Oct. 20, 2006
OSWEGO, N.Y. (AP) -In the wake of two on-field college football brawls a week ago, the president of the NCAA said the responsibility of preventing future outbreaks and instilling a real sense of sportsmanship rests with individual institutions.
"It's disappointing to see violence in college football games," Dr. Myles Brand said Friday during a panel discussion at the State University of New York at Oswego on the impact of media on sports in the United States.
"The NCAA from the national office can't police all those sites. The handling of individual incidents is properly the job of the local college or university."
A fight that began in the third quarter of a game Saturday between Miami and Florida International attracted the most attention. Just after Miami scored to take a 14-0 lead, players charged from the sidelines, swinging helmets, throwing punches and stomping on each other until coaches, some teammates and police separated them.
Florida International conferred with the Sun Belt Conference and kicked two players off the team and suspended 16 others. Miami, after consulting the Atlantic Coast Conference, suspended 13 players.
It wasn't the only altercation of the day. A fight also broke out at the end of a Division I-AA game between Ivy League member Dartmouth and Holy Cross, a member of the Patriot League.
After winning in overtime, Holy Cross players celebrated atop the Dartmouth "D" painted on the field, and fights broke out when the teams lined up for postgame handshakes. Some players were thrown to the ground and kicked. Coaches, campus security and local police broke it up, but very little was caught on tape.
"We're seeing amongst players, and even in some fans' behavior, some unacceptable levels of violence and disruption," Brand said. "Does it surprise me? It's always unfortunate when it happens. In some ways, it's not new. We all hoped it would go away, and we all hope we can get on the front end and work with the student-athletes and others very early on so we don't wind up in these situations."
No one was hurt in either fight, but the Miami-FIU melee has been played repeatedly on national television, hurting the image of both schools.
The panel addressed the repeated airing of the tape by media outlets such as ESPN. Brand said although that might generate more interest, it should not be avoided.
"We don't want to censor the media," Brand said. "We have to understand that the ability to deal with those kinds of issues isn't so much in the punishment. The horse is out of the barn by the time that happens."
Brand said the question is what preventative measures are being taken at campuses around the country with the goal of "building character amongst our student-athletes so that they understand not just the rules of the game but what's expected of them as participants at a college event."
Panel member George Bodenheimer, president of ESPN and ABC Sports and co-chair of Disney Media Networks, said he took "umbrage a little bit that the media is somehow blamed for the outrageous behavior" on the field.
"We're running a journalistic operation," Bodenheimer said. "We're there to report to the news. Like it or not, ugly or not, that was news. Whether we play it one or two or 10 times, we have to make those decisions. It was really a terrible display. I don't personally think the media incites that. I hope that's not the case."
Neither the Hurricanes nor Florida International's Golden Panthers were inhibited by the presence of police officers, security guards and at least a half-dozen TV cameras. And Brand said fans likely will see similar behavior in the future.
"Human nature being what it is, we will always have incidents of this kind," Brand said. "Our reaction has to be not to see if the punishment is too large or too small, but what can be done on campuses in the future so that our young people understand why that's unacceptable behavior."
In response to previous concerns, the NCAA has offered sportsmanship seminars at its annual convention, urged schools to adopt standards regarding fan behavior, and provided leadership conferences for nearly 3,000 student-athletes.
"We're more under a microscope. Some of the negative things that come out we don't want to see," Atlantic 10 commissioner Linda Bruno said. "We're seeing things now in the media that we didn't see 15 years ago. There are things we need to work on."