Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Thug U? Saturday Night at the Orange Bowl
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.