In what I hope is the last post on this subject, I thought I'd mention and post an
in today's Miami Herald by Michelle Kaufman which perfectly encapsulates my thoughts on the whole incident, particularly the media angle (emphasis below mine).
Media Reaction Irresponsible
By Michelle Kaufman
Yes, The Brawl was disgraceful, ugly, sad and reprehensible. And yes, everyone involved deserves to be punished. Nobody but Lamar Thomas would dispute that.
But the overheated, hysterical reaction from the national media is unfair and irresponsible.
Like most University of Miami graduates and law-abiding citizens, I cringed at the sight of Anthony Reddick swinging his helmet like a sledgehammer over a Florida International University player. It was totally offensive, and he deserves to sit out the rest of the season, as do the FIU players who started the fight by body-slamming and kicking a UM player.
I continued to cringe during the next three days as TV commentators and columnists from around the country -- some of whom I admire greatly and call friends -- dredged up 20-year-old Hurricanes-Wore-Fatigues-to-the-Fiesta Bowl stories as fodder to dump all over the UM program of 2006 and call for mass firings of Donna Shalala, Paul Dee and Larry Coker. Woody Paige of ESPN's Around the Horn went so far as to suggest the abolishment of the entire UM football program.
Did these same journalists call for the dismantling of the South Carolina and Clemson programs when they had their ugly brawl in 2004? Have they called for the head of Florida State's Bobby Bowden, who in the past five years has had players arrested for felony grand theft, drunk driving and soliciting sex from an undercover police officer?
Did they care that former University of Cincinnati basketball coach Bob Huggins went years with a zero percent graduation rate?
And where was the coverage of the on-field brawl last weekend at the end of the Dartmouth-Holy Cross game? Holy Cross players, after winning the game 24-21 in overtime, stomped and danced on the Dartmouth ''D,'' fueling a melee that required police officers to intervene.
There is no question UM football players were out of line when they fought with LSU players at the Peach Bowl last year, and they looked foolish dancing on Louisville's logo earlier this year. But they are not criminals. Butch Davis, Coker, Dee and Shalala have worked extremely hard to spruce up the program during the past 10 years, and they should not be skewered for indiscretions of the past.
Wednesday was basketball media day at UM, and you would be hard-pressed to find two classier coaches than Frank Haith and Katie Meier. Their programs don't deserve to be stained in the national media, but by lumping together all UM athletes and making fun of the school, that is exactly what has happened.
''Thug U is Back, Minus the Titles,'' screamed the ESPN.com headline over a column written by Pat Forde, one of my favorite college writers.
''Come on back, Butch Davis,'' Forde wrote. ``All the work you did scrubbing clean the image of the University of Miami, and now it's been stained by a fresh coat of scum. It looks like you're the only guy capable of winning with some modicum of class in Coral Gables -- Larry Coker continued your good work. For a while. But it's seemed to get away from Coker the past two seasons -- it got away so far that Coker should be forcibly unemployed by season's end -- at the latest. And you can take do-nothing athletic director Paul Dee out with him.''
Bill Plaschke, a terrific Los Angeles Times columnist, called Shalala ``a very weak president of a very poor university.''
Anybody who has spent five minutes in the presence of Shalala knows she is not weak, and while UM is not Harvard, it hardly is a very poor university. I sat in highly challenging English, History and Journalism classes in that university, and I learned an awful lot from intelligent, engaging professors -- some of whom still are there.
It's easy to sit in California, New York and Denver and throw tomatoes at UM, but is it fair? It's easy to rant and rave on talk radio about people you have never met, but is it fair? Truth is, people love to bash UM, just like they love to bash the city of Miami. We're an easy target. It gets tiring and irritating.
Strike up a conversation with somebody on an airplane, mention you're from Miami, and they look at you as if they feel sorry for you. ''Aren't you afraid?'' I've been asked. ''Is it safe to raise your daughter there?'' Their image of Miami is Tubbs and Crockett, racing through the streets, chasing cocaine dealers with machine guns.
Sadly, their image of UM athletics is equally outdated. There were 85 Hurricane players on the field last Saturday, 13 of them did something really stupid, and they are being punished. Argue, if you wish, about the severity of the punishments, but to suggest that the entire program is a disgrace to college athletics is ridiculous.
Oh, one more thing. Shalala is meeting with FIU president Mitch Maidique today to decide whether they should play next year's scheduled football game. When they first agreed to this series, I thought it was a stupid move by UM because the Hurricanes had nothing to gain and everything to lose by playing their lesser-known neighbors. But things are different now. UM needs to regain respect, and refusing to play the Golden Panthers would be suggesting the Hurricanes are an out-of-control team that can't handle the rivalry. UM not only should play FIU again. It must.