Miami-FIU Fight May Result In New NCAA Discipline Policy

Wade Askew

By Wade AskewThe Daily Northwestern

On Oct. 14, sports fans witnessed one of the worst on-field fights ever seen at a football game or college event. In the third quarter of the Miami vs. Florida International contest, both teams’ benches cleared in a melee that lasted roughly five minutes and ended with 13 ejections.

The brawl ultimately led to a total of 29 suspensions and two team dismissals – both issued to FIU players. While FIU suspended 16 players indefinitely in addition to the two expulsions to Chris Smith and Marshall McDuffie Jr., Miami suspended 12 of its players for only one game – against Duke – plus an indefinite suspension to Anthony Reddick, who wielded his helmet as a weapon during the fight.

Many viewed the Hurricanes’ punishments as insufficient, and speculation has arisen that the NCAA will adopt a policy in case such bench-clearing brawls should happen again. According to a story released by ESPN.com on Oct. 17, the NCAA will work more closely with individual schools and athletic conferences to monitor conduct and sportsmanship.

But some coaches at Northwestern see a new nationwide policy as unnecessary.

“There should be a policy if there is a problem. I don’t think there’s a problem – it was an isolated incident,” NU football coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “I see everybody, at least in our league, with nothing but mutual respect on the football field.”

Still, athletic director Mark Murphy described the event as “embarrassing – obviously for the schools involved but also for college football and college athletics in general.”

Murphy also felt that a department rule specifically prohibiting on-field fighting would be superfluous. “The rules of the game prohibit (fighting). So I don’t know if an athletic department really needs to have a policy; it’s just something that your student athletes should not do.”

Murphy points to individual coaches as being responsible for their own players’ discipline, not the NCAA. “It starts with the coaches and the values they instill in their student athletes … This would be a tough one for the NCAA to get involved in. The appropriate punishment comes from the individual schools and the conferences.”

However, Murphy believes that many of the suspensions issued after the Miami/FIU fight were too lax. He compared the level of violence seen in Miami to that seen in Detroit Nov. 19, 2004, when Ron Artest rushed into the stands of the Palace of Auburn Hills, inciting riot-like violence and chaos. The fallout for that fight included a season-long suspension for Artest and 30- and 15-game suspensions for teammates Stephen Jackson and Jermaine O’Neal, respectively.

The scene in Miami was also reminiscent of the “Malice at the Palace” for NU men’s soccer coach Tim Lenahan.

“It’s kind of like the NBA stepping in with Artest and O’Neal. Once that went down all of a sudden a dress code is in and no guns are allowed, a new policy,” Lenahan said. “So it’s the responsibility of the governing body to make the judgement whether there needs to be more sanctions.”

When asked about coaches’ concerns that such a policy might be unnecessary, the NCAA simply pointed to its statement made on Oct. 16, reading, “Regular season misconduct issues are addressed by the member institutions and conferences involved. However, this behavior is wholly unacceptable for student-athletes and the athletic programs they represent. There is no place for this in intercollegiate athletics and it is hoped that the actions taken by Miami, FIU and the conferences will send a message that such behavior is not tolerated.”

Ultimately, NU coaches said that such regulations would not concern their teams since such an event would never take place during one of their competitions.

Fitzgerald said he stresses character daily and would feel unaffected by a new rule. “If the NCAA makes a rule they make a rule, but that won’t change anything we have to do,” Fitzgerald said. “When I do my ESPN search every morning and I look at all the stuff going on, I just say ‘don’t be that guy’-that person who embarrasses not only yourself, but also your university, your teammates, everybody who is associated with Northwestern, and the line goes all the way back home.

“You just don’t want to be ‘that guy’.”

Reach Wade Askew at [email protected]