People and Community Sports

’Canes fans go to great lengths to support the U

Thousands of Miami Hurricanes—students, alumni, and fans—descended on Houston Friday, many of them doing whatever it takes to support the men’s basketball team in the Final Four.
Houston, TX --03-31-2023-- Photo by Michael Montero/University of Miami— NCAA Final Four Open Practice Event 2023.
Students cheer for the Miami Hurricanes during the Final Four open practice on Friday. Photo: Mike Montero/University of Miami

Selling prized possessions. Long drives across the country. Sleeping on sofas.

Fans knew the men’s basketball team’s path to the Final Four wouldn’t be easy—taking down a No.1 seed Houston, No. 2 seed Texas, and No. 4 seed Indiana, all for a shot at the national title. But, while the student-athletes battled on the court for every win in the tournament, ’Canes fans across the country were on their own uphill battle to travel to Houston to cheer them on.

From young alumni to lifelong fans, and everyone in between, thousands of supporters spent the last four days making accommodations to visit Houston, many of them relentless in their pursuit to be at NRG Stadium for tip-off on Saturday.

Andres Perez only considers himself two things: first, a die-hard ’Canes fan, and second, an avid collector of sports memorabilia.

Perez, who grew up in Fort Myers, Florida, inherited his brazen fervor for the Miami Hurricanes from his father, Andres Perez Sr., as a child.

“Literally, the only thing I could do to upset my dad growing up was not be a Hurricanes fan,” Perez said. When the ’Canes qualified for the Final Four on Sunday night, Perez immediately told his wife he would be attending the game, no matter the cost.

Houston, TX --03-31-2023-- Photo by Joshua Prezant/University of Miami—Andres Perez, who lives in Ohio, flew in from Detroit after selling a bunch of University of Miami signed memorabilia in order to buy his tickets, cheers on the team during open Practice for the University of Miami Men's basketball team Friday afternoon at the NGR stadium.  Players sign shorts and balls for young fans.
Andres Perez, who lives in Ohio, flew in from Detroit after selling some of his collection of signed memorabilia in order to buy his tickets to the Final Four. Photo: Joshua Prezant/University of Miami

That’s when Perez, a lifelong collector of autographed sports memorabilia, decided it was time for sacrifice.

“Who wants to help a lifetime Hurricanes fan live a dream?” the superfan wrote in a Facebook post. Perez decided to sell three autographed helmets from his collection. This includes helmets signed by professional football players Tom Brady, Lamar Jackson, Calvin Johnson, and Barry Sanders to afford the cost of the trip. 

“I would sell them in a heartbeat [to be here],” he said. “My wife didn’t think I would actually do it.”

Perez estimates his total collection of sports relics currently sits between $8,000 and $12,000. Though neither he nor his father ever attended the University, he says he bleeds orange and green.

“I’m hoping that I cry tomorrow, and cry even more on Monday,” he joked.

Meanwhile, Alexander Loucks drove 12 hours from Jacksonville, Florida with his father, Gregory, to be in Houston for the game this weekend.

“I’ve been following ’Canes hoops for years and years and years. I was happy when we got to the Sweet 16. This is just amazing,” Alexander Loucks said.

Gregory Loucks, who graduated from the University in 1983, has been a devout ’Canes football fan for decades. He passed that zeal on to his son, who watches the basketball teams closely.  

“[My dad] was always the big football fan. When I was in high school, I discovered ’Canes hoops during the Jack McClinton days, and that became my sport,” said Alexander Loucks, who even serves as the Facebook group administrator for a page called “Fans of University of Miami Hurricanes Basketball.”

Though the drive was long, and Gregory Loucks even had the opportunity to fly solo since he works as a pilot for Delta, the father knew he wanted to take the journey with his son.

“It was a spur of the moment thing. But if I couldn’t fly with him, then we decided we would just drive,” Gregory Loucks said. The duo spent their 12-hour ride from Jacksonville listening to music and chatting about ’Canes sports.

All Jacob Lance needed was a couch and a pillow.

“I think I would’ve slept on the floor just to be in Houston this weekend,” Lance joked. 

When the men’s basketball team won last Sunday, the proud ’Canes hoops fan secured a ticket to the game before realizing he had nowhere to stay. That’s when the super-fan called the only person he knew in Houston, a distant classmate who hadn’t heard from him in years, for a favor.

“I was like ‘I just need somewhere to sleep, that’s literally it,’” Lance said. His friend agreed, and the 28-year-old ’Canes fan drove in overnight from Dallas.  

“I still can’t even believe I’m here. It’s just been surreal,” Lance added.

Despite their challenges, these ’Canes fans, and thousands more, are ready to rock the stands of NRG Stadium Saturday night.

Read more March Madness coverage here.