So I’m watching a fight the other night, when a football game game broke out.
Corny enough joke to start?
Actually, anybody who happened to see the fight the other night between the football teams of Florida International University and the University of Miami saw an exchange that would have caused Mike Tyson to blush so hard at the carnage that the tattoo on his face would have been hidden.
To recap, the trouble began when two players from Florida International University, obviously frustrated that their team was getting manhandled, physically attacked a Miami player after an extra point. The benches from both teams cleared at that point, and a full-blown melee broke out on the field. One Miami player, Anthony Reddick, was seen wildly swinging his helmet at Florida International players, and another, Brandon Meriweather, was caught on video stomping on Florida International players with his cleats.
Miami president Donna Shalala — yes, the former secretary of Health and Human Services — defended her university for suspending 12 players for one game, one player indefinitely and ordering all 13 players to do community service.
“This university will be firm and punish people who do bad things,” Shalala told the Associated Press. “But we will not throw any student under the bus for instant restoration of our image or our reputation ... I will not eliminate their participation at the university. I will not take away their scholarships.”
Wow. Before I begin, let’s hear more.
“It’s time for the feeding frenzy to stop,” said Shalala. “These young men made a stupid, terrible, horrible mistake and they are being punished.”
They’re being punished, huh? Do you know who Miami plays in this one game with 13 suspended players? Duke, that’s who. Jim Bunting’s Indian River High School football team could play Duke fairly close. It’s a travesty. And, speaking of Jim Bunting, I’m guessing if his players were involved in something this disgusting, Bunting would line them up and proceed to punt each and every one of them through a goalpost and off his team so quick that ...
But I digress.
Bunting’s team obviously isn’t the problem. And I’m not trying to give a free pass to Florida International, either, because their own players practiced thuggery in its purest sense Saturday night. But my focus is on the continued lack of institutional control at the University of Miami.
I’m a huge fan of Notre Dame — both the university and the football team. I can think back 15-20 years when Notre Dame would play Miami in football and the fans would wear t-shirts that read, “Catholics vs. Convicts.” Miami players have a history of fights during — and sometimes, before — big games. Miami players also have a history of repeated arrests. They were leveled with such stiff penalties from the NCAA in the early ‘90s for recruiting and team violations that the team was almost disbanded.
Yet I heard a Miami columnist say on television the other night that their coach has “really cleaned up the program.”
Shalala said the players made a “stupid, terrible, horrible mistake,” and we’re to chalk it up to boys being boys?
Albert Haynesworth of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans was recently suspended for five games for stomping on a player’s face during a game. Granted, that player’s helmet had come off before Haynesworth’s actions, and Haynesworth’s voyage into the insane didn’t occur during the raised adrenaline of a brawl. But, still, Haynesworth is not playing on a collegiate team, representing said college. He is a professional. Football is his job.
The vast majority of collegiate football players will be going into other fields once they leave school. If Shalala is truly concerned about the welfare of these players, shouldn’t she back them being suspended for much more than one game over a pushover team? Is this lesson that there aren’t consequences for your actions in the right circumstances? And, did I mention that the players are still being allowed to practice with their teammates while they’re “suspended?”
Stomping on someone’s head or swinging a weapon with malice buys you jail time in the real world. Maybe Shalala needs to take a break at looking at that money pouring into the school from the football program, and start teaching everyone involved in that university that the nonsense stops right now.