Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Justifiable firings?

Here's the question: when an enormous melee breaks out in your home stadium after a football game that results in yet ANOTHER black eye on an increasingly bad reputation, what is the proper response:

(1) one game suspensions for all fighters, except the one worst offender;

(2) multi-game suspensions for all fighters, dismissal of the lead thug;

(3) firing the head coach

For University of Miami President Donna Shalala, the answer is (1). For normal people, the answer is (2), (3) or both.

Last Saturday's Miami-Florida International post-game brawl is to the Miami-Notre Dame tunnel fights in the 1980s as a daisy cutter is to a pipe bomb.

Worse yet, the Miami players escalated the initial fighting. Nonetheless, Miami's players suffered mere one-game suspensions, imposition of a "no tolerance" policy (shouldn't that have been in place from the coach from day one?), and . . . that's about it. That one game the players will miss -- against the overage highschoolers from Duke.

Florida International suspended 16 players indefinitely and tossed two off the team. That's better, although probably not perfect. The worst offenders should be tossed or sat for the year.

And somehow Coker kept his job. This team has had enormous discipline problems throughout last year, the offseason, and beyond. Head football coaches don't run every last detail of the program, but they do set the tone for what is and is not acceptable. Coker failed that test. There should no question of what his future will be -- terminated from his position. That termination should have already occurred.

Amazing how Shalala gets this completely wrong:
"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."

This is not about restoring Miami's image or reputation -- that only can occur over time through a well-run and controversy-free program. There is no quick fix for that. But the purpose of punishment is two-fold: retribution and deterrence. The Miami decision gets too little retribution for the damage the players did and minimal deterrence against future bad actions.

Meanwhile Lamar Thomas, a former Miami player, suffered a justifiable firing for cheering the Miami brawlers during a telecast in which he was the color commentator.

In other news, FOX fired Steve Lyons for insensitive comments about Latinos while joking around with Lou Piniella on the game 3 ALCS broadcast. Lyons is a stooge and the comments are purely straw-breaking-camel's back stuff because he's popped off in similarly stupid ways in the past. Why FOX kept Lyons this long is a better question -- he had few useful or interesting insights, he masters the obvious in his commentary, and he openly cheers for and against certain teams. Jose Mota, Lyons' last-second replacement who normally does Spanish-language broadcasts for the Angels, provided more cogent and incisive commentary in the 30 minutes of game 4 I watched Saturday (e.g., noting short stride by A's pitcher Danny Haren helps prevent wildness on his offspeed pitches) than Lyons did in all the time I've watched him.

Bring in Al Leiter to be the permanent #2 color commentator -- or rehire Mota. Too bad Mota's brief career lacks the resume FOX is looking for. But his bloodlines are decent -- his father (Manny), brother and cousin all played professional ball.

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