season dramatics point to need for better recruiting
By Matt Lenio
December 1, 2006 | To the dismay of thousands of loyal
fans, the Miami Hurricane's 2006 season has been tumultuous,
and at times, tragic.
Just six weeks into the season, the team was involved
in an embarrassing, bench-clearing rumble. Three weeks
later, lineman Bryan Pata was shot and killed in the
parking lot of his apartment complex. In my opinion,
the downfall of University of Miami's football program
can be traced to the team's mix of talent and unchecked
egos. At no time was this more apparent than on Oct.
14, when a brawl erupted during a football game between
the team and its cross-town rival, the Florida International
University (FIU) Golden Panthers.
A total of 31 players from both teams were suspended
because of their involvement in the fight. Among the
13 players suspended on the Hurricanes' team, the two
players who undoubtedly deserved the harshest punishment
were Anthony Reddick and Brandon Meriweather. After
both benches stormed the field, Reddick took off his
helmet and began using it as a weapon, swinging it at
FIU players. The Hurricanes' safety, Brandon Meriweather,
was also found stomping on multiple FIU players' heads
and bodies. To the fans on the field and in the stands,
this melee looked like a pathetic school-yard rumble.
The behavior of these particular Division I college
athletes was a colossal humiliation for both the football
teams, as well as everyone associated with their universities.
Even the coaches could not contain their disappointment.
During a press conference after the game, the one word
that came to Larry Coker, Miami Hurricanes head football
coach's mind was "disgraceful."
Coker is exactly right. Disgrace is the only word
to describe these select thug athletes' poor judgment
and juvenile behavior. There really are no excuses for
these types of antics. It makes loyal college football
fans like myself shake our heads in disgust. Like many
football devotees, there is nothing I like more than
flipping through channels on Saturday afternoons to
find the best match-up. On most weekends, I can be found
relaxing on the couch, sipping Dr Pepper and munching
on a bag of chips while I watch almost any game on the
tube -- except, of course, the games in which Miami
is playing. The team's lack of sportsmanship has killed
any interest I had in their success.
If Larry Coker and the University of Miami thought
that their football season could get better after the
fight in October, they were sorely mistaken. Pata's
death marked the fourth time in 10 years that a Hurricane
football player has been murdered. The 6-foot-4, 280-pound
defender had a reputation for being a popular, soft-spoken,
and all-around good guy. Quarterback Kirby Freeman told
reporters that Hurricane football players looked to
Pata for leadership and guidance on and off of the field.
He was characterized as a great person and a fine competitor.
Pata was a successful collegiate player, and I believe
he would have made a positive impact at the professional
level. College football fans, myself included, saw Pata
as a sure bet in the 2006 National Football League's
So why has so much drama drowned the once-untouchable
Hurricanes this football season? Miami has a reputation
for consistently sending a large number of players to
the NFL, but also for recruiting players who are trouble-makers
both on and off the field. There is obviously a volatile
mix of both outstanding individuals and thugs among
the UM football players.
I believe that when coaches recruit collegiate athletes,
more extensive background checks needs to be conducted.
Recruiting violent, confrontational personalities will
not lead a team to success. Mixing players who have
unchecked tempers with driven, focused athletes is a
true recipe for disaster. The best chance UM has for
success is to seek out passionate players who have character
to match their talent. Miami is not the only team plagued
by conflicts and controversy. Just last year, Virginia
Tech's star quarterback, Marcus Vick, was suspended
a number of times before being kicked off of the team
indefinitely. After being found guilty on accounts of
reckless driving, contributing to delinquency of a minor
and marijuana possession, things only got worse. Vick's
career ended after an exceptionally poor decision was
made during the Gator Bowl game against the Louisville
Cardinals. After stomping on the opposing team's defensive
end, Elvis Dumervil's leg, the unsportsmanlike antics
of Marcus Vick could not be tolerated any longer.
I wish that these problematic teams would stop going
after players who drag their team's reputations through
the mud. Recruiters, please go after the athletes who
will uplift your programs! With a long history of being
one of the NCAA's biggest powerhouses, Miami's five
wins and five losses season in the first 10 weeks of
the season has been a disappointment to say the least.
I believe the 'Canes need to look toward the future
of their football program, and begin recruiting players
with talent and character. It's impossible to go back
and undo the damage already done, but not too late for
coaches to change the direction Miami's program is heading.