bequest to benefit student-athletes. “I am not a wealthy guy, but UM is the principal beneficiary of my will. I got two college degrees, without having to pay any tuition,” he said. “UM is the gem of our community. I can’t think of anything in South Florida that has a more positive association with it than the U. It’s the only place I wanted to go to school, and I’m very grateful for the education I got.”