Conferences suspend 31 players in brawl
CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- The fight is over. The fallout is only beginning.
Thirty one players were suspended on Sunday for their role in a sideline-clearing brawl during a game between Miami and Florida International on Saturday.
The Atlantic Coast Conference suspended 13 players, hours after Miami announced that eight players had been sanctioned. Later, the Sun Belt Conference, in conjunction with FIU, said 18 players had been suspended. Further penalties were not ruled out.
Five of the Miami players were ejected, meaning they drew automatic sanctions from the ACC and the university. Miami coach Larry Coker punished three others after reviewing tape of the incident, which marred the Hurricanes' 35-0 win Saturday night over their neighboring rival.
"Disgraceful," Coker said.
Coker suspended safeties Anthony Reddick and Brandon Meriweather, along with H-back James Bryant. It was unknown how long any of the suspensions will last.
Reddick swung a helmet during the melee, Meriweather stomped on some FIU players during the fight and Bryant drew his suspension for excessively celebrating his touchdown just before the fracas began.
"What's going to be portrayed around the country is probably not going to be positive," Coker said. "But I will tell you this, and if you've been around our players, you know this. We have great kids in this program. They're not good kids. They are great kids."
ACC officials met Sunday to review the brawl.
The suspensions come at a terrible time for Miami, which has six ACC games remaining -- and probably needs five wins to even have a chance at playing for the conference title.
"I don't have many bad days," Coker said Sunday. "This is a bad day. And last night was a bad night."
Miami was involved in a postgame altercation at last year's Peach Bowl against LSU and a pregame incident at Louisville this season.
"We've got a strong grip on this program," Coker said, "although this is obviously a setback."
Coker was asked why he felt the incident took place. He began his remarks by saying FIU is a crosstown rival and that "you've got players on their team who wanted to be here."
Coker said it all began when an FIU player shoved and taunted a Miami player in pregame warmups.
"When it got away," Coker said, "was when they slam-dunked our holder -- grabbed him, lifted him up and threw him to the ground."
Coker added that he did not have a full grasp of the incident from the field Saturday and had a different perspective after watching television replays.
Miami (4-2) had five players ejected: offensive linemen Derrick Morse and Chris Barney, running back Charlie Jones, and cornerbacks Carlos Armour and Bruce Johnson.
FIU (0-7) lost eight players to ejection: wide receiver Chandler Williams, defensive backs Lionell Singleton, Chris Smith and Marshall McDuffie Jr., fullback John Ellis, linebacker Mannie Wellington, tight end Samuel Smith and defensive end Jarvis Penerton.
Officials from both universities apologized publicly Saturday night.
"I can promise you," FIU coach Don Strock said, "that this will never happen again."
It's the third on-field incident involving the Hurricanes in their last seven games. And there's been plenty of off-the-field ones, too.
• Several Miami players fought with LSU players following the Tigers' 40-3 win in the Peach Bowl, a brawl that quickly escalated into an out-of-control melee in the tunnel leading from the field.
• Shortly before the Miami-Louisville game Sept. 16, virtually the entire Hurricanes' roster jumped on the Cardinals logo at midfield -- an act widely viewed as a taunting gesture. Afterward, several Miami players chided teammates for their involvement in that incident.
• A Miami player was shot outside his home shortly before training camp began in what players contend was a robbery attempt. Meriweather returned fire at the alleged assailants. Police said he acted legally.
• Wide receiver Ryan Moore, who was sent home from the Peach Bowl for violating team rules, was suspended for the first two games of 2006 for other violations. He is expected to be charged this week with misdemeanors stemming from an August fight with a woman. He hasn't played this season.
Despite all that, Coker bristled at the suggestion that he doesn't have control of his team.
"I do have a grip on this program," Coker said. "Don't ever doubt that. Don't ever doubt that."
There were many instances of heated words being exchanged from the game's opening minutes, especially after Williams dived helmet-first at prone Miami defender Kenny Phillips following a first-quarter interception.
From there, unsportsmanlike turned into unruly.
Bryant pointed at the FIU bench and bowed to the crowd after catching a touchdown pass with 9 minutes left in the third quarter. Moments later, FIU's Chris Smith wrestled Miami holder Matt Perrelli to the ground and punched him.
McDuffie kicked Perrelli in the helmet. Morse jumped onto the Smith-Perrelli pile, Singleton followed and tried to punch the Hurricanes' Calais Campbell -- and benches began to empty.
"You've got to back up each other," said Miami quarterback Kyle Wright. "You're not just going to sit out there and let guys get beat up."
Several players appeared to throw punches, including Miami's Bryant, DajLeon Farr and Ryan Hill, and Meriweather was seen attempting to stomp on FIU players. At least two FIU players were seen throwing punches on the far side of the field, and another swung a crutch menacingly.
Meanwhile, Reddick charged across the field, helmet raised high over his head, and slammed it into FIU cornerback Robert Mitchell.
The fight marred what was supposed to be the beginning of a rivalry between two schools with players who grew up playing each other on high school fields in South Florida.
Now, there's some doubt if the series will -- or should -- resume.
Information from The Associated Press and ESPN college football reporter Joe Schad was used in this report.
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