Miami attempted to put the whole brawl controversy to rest today by holding a press conference and having unversity president Donna Shalala shake her fist at the camera and swear it will never happen again.
"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."
Miami officials have enacted a new rule that any athlete who fights will be dismissed from that team, a "new standard ... zero tolerance" policy. That, along with 12 one-game suspensions, one indefinite suspension (safety Anthony Reddick) and orders that all players involved in Saturday night's brawl with Florida International do community service, is sufficient punishment, Shalala said.
"It's time for the feeding frenzy to stop," Shalala said. "These young men made a stupid, terrible, horrible mistake and they are being punished."
Let me say that Shalala is to be commended for wanting to give these kids a second chance. I just have one question for her: Are you insane? Honestly, how can you stand up there with a straight face justify yourself? At the risk of flailing a rapidly decomposing horse but this is not the first time Miami has been involved in a disgraceful act of poor sportsmanship. Perhaps someone should show Ms. Shalala a tape of the Louisville game when Hurricane players were stomping on the Cardinal logo at midfield. Maybe she is also unaware of the fight in the tunnel at the Peach Bowl following a 40-3 loss to LSU last season. We have repeated instances of egregiously bad behavior on the part of Miami players and continual evidence that Larry Coker and his staff have zero control over the team. So spare me the indignation at criticisms leveled at your method of handling "people who do bad things." It sucks.
Secondly, for my part, I have not suggested any players lose their scholarships or be dismissed from the team. I think the whole team acted in the wrong and I think the coaches failed in their duties. That is why I think the more powerful punishment would have been negating the win and revoking their bowl eligibility as well as suspending the coaching staff at least one game. As a parent I have learned that for a punishment to be effective it must have meaning. Having 12 players miss a game against Duke and saying that they will do commuity service sends the message that brawling at Miami results in a slap on the wrist. There very little meaning in the punishments rendered and therefore there is zero future deterrence.
Also, spare me the patting yourselves on the back for instituting a "zero tolereance" policy as though you just invented the wheel. For Miami, of all schools, to boldly proclaim that players getting in fights will be dismissed from the team is perhaps the stupidest thing I have ever heard. The Miami administration acts as though they are making great strides in the area of sportsmanship when what they are really doing is simply adopting a common sense measure that universities who actually give a flip about their reputation and image have had in place for years. And I find that "it has been put in writing that coach Larry Coker and his staff will be held accountable for players' actions" takes the cake as far unintentionally funny lines. Maybe if you did more than drop a written notice in his employment file Coker might be motivated to control his team a little better.
The greatest irony to me in all of this is that Miami's season is in such a state that they could have easily dropped the hammer on the program, surrendered the bowl berth(if they get one), and made the statement that this was not the Miami of old but one who actually comes down hard on thuglike behavior. So in the end Miami is still Miami and excuse me if I think the community service and possibly even the zero tolerance policy was all smoke and mirrors. Shalala wants to change the subject now by portraying the administration as being tough on the offenders and even making the players out to be poor kids who happen to make a stupid mistake in the heat of the moment. I suppose that would be credible but there have been way too many moments like these which is a fairly damning indictment of the coaching staff and ultimately the administration for turning a blind eye for so long.