ACC coaches say they will lean on brawlers

September 30, 1993|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Staff Writer

Following the lead of Miami's Dennis Erickson and a stern warning from commissioner Gene Corrigan, a number of Atlantic Coast Conference football coaches said yesterday that they would suspend players who get involved in altercations -- in particular bench-clearing brawls.

During a weekly media teleconference of ACC coaches, Duke's Barry Wilson, Maryland's Mark Duffner and Virginia's George Welsh said they would take immediate action if there is any repeat of what happened last weekend, when their teams were among five from the ACC to take part in fights.

North Carolina coach Mack Brown, whose Tar Heels became embroiled in a helmet-swinging, sideline melee during their game at North Carolina State, also indicated that league officials are considering suspensions for players who leave the bench area to engage in fights.

But Brown said most coaches are going to enforce that policy themselves.

"At any time in the future, we need to handle our business in an appropriate manner," said Brown. "And they [the players] have to act accordingly."

Duffner said he has spoken to his players several times about the incident that took place late in the first half of a 55-28 loss at Virginia Tech. He said he spoke with them at halftime, and again at practice Monday. He also said he has spoken with Hokies coach Frank Beamer about the incident, in which two players from each team were ejected.

"We told them at halftime, 'That's not Maryland football. That's not ACC football,' " said Duffner. "Certainly, suspension is a very real possibility for a player should they be involved in an incident like this in the future."

Wilson, whose Blue Devils rumbled across the field at Scott Stadium after cornerback Sean Thomas became entangled with several Virginia players after an interception, said he had "a serious meeting" with his team after its 35-0 loss.

"Basically, if they leave the bench area or even the playing field and get themselves in something on the sideline, they're going to be suspended [for the next game]," said Wilson.

But Wilson also put some of the responsibility on game officials to call penalties for late hits -- something the Blue Devils were accused of doing by the Cavaliers -- before things get out of hand. "If we come down hard now, we can end it," he said.

N.C. State coach Mike O'Cain said he would suspend players in the future depending on when the fight occurred. If the player was involved in a fight before halftime, O'Cain would keep him out the rest of the game. If the fight took place in the third or fourth quarters, the player would sit out the next week.

O'Cain also said it would be difficult to keep his players on the sideline if a teammate was being attacked on the opposing sideline.

"I'm not sure that if my best friend was being attacked, I wouldn't go try to help him," said O'Cain. "From what my eyes saw on the tape, and I've looked at it many times, our players were going to help out a teammate. They did not go there to fight."

Also yesterday, the NCAA Presidents Commission denounced the rash of fighting during last weekend's games and called for schools across the country to toughen standards of conduct.

The 44-member group of university presidents and chancellors, in its regular fall meeting, said there is "disturbing evidence of the disregard of sportsmanship and adherence to essential standards of competitive and personal conduct."

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