Sports Law Blog
All things legal relating
to the sports world...
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.


All the more reason to conduct criminal background checks for theses "student"-athletes at Miami. Half the team would be ineligible.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 10/15/2006 6:14 PM  

A) I don't understand the above comment.

B) I'm somewhat shocked that Miami hasn't already been disqualified for post-season play. I'm fairly certain South Carolina and Auburn(?) had a brawl a few years ago and neither accepted a bowl bid though they were otherwise eligible.

Anonymous Josh -- 10/15/2006 8:05 PM  

Josh, go here:

Also, it was South Carolina and Clemson.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 10/15/2006 8:15 PM  

Comment #3 (Anonymous) - There's nothing in your link that suggests that half the Miami team would be ineligible.

Blogger Satchmo -- 10/16/2006 12:21 AM  

Howard, FIU does not play Alabama next week.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 10/16/2006 6:52 AM  


I don't mind you expressing your opinion on my blog, but if you feel the need to take it to a personal level with other commentators, take your comments elsewhere. Thanks.

Blogger Rick Karcher -- 10/16/2006 8:59 AM  

strictly speaking, this incident puts FIU on the map. .

the joe schmoe's of the world will look at Miami's reputation and figure it was their fault. they were "picking on" the smaller school and, on top of that, FIU suspended more people even though it appeared that both schools were equally at fault.

any legal sanctions outside the lines of sport? do things change when police officers are involved?

Anonymous Anonymous -- 10/16/2006 9:07 AM  

I'm pretty sure Northwestern did not play in the Rose Bowl in 2006 ...

Anonymous Anonymous -- 10/16/2006 2:24 PM  

I think the good professor must have lost a decade somewhere. No problem -- happens to the best of us.

Northwestern played in the Rose Bowl in 1996, not 2006. I was there in my purple as well. Friggin' Keyshawn Johnson...

Also, I feel old now, since you seem to have graduated a year behind me at NU. And I ain't no professor or nuthin'.

Anonymous Collin -- 10/16/2006 2:55 PM  

Let me try this again . . .

Hmmmm...Miami in a brawl/on-field melee? What else is new? Can anyone name another football school who has had as many of these fights in games as Miami? Not likely:

** TWO fights against Oklahome (at Norman and at Miami).
** ONE fight at Colorado.
** ONE fight at San Diego State (remember "the Rock" chasing the SDSU mascot up the stairs of the stadium?)
** ONE fight vs. LSU last year in the tunnel at Atlanta.
** ONE fight vs. Florida International last Saturday.
>> Plus "stomping on the Cardinal logo" at Louisville.
>> Wasn't there also an incident a few years back against either Florida or Florida State?

All that in the last 12-13 years.

Anyone else remember one that I missed? Add it in!!

Two words apply here, and would apply if I were Miami president and not the spineless Donna Shalala: "Death penalty"--program dissolved, start from ground zero. Tomorrow.
Failing that: "Season over"--no more games, all players suspended for the rest of the semester, those swinging, kicking, etc. would be arrested.

Enough is enough. One-game suspensions aren't enough. No bowl game wouldn't be enough.

End the program.

NOW. Start all over again--with CLASS.


Melvin H.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 10/16/2006 10:31 PM  

One more thing: If I were president, before any of this would happen, I would invite the media in and televise this live. Bring in the players in to, say the basketball arena or somewhere large enough . . . and to their faces launch into the worst tirade those @#$W$#% ever had [long overdue], then take their jerseys, toss them all into a large trash can, kick the can all over the place, and tell them their season's over. THEN I would do some suspensions.

And if "someone's feelings were hurt" . . . TOUGH!! YOU were in the brawl, YOU did all that we saw on our TV screens, now YOU pay the ultimate price for YOUR @$#$ STUPIDITY!!!!

After that, after the former players were escorted out (think of the movie about the principal, Joe Black[?], then I would resign.

WHEW--that felt good and I am not even Miami's president!! :-)

Melvin H.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 10/16/2006 10:38 PM

What more can be said?

Anonymous Anonymous -- 10/17/2006 11:43 AM  

Well, the players did issues apologies, so maybe their misconduct was out of the ordinary. Try this link, for example

Anonymous Anonymous -- 10/19/2006 10:17 AM  

Post a Comment