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Ledbetter: It was worse than a brawl
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Miami and Florida International players brawl during the third quarter in Miami on Saturday. On Sunday, Miami coach Larry Coker announced the suspension of eight players involved in the incident. More suspensions are expected in the near future.
If you watch any sports programming on television, you've seen what happened during the Miami–Florida International game Saturday. (If you watch ESPN, you had no choice; they've shown it ad nauseum, along with all the smarmy, self-righteous commentary ESPN has become known for.)
    To call that situation a brawl would be the ultimate understatement. That was a dirty, classless street fight with more acts of cowardice than bravado. Felonies occurred on that field, and I, for one, hope they're prosecuted as such, but know they probably won't be.
    On Sunday, suspensions were announced for many of the players involved and the incident is still being reviewed by officials from both schools, the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Sun Belt Conference and the NCAA. I fully expect that the matter won't be handled with the gravity it deserves, and most of the players who disgraced their schools and all they stand for will receive slaps on the wrist.
    And that, to me, is disgusting.
    Now, I'm admittedly a hockey fan, so I understand controlled violence in sports. Hockey fights exist, are part of the game, and almost always are engaged by consenting adults who are playing a role they signed up for. There have been many ugly and senseless incidents in the sport of hockey, but for the most part, hockey fights are refereed dances on ice, with the rare punch landing and actually causing damage.
    It is a violent sport, and things tend to get out of hand on rare occasions.
    And I understand that football is also a violent sport, and when strong, conditioned athletes collide with such speed and frequency, tempers are bound to flare and emotions are going to override common sense on occasion.
    But what happened in Miami Saturday was not such a case. What happened Saturday resembled a prison yard riot, with players ganging up on an opponent, mercilessly kicking and hitting players who were already on the ground. One Miami player actually took his helmet off and used it as a weapon.
    Another player body-slammed an opponent in a way that could have literally killed him. There were too many vicious, nasty cheap shots inflicted in those few moments to catalogue them here.
    Miami coach Larry Coker called the incident "disgraceful," and said that the fight was not what Miami "stands for," but Miami has a pretty shady record when it comes to these types of "disgraceful" displays.
    Not that FIU was an innocent bystander. In fact, of the 31 players suspended so far, 18 are from Florida International.
    Of course, this isn't an isolated incident, and these situations occur in sporting events every year, and unfortunately, at every level of athletics.
    But this was a particularly ugly display and the powers that watch over collegiate sports should choose to make a statement now.
    Scholarships should be revoked, and some of those involved should be allowed to pursue their apparent ambitions as thugs without moral or principle. I mean, these kids are supposed to be college students who are attending their respective universities to learn how to contribute to our society as a whole.
    No, I'm not naive; I understand the importance of recruiting athletes and the revenues that college football bring to the institutions. But if Saturday's events in Miami are the end result of that, maybe something should change.
    If schools feel they're pressured to put such undisciplined student-athletes on the field in order to win football games, maybe the universities themselves have lost any sense of the moral compass that points to a more productive society.
    And that's a frightening thought.