Sports Law Blog
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Sunday, October 15, 2006
Welcome to Big-Time College Sports
As a member of the faculty at Florida International University, I suppose I have to talk about the brawl that broke out in the third quarter of last night's 35-0 loss to the University of Miami. A pretty detailed account of the story, along with video, can be found here.
Thirteen players (eight from FIU and five from Miami) were ejected. The brawl apparently was the culmination of a great deal of taunting between the teams since pre-game warm-ups. The immediate trigger was Miami's Jamie Bryant catching a touchdown pass to make the score 13-0, then pointing at the FIU bench, earning an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The brawl, which last about five minutes, started on the subsequent PAT. The story reports that Miami has suspended eight players. No word on how many FIU players will be suspended. There also were reports of at least one fight in the stands.
One interesting thing is that the story does not seem to have any information from FIU's side (perhaps because Miami is the high-profile party here). But two things jumped out at me. The first is a quotation from a Miami player insisting FIU "totally started" the brawl. The second is a quotation from Miami Coach Larry Coker explaining the chippiness throughout the game by noting that the schools are in the same city and many FIU players want to be playing for Miami. The storyline right now seems to be FIU started it.
Now, I admit to being unsure about FIU's plans to compete in Division I-A football (we play in the mid-major Sun Belt Conference in all other sports). I have a background in college sports--I was a student manager for the men's basketball team at Northwestern; I coached men's basketball at the Division III level for three seasons; and I made sure I was in Pasadena when my beloved Wildcats played in the Rose Bowl in 2006. And I recognize the theory that having successul big-time sports programs (especially football) brings money and attention to the university, benefits that will inure to the university as a whole. The September 9 New Yorker discussed efforts by schools to combine great academics with great athletics, in talking about Duke University and the lacrosse scandal. On the other hand, I also recognize the recent studies suggesting that sports do not bring about those benefits--or do so at a far higher cost.
For obvious reasons, I hope we succeed in the endeavor of playing big-time football and I hope the university realizes the benefit sought. An annual game with Miami is intended to be a step in that direction. Interestingly, stories have referred to it as a "friendly rivalry" (as compared with, for example, UCLA and USC) because FIU is not expected to compete with Miami--although we played it close for about 2 1/2 quarters.
But last night's events illustrate the bitter that might come with the sweet. Someday FIU may be known as a powerful mid-major program or better (how would it be to be Miami of Ohio or Boise State?). Right now, we are an 0-7 program being blamed for a brawl that is being replayed in the national media. And we lost 35-0.
UPDATE: Here. Thirty-one players suspended in all--13 from Miami, 18 from FIU, many of them starters. And FIU has to play at Alabama next week.