Thursday, October 19, 2006
It should be obvious to most longtime ACC fans why expansion has been a disaster for the traditional soul of the conference. The latest evidence was the ugly brawl this past weekend between Florida International and the Miami Hurricanes at the Orange Bowl. Dozens of players have been suspended and FIU coach Don Strock has kicked two players off his team. As usual the administration at Miami and in the ACC office is in a state of denial about the ugly fallout from this disgraceful exhibition. I'd say Larry Coker had lost control of his football program but that would assume that he ever had control over his players. For years and through many coaching regimes the head coach at "The U" has had little control over his program's misbehavior. Some like Jimmy Johnson or Dennis Erickson were just as oblivious to the rules as their miscreant players. Others have been like the spineless sheriff in the old western movie who pretends to still be in charge of his town but doesn't have the courage or conviction to stand up to the outlaws who really run the place.
More than a few folks during the expansion debate suggested that Miami had cleaned up its image under Butch Davis. Clearly that sentiment was merely naive wishful thinking. This is what you get with Miami. Lest we forget that Miami suspended four players to start the season against Florida State. Senior captain Brandon Meriweather was seen trying to stomp on a number of FIU players who had fallen to the ground in the melee. This is the same Meriweather who was involved in a shooting during the offseason. This is the same program that recruited Willie Williams, the celebrated high school linebacker and juvenile felon. This is the same program that has recently produced such character challenged NFL players as Jeremy Shockey, Kellen Winslow, Sean Taylor and Antrel Rolle. Not that previous alumni like Comcast Sports Southeast commentator Lamar Thomas are much better. His idiotic comments as the riot on the field unfolded got him fired from his job earlier this week.
Is Miami the worst program in college football? Probably not, but then that isn't the point. Places like Tennessee, Oklahoma, Florida State and Auburn are as bad or worse depending on the year. Every college football program has some questionable characters on its team but they don't have a systematic and pervasive history of stocking their rosters with individuals who revel in being above the law. Being a player at "The U" is as much about having a bad attitude as having athletic skills. To argue that other programs are as bad and thereby suggest that Miami doesn't deserve special criticism when their team runs amok is worse than fatuous reasoning. In many ways the former players at Miami treat their program as a tight knit clan that comes too close to a gang like mentality for my comfort. Clearly the response of Miami president Donna Shalala shows that she doesn't have a clue about the sordid history of her university's football factory. Her indignant response to the suggestions that the suspension of a few players for the Duke game didn't amount to a repudiation of the disgraceful brawl was an embarrassment to college sports and highlights how cowardly and unprincipled the leadership at most colleges are in the face of a misbehaving revenue sport.
John Swofford and his cronies flushed 50 years of proud tradition down the toilet for some quick and dirty football money. They tossed aside the crown jewel of college basketball conferences for a thuggish and low class football factory. Saturday was just another nauseating reminder of that fact. It was a sad day for what once was a great conference.