Special to South Florida Times
MIAMI GARDENS — The Miami Dolphins are having another losing season and on Monday fired head coach Tony Sparano. But the football team is a winner in another area: its charitable efforts.
In its latest initiative, the Dolphins, for the second year, put the spotlight on historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) at a home game on Dec. 4. The team collaborated with Florida Memorial University, South Florida’s only HBCU, for “Florida Memorial Day” at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens.
Prior to kickoff for a game in which the Dolphins went on to trounce the Oakland Raiders 34-14, several fraternities from FMU, which is also based in Miami Gardens, got a chance to show off their fancy footwork in a thrilling Step Show on Land Shark Stage outside the stadium.
The second annual Step Show Exhibition did not disappoint and was again a fan favorite during tailgating.
Dec. 4 was also the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity’s National Founder’s Day, celebrating 105 years. For several members of Alpha Phi Alpha, who “crossed over” and became full members of the fraternity a few days earlier, it was the thrill of a lifetime to perform before Dolphins fans at a home game.
Roswell Wallace, a junior from Freeport, Bahamas, couldn’t have had a more memorable debut as a new member of the fraternity on its anniversary. “It was very exciting and with it being our Founder’s Day made it really exciting,” he said.
Members of Phi Beta Sigma also relished the moment. “This is amazing,” said senior Willie Dixon, a communications major from Miami. “Anytime they call, I’ll come.”
Members of Omega Psi Phi also performed.
The school also sent about 50 students and staff members representing various organizations to be flag holders in a pregame presentation.
Vernon Martin, FMU’s student activities director, said the relationship between the university and the hometown NFL team is invaluable to the students and the school.
“It’s a partnership that’s growing — and not just during the game,” Martin said. “We’re actually developing a year-long partnership with the Dolphins, with our students signing up for year-round community service hours with the Dolphins.”
As part of the collaboration, Dolphins player Kendall Langford, who graduated from an HBCU, came out to the campus to speak to students. Langford was a four-year letterman at Hampton University in Virginia and obtained his degree in sports management from the school before being drafted in 2008. He was joined at FMU by a member of the Dolphins’ management team, Brentton C. Jones, senior manager of the Guest Experience Department and also a Hampton graduate.
FMU communications coordinator Zachary Rinkins said the collaboration gives students a chance to make an impact on the community.
“For more than 132 years, FMU has been helping transform students into leaders and one of the ways we do this is by giving them the skills to equip them to add value to the cultural landscape, not only in South Florida but throughout the world,” Rinkins said. “Developing a partnership with the Miami Dolphins gives us a chance to add value to the company and the community.”
The Dolphins brass see it as part of the team’s outreach efforts. “Supporting our local universities and the rich cultural diversity of our region are important commitments of our organization,” said Adam Grossman, senior vice president of public.
The partnership is part of FMU President Dr. Henry Lewis III’s Vision 2020 action plan for the university and surrounding communities. “There is no university in South Florida, and indeed the world, that better prepares students to become world leaders than Florida Memorial University. We are undefeated,” said Lewis. “Florida Memorial has high standards for its students, employees and partners. It’s only fitting that we have a partner with the Miami Dolphins.”
“The Dolphins have a perfect record in promoting educational excellence and cultural diversity,” Lewis said.
In addition to spotlighting FMU on Dec. 4, the Dolphins also recognized some of their all-time greats in a newly unveiled “Walk of Fame” that encircles a huge statue of former owner the late Joe Robbie in Joe Robbie Alumni Plaza outside Gate C.
Inaugural members of the Walk of Fame include Don Shula, Nick Bouniconti, Larry Csonka, Bob Griese, Larry Little, Dan Marino, Dwight Stephenson and Paul Warfield. They were all on hand for the unveiling, except Dan Marino, who had a Sunday television obligation. His son, Danny, unveiled his father’s plaque. Former Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga was also present.
The team inducted former great Jim Mandich into the Dolphins Honor Roll, with Shula doing the honors, flanked by Mandich’s family. The Dolphins also presented a check for more than $1 million from the Dolphins Cycling Challenge to the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Ceneter. The challenge was one of Florida’s largest athletics fundraisers.
Photo: DOLPHINS WIN: Dolphins linebacker Kevin Burnett (56) wraps up Oakland Raider running back Michael Bush during their Dec. 4 game at Sun Life Stadium.