Colleges fighting to keep peace Weekend four-rounder reopens debate

September 29, 1993|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Staff Writer

Gene Corrigan and Mike Tranghese will be among several conference commissioners convening in Chicago today and tomorrow for their annual meeting on the state of intercollegiate athletics.

Along with issues such as cost con- tainment and gender equity, another topic likely will be added to the agenda, or at least to the dinner-table conversation: what happened Saturday at four stadiums, where footbrawl replaced football.

"It was a tough weekend," said Corrigan, whose Atlantic Coast Conference had five teams involved in some type of fight, including one that led to a post-game altercation between an assistant coach from North Carolina and one from North Carolina State.

Tranghese, the Big East commissioner whose conference had two teams involved in separate incidents, said: "What happened last weekend is not healthy for the sport."

The most publicized incident took place in Boulder, Colo., shortly before halftime of Miami's 35-29 win over the Buffaloes. After the Hurricanes scored with 20 seconds left in the first half, a fight on the ensuing kickoff escalated into a wild, bench-clearing brawl.

A dozen players were thrown out -- seven for Miami, five for Colorado -- and security was beefed up behind the visitors' bench for the second half and for the Hurricanes' bus ride to the airport.

The brawl did not come as a surprise to at least one Colorado player, who pointed to Miami's trash-talking reputation, written about all week in the local newspapers and talked about on all the radio call-in shows.

"I figured we're playing Miami, they're in the Rocky Mountains, they figured they could make it their home," said Colorado safety Dwayne Davis. "I thought all along a brawl would occur. I didn't know it would be a team brawl."

Colorado athletic director Bill Marolt went ballistic afterward, blaming the fight on the all-Big East officiating crew. Marolt called their performance "an embarrassment to college football and to the integrity of the games."

The brawl was the first involving the Hurricanes this year, but evoked memories of seasons past. Of the mini-brawl at San Diego State last season. Of the trash-talking against Texas A&M in the 1991 Cotton Bowl that resulted in the stiffening of a taunting rule that was already on the books. Of the rumble in the tunnel at Notre Dame five years ago.

Miami coach Dennis Erickson, who in his four seasons has tried )) to clean up the renegade image fostered by his predecessor, Jimmy Johnson, took full responsibility for his players' behavior. But he stopped short of saying that it was solely the Hurricanes' fault.

"Wherever we go, our opponents want to prove that they aren't going to be intimidated," Erickson said. "And sometimes that can create problems. But we can't worry about their problems. We have to control our own actions."

To do that, he said he will suspend for one game any Miami player who leaves the bench to join a fight. That is more in keeping with rules governing NCAA basketball, where fighting players can be suspended for future games. In football, the stiffest penalty is ejection.

Said Tranghese: "What we need is a deterrent. Right now there is no deterrent."

Former Baylor coach Grant Teaff, who will take over in January as executive director of the American Football Coaches Association, said the responsibility should not be on the NCAA to add yet another rule to an already clogged rulebook.

"It's all on the coaches," he said.

Until the football rules committee meets again next January, it's up to the conference commissioners to dole out their own punishments. After visits from Corrigan Sunday, North Carolina coach Mack Brown and N. C. State coach Mike O'Cain suspended the assistants involved in the post-game fracas in Raleigh that followed a wild, helmet-swinging melee before the half.

Corrigan also held a conference call with all nine ACC coaches Monday to get his point across: Control your own sidelines.

"As of today, our kids are going to know they can't come on the field," Corrigan said. "When things are going well for two or three years, you get a little sloppy. This is a good wake-up call. Football is a violent game. But you don't want lawlessness."

Maryland center Jamie Bragg said: "Coach [Mark] Duffner warned us that the ACC is going to crack down on this stuff. They're going to throw flags early."

John Adams, supervisor of officials for the Western Athletic Conference and secretary-editor of the NCAA rules governing football, said that he hopes the rules committee will look into a stiffer penalty for fighting after he sends out his annual questionnaire in January.

But Adams said when the subject was broached after last season, two-thirds of the coaches voted to keep the current penalties in place.

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