Alabama wide receiver Cyrus Jones (8) runs a play during practice at Barry University in Miami Shores, Fla., Thursday, Jan. 3.
“Hey, how’s your football team?” a University of Alabama football player asked.
“We don’t have one, but we have fields,” Barry University Associate Director of Athletics Jamie Carrig told him after practice.
For about 51 weeks of the year, Barry University’s Buccaneer Field serves as a training facility for its Division II soccer athletes.
But last week, the small, private Catholic university seven miles north of downtown Miami converted its soccer field into a practice facility for now back-to-back college football national champion the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Barry has played host to many national collegiate programs in the last 18 years, as a practice facility for one of the two annual Orange Bowl teams. The university also welcomes one of the teams competing for the national championship when it is held in South Florida.
Barry University Director of Athletics Michael Covone serves on the Orange Bowl Committee and has been with Barry since it launched intercollegiate athletics in 1984.
All of the local university athletic directors serve on the committee, but what makes Barry unique is its lack of a football team, as reported by USA TODAY. Covone said that because schools like the University of Miami and Florida International University may be competing in bowl games, their fields may be off limits. But Buccaneer Field is a “guaranteed facility.”
“It’s quite a unique situation,” he said.
In college football alone, Buccaneer Field has welcomed the likes of Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, as well as notable coaches Bobby Bowden and Jim Harbaugh. The multi-use facility has also hosted international soccer teams from Haiti to Switzerland.
Grounds manager J. David Mace said that it is all about “maintaining the turf.” During the winter months, the field is seeded with rye, which makes the Bermuda grass lusher.
A remodeled Buccaneer Field is in place for the Alabama Crimson Tide. Alabama practiced here before beating Notre Dame 42-14 in the BCS National Championship game in Miami Gardens, Fla. on January 8, 2013.
Barry students benefit as well. Unlike universities that have separate recreational fields for campus events, Buccaneer Field is available for activities such as intramural soccer and flag football.
“It’s almost like a little well-kept secret,” Director of Campus Recreation and Wellness Ed Londono said. “When these students come out there, they’re playing on these well-groomed fields that are being shared by some of the most amazing athletes on the planet.”
Connor Randel, 20, is a junior accounting major from Shreveport, La. As a member of Barry’s men’s soccer team, he often brags to his friends back home about playing on the field.
“I brag about Miami. The weather — that’s one thing,” he said. “But then I love to talk about how there is so much history here. They’re jealous.”
On one occasion, the U.S. national soccer team, practicing before a World Cup qualifier in 2009, needed two goalkeepers. They called on then men’s soccer assistant coach Chris Rich to help for a few days.
Rich went on to practice with the team for a week, sharing the goal post with lead goalkeeper Tim Howard.
“It was just a fantastic experience playing with your country’s best,” said Rich, now the assistant men’s soccer coach at Virginia Tech.
Barry is no stranger to national recognition. Its own athletes have won nine national championships across four sports, most recently women’s tennis in 2011.
Covone said Barry is where national champions play and world champions train.
“It’s a joy,” he said. “We want to be included with the best.”
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