Miami administration drops the ball with melee penalties

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 3, 2006

That “S” on her sweater isn’t just for Shalala, it’s for savior.

Yes, wielding an iron hand of discipline, Miami University president Donna Shalala has saved the college, its football program and its image.

Okay, so maybe it wasn’t an iron hand. It was one of those plastic skeleton arms you see at Halloween. And she really didn’t save Miami’s image. That was secured on Saturday when the Hurricane players had their third fight this season – and third loss – when one of the ugliest brawls in college history took place.

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Miami’s Anthony Reddick swung his helmet and Brandon Meriweather must have thought he was mashing grapes for wine with the way he was stomping on Florida International players.

Their punishment was stiff. Meriweather won’t be allowed to play this week against Duke. In other words, they’ll make him eat his dessert and skip the spinach.

Reddick first got the weekend, too, but now his suspension has been upgraded to indefinite.

In all, 12 Hurricanes got a one-game suspension.

“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.”

She will, however, not allow them to eat their ice cream in their dorm rooms. All snacks must be consumed on the bus, not under it.

The criminal, abusive type behavior that came into fashion under then-coach Jimmy Johnson has become the real image of the football program. Former players relished the bad boy image.

Case in point was Miami radio color announcer and former Hurricane Lamar Thomas who lost his job Monday for his comments during the melee.

Thomas, who has been in repeated trouble with the law due to various offenses including beating his girlfriend and violating his parole, not only condoned the Miami players for their actions but wished he could be down on the field helping.

Maybe he could get a job as Shalala’s public relations director.

Florida International suspended 18 players. The two FIU players who ignited the fight, Chris Smith and Marshall McDuffie Jr., were kicked off the team Monday. The other 16 players were suspended indefinitely.

FIU gets it. The school understands there is no place for this behavior and handed out the proper punishments.

Two years ago, Clemson and South Carolina were involved in a fight in a season-ending game. The schools canceled their bowl trips and handed out suspensions for the next season. They got it.

Shalala and Miami head coach Larry Coker don’t get it. Scolding players and shaking their finger at them won’t solve the problem. It’s a poor message to send to high school players and younger.

Maybe that “S” on Shalala’s sweater stands for something else.