Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Thug U? Saturday Night at the Orange Bowl

By Paul

I received an e-mail yesterday from Donna Shalala, President of the University of Miami.

No, she wasn’t demanding repayment of my student loans. She wasn’t asking for a contribution for a new swimming pool. And she wasn’t rescinding my Law School Alumni Achievement Award, which curiously was presented after I stopped practicing law.

She was trying to explain to U.M. alumni the unexplainable...how the university’s young scholars in shoulder pads and plastic helmets behaved like street thugs Saturday night in their 35-0 victory over outmanned Florida International University.

In case you missed it, a melee, brawl, fracas, or riot (take your pick) broke out in the third quarter. Helmets and spikes were used as weapons, and a phalanx of policemen eventually moved onto the field after several minutes of chaos.

“What happened Saturday night at the Orange Bowl was outrageous,” President Shalala wrote, and she wasn’t talking about the price of Bud Lite. “Regardless of who started it, this was an embarrassing display of unsportsmanlike behavior. Fortunately, there were no injuries.”

True, it was a thoroughly disgusting incident. But why the note from the President? There’s no apology in it. There’s no promise of any disciplinary action, other than what has been imposed by the Atlantic Coast Conference. More about that later.

“We expect the best from our students,” Ms. Shalala wrote, apparently using the term to include football players. “Indeed we hold all of them to a high standard of personal conduct.”

I wonder why President Shalala did not write the alumni after last season’s Peach Bowl debacle. That’s when the Hurricanes engaged in a post-game brawl after getting shellacked 40-3 by L.S.U..

As best I recall, the last time President Shalala wrote the alums was two years ago when the Hurricanes offered a football scholarship to Willie Williams, the most highly touted high school linebacker in the country. The president’s letter was prompted by a newspaper story that Mr. Williams, barely 18, had been arrested eleven times and was on probation at the time he signed his grant to enroll at Nirvana in Coral Gables. President Shalala endorsed offering the young man a scholarship based on his commitment to change the course of his life, not to mention his exceptional time in the 40.

Willie Williams failed to make the starting roster, and in something of a pique, transferred to that football and scholastic powerhouse, West Los Angeles College, which is currently winless in a community college conference. However, I believe that Mr. Williams should get a good citizenship award. He spent two years at the University of Miami without flunking out, getting arrested or shooting a firearm. Over the summer, Willie Cooper, one of his U.M. teammates was shot in the buttocks by an intruder. Another teammate, Brandon Meriweather proved his mettle by returning fire with his own gun. Mr. Meriweather can spend this weekend on target practice. He's benched for the Duke game, after being caught on video using his spikes to stomp on a fallen F.I.U. player.

Now that I think about it, President Shalala’s letter yesterday actually was a plea for funds. Or conversely, a plea not to stop giving. U.M. alumni are exceedingly generous, having been the prime movers and shakers in a recent $1 billion capital campaign. Ms. Shalala is trying to convince the folks to keep those dollars coming.

Good luck, Madam President. Your football team is an embarrassment to the alumni and the so-called Magic City. Coach Larry Coker seems like the nicest guy in town, but he’s clearly lost control of this team.

F.I.U. has suspended 16 players “indefinitely” and booted two of them off the team. So far, Miami has simply accepted the A.C.C.’s decision to suspend 13 players for this Saturday’s game against winless Duke and to suspend one player indefinitely. You want to show you’re committed to those “high standards of personal conduct” you write about. Bench all 13 implicated players for the rest of the season. If not, accept the fact that you’re running a win-at-all-costs football factory, and a fairly mediocre one at that.

Go Canes...Paul


  1. Paul, great post. Having lived in Miami for over 20 years, I'm one of those unusual Gator Fans who actually cheer for the 'canes when they're not playing the Gators. I even hold season tickets for basketball, and I can't tell you how much enjoyment I get every spring from Canes baseball. As you allude to, the lack of remorse really disturbing. If it exists, it's not coming through--not even in the local community, so I can only imagine how it's playing nationally. So far the only guy to lose his job over this street fight was a radio announcer who was cheering on the 'Canes during the melee. Larry Coker is a nice guy, a decent man. But now he seems like a prep school principal trying to get control of a street gang. I'm afraid he's no longer the man for the job. Better days to come, I hope.

  2. J.G.,
    I heard the commentary that got Lamar Thomas fired. A former UM player (and former Dolphin), he opined that he'd like to go out on the field and kick some FIU butt himself. That was nearly as disgraceful as the incident. His comments can be heard on the Comcast Sports clip of the brawl (the longer one) that's posted on You Tube. Here's a link. http://tinyurl.com/y9q8yj

    I'm with you on the baseball program. I have some great memories of taking my son and my father to Mark Light Stadium for U.M. baseball.


  3. Your football team is an embarrassment to the alumni and the so-called Magic City.

    And it does seem to me, a fairly unbiased observer, that it takes a HELL OF A LOT to embarrass Miami.

    Mark Terry

  4. I'm going to reject the "your" football team label, Mark. My team remains Penn State, where I graduated with no honors so long ago. The Nits played valiantly and honorably last week, losing 17-10 to powerhouse Michigan. (From your part of the country...another program with tradition and values).

  5. Well Paul, I was just quoting from your original post. And since I'm a Michigan State University graduate, I'm spending significantly more time this fall saying, "Go Tigers!"


  6. Hey,U.M. is a joke University......Shalala's press conference is indicative of how high this establishment of "higher learning" is:

    "This university will be firm and punish people who do bad things," Shalala said. "But we will not throw any student under the bus for instant restoration of our image or our reputation. I will not hang them in a public square. I will not eliminate their participation at the university. I will not take away their scholarships."
    Heaven forbid you kill the University's CASH COW program. (Paul correctly pointed out, the University is overpaying for the factory's mediocre team this year)

    Speaking of cash cows......the home games at Penn State sure help pay the bills.Can they figure out how to add another home game,especially one they could win, against a lame duck team?

    As for PSU....not sure how valiant or honourably they played against Michigan. They had the good fortune of the official's bad call in OT the week before.
    You know PSU could actually have a shot at the BCS Championship, or at least a bowl game, if they only had to play teams like North Central NM State Teachers College or New Hampshire College of Plumbing and Waterworks @ Dummer or Oshkosh Institute of Raiment Technology......along with Akron, Temple, and Youngstown State!

    Go Tigers......

  7. I'm a UM law school grad and a football fan. (Go Browns.) I'm a bit old-fashioned in this realm. For example, I believe your city should not be permitted to have an NFL team if it does not also have a steel mill or a major port or, preferably, both. (How does it come to pass that PHOENIX has an NFL team?) So it's no surprise I was dismayed by the brawl and have been discouraged by the school's response.

    But consider my 13-year-old son. He is such a football fan that I caught him watching a 30-year-old Army/Navy game on ESPN Classic late one summer night. He loves both the 'canes and the Gators, my wife's alma mater. More than that, he lives for trips to the Orange Bowl. He relishes the entire experience, from tailgating, to tossing a ball around the parking area, to staying -- always -- until the final second ticks away.

    I tell you all of this so you can properly measure the import of his comment to me as we watched news video of the brawl:

    "I'm glad we weren't there, Dad."

  8. "Sportsmanship" has certainly changed since we were kids, hasn't it?
    I weep for Mr. Kuntz's son and other sports-minded children.

    Tom, 1000 Oaks

  9. Paul, this is a great post.

    And all I can say for a college spirit contribution is "Go Sadie Lou."

    I actually PLAYED on the Sarah Lawrence football team one year. Of course, we only had one game, against Vassar. We all sucked.

    We did have a good cheer, though:

    Metaphysics, metaphysics rah rah rah!
    TranSCEND VASSAR!!!!

  10. Paul, Great post. I linked your post on an update to my post.

    Miami alums can make a difference. Insist on a clean football program.