CORAL GABLES, Fla. - Miami president Donna Shalala offered no apologies for the disciplinary action taken by her university in the days following a sideline-clearing brawl that sparked widespread outrage, saying the punishments handed out were strong enough.
And two of the sanctioned Miami players remorsefully agreed.
Sophomore Anthony Reddick and senior captain Brandon Meriweather issued apologies — on their own, without university urging — Tuesday for their roles in the brawl with Florida International, the first act in the long road the Hurricanes will travel in an effort to rebuild the program’s damaged reputation.
Reddick swung his helmet as a weapon and struck an FIU player with it during Saturday night’s fight at the Orange Bowl, while Meriweather was seen stomping on some Golden Panthers in apparent retaliation after they hit one of his teammates.
“You’ll never see that behavior out of me again,” Reddick said. “My behavior was a disgrace to my school, my family and my friends, especially the young kids who look up to me as their role model. I do understand that what I did was wrong.”
Meriweather’s mea culpa came in the form of a letter, which Hurricanes coach Larry Coker wasn’t made aware of until moments before its distribution.
“I was not part of the initial fight that broke out,” Meriweather wrote. “However, I did see that my teammates and, more specifically, the placeholder were being attacked by the FIU players. At that point I went over the pile so that I could control my teammates and prevent the fight from becoming worse. When I arrived at the pile, I did not use my better judgment.”
The brawl started with 9 minutes left in the third quarter of a game Miami went on to win 35-0. As the fighting started, two FIU players — Chris Smith and Marshall McDuffie Jr. — attacked Miami holder Matt Perrelli.
Moments after Perrelli was hit, Reddick ran across the field, holding his helmet high, then swung it wildly and smashed it into at least one FIU player.
Shalala — who has apologized repeatedly to FIU officials and her own university community for the fight — said that sanctions levied against 13 players for their role in the sideline-clearing brawl were fair, justified and strong enough to satisfy the university.
All that, though, came with one big caveat: Miami athletes simply can never fight again, she said.
“This university will be firm and punish people who do bad things,” Shalala said. “But we will not throw any student under the bus for instant restoration of our image or our reputation. I will not hang them in a public square. I will not eliminate their participation at the university. I will not take away their scholarships.”
Miami officials have enacted a new rule that any athlete who fights will be dismissed from that team, a “new standard ... zero tolerance” policy. That, along with 12 one-game suspensions, one indefinite suspension and orders that all players involved in the brawl do community service, is sufficient punishment, Shalala said.
“It’s time for the feeding frenzy to stop,” Shalala said. “These young men made a stupid, terrible, horrible mistake and they are being punished.”
Shalala will meet with FIU president Mitch Maidique on Thursday to determine if next season’s game between the teams will be played. An announcement will be made by the weekend, Shalala said.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
Echoing Shalala’s sentiments, Coker said he found the sanctions ordered by his school and the Atlantic Coast Conference to be fair.
“We are accountable and we need to take care of our athletes and do everything we can to make sure these things don’t occur,” Coker said. “When you have a terrible incident like this, it really brings home the consequences.”
Suspended Miami players continued to practice with the team; most will have scout-team duty this week.
“Let’s move forward,” Coker said. “Let’s don’t look back.”
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