<
>

Miami, FIU have 31 suspended for role in brawl

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- After reviewing a sideline-clearing
brawl between players from Miami and Florida International,
officials from both schools and their conferences on Sunday
announced the suspension of 31 players -- 13 from the Hurricanes,
and 18 from FIU.

Each suspended player must sit out his team's next game for
taking part in the ugly melee that marred the teams' Saturday
matchup. Miami plays at Duke on Saturday, FIU plays at Alabama Oct.
28.

On Monday afternoon, after further consultation between the ACC and Miami, the suspension of Hurricanes sophomore safety Anthony Reddick was extended indefinitely. All other suspended Miami players will face additional disciplinary measures, including community service.

"These suspensions send a clear and definitive message that
this type of behavior will not be tolerated," said Atlantic Coast
Conference Commissioner John Swofford.


The Executive Committee of the University of Miami's Board of Trustees held a regularly-scheduled meeting Monday morning. A high-ranking trustee told ESPN's Joe Schad that Coker, the brawl and the direction of the program were all "on the agenda." Miami President Donna Shalala and school athletic director Paul Dee were expected to attend.

On Monday, Shalala joined those condemning the incident.

"Saturday's on-field melee has no place at the University of Miami," she said in a prepared statement issued during the meeting. "Regardless of who started it, this was an embarrassing display of unsportsmanlike behavior."

"FIU President Mitch Maidique and I talked by phone shortly after the incident on Saturday night. We both expressed deep disappointment and apologized to each other on behalf of our institutions," Shalala said in the statement. "The ACC maintains rigorous behavioral and academic standards for student-athletes. We are satisfied with their decision."


Swofford told The Miami Herald that he met with the ACC's head of officials, Tommy Hunt, to review video of the fight. Swofford told the paper that a Sun Belt Conference official was also present at the meeting and the leagues discussed how each would handle the incident.

The ACC and Miami suspended Carlos Armour, Chris Barney,
James Bryant, Tyrone Byrd, DajLeon Farr, Ryan Hill, Bruce Johnson,
Charlie Jones, Brandon Meriweather, Brian Monroe, Derrick Morse,
Randy Phillips and Reddick.

"I don't have many bad days. This is a bad
day."
-- Miami coach Larry Coker

"I don't have many bad days," Miami coach Larry Coker said
Sunday morning, long before the suspensions were announced shortly
after 10 p.m. "This is a bad day. And last night was a bad
night."

Meanwhile, officials from the Sun Belt Conference and FIU
suspended Michael Alls, Scott Bryant, Roland Clark,
Michael Dominquez, John Ellis, Cory Fleming, Reginald Jones,
Marshall McDuffie Jr., Robert Mitchell, Quintin Newman, Luis Pena, Jarvis Penerton, Julian Reams, Lionell Singleton, Chris Smith,
Samuel Smith, Mannie Wellington and Chandler Williams.

"There is no place in higher education for the type of conduct
exhibited," Sun Belt Conference Commissioner Wright Waters said.

There were many instances of heated words being exchanged during
-- and even before -- the game.

But shortly after halftime, 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 from both sides appeared to throw punches.
Meriweather was seen attempting to stomp on FIU players, while an
injured Golden Panther swung a crutch menacingly at several Miami
players.

Meanwhile, Reddick charged across the field, helmet raised over
his head, and slammed it into Mitchell.

"Disgraceful," Coker said.

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.

Yes, Miami is playing winless Duke next week, not anyone in the
ACC's upper echelon. Still, the Hurricanes will have to play that
game without their best kick returner (Johnson), their second-best
running back (Jones), two starters in the secondary (Meriweather
and Randy Phillips), their right guard (Morse) and their punter
(Monroe).

Plus, starting right tackle Jason Fox and linebacker Jon Beason
were injured Saturday night and their availability isn't known for
the Duke game.

So all of a sudden, what could have been an easy game doesn't
look so easy anymore.

And it's only worse for FIU -- which would have been a big
underdog at Alabama anyway, but now will visit the Crimson Tide
without nearly half of its regular starting lineup.

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. Knowing that, Coker
said he expected tensions to be high.

"I was very concerned about this and we addressed it a lot of
times throughout the week," Coker said. "As the game started to
get away from them, I was very, very concerned that something like
this might happen."

Coker's concern may have been heightened after several other recent Miami incidents. 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.

And now, perhaps, comes the worst blow of them all, a melee that
was out of hand within seconds of starting.

Despite all that, Coker -- who has been under fire from alumni
and Miami fans throughout the season, and whose job security seems
to be a constant source of speculation around Coral Gables --
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."

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.

Officials from both universities apologized publicly Saturday
night.

"I can promise you," FIU coach Don Strock said, "that this
will never happen again.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.