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Miami: Punishments appropriate; 'new standard set'

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- Shaking her fist for emphasis, Miami
president Donna Shalala said Tuesday that sanctions levied against
13 players for their role in a sideline-clearing brawl were fair,
justified and strong enough to satisfy the university.

All that, though, came with one big caveat: Miami athletes
simply can never fight again, she said.

"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."

Miami officials have enacted a new rule that any athlete who
fights will be dismissed from that team, a "new standard ... zero
tolerance" policy. That, along with 12 one-game suspensions, one
indefinite suspension (safety Anthony Reddick) and orders that all players involved in
Saturday night's brawl with Florida International do community
service, is sufficient punishment, Shalala said.

"It's time for the feeding frenzy to stop," Shalala said.
"These young men made a stupid, terrible, horrible mistake and
they are being punished."

Reddick, who charged across the field, helmet raised over his head, and slammed it into an opposing player during the melee, apologized Tuesday.

"The person everybody saw last Saturday is truly not me and it wasn't a good reflection of my character. I can only promise you will never see this behavior again.

"I understand what I did was wrong and reckless. I accept the penalty that was given to me. I humbly apologize for my actions," he said.

Meanwhile, the Golden Panthers took a much harsher stance -- dismissing two players, Chris Smith and Marshall McDuffie Jr., and extending the suspensions of all other 16 sanctioned players indefinitely.

The 16 suspended FIU players will be placed on athletic probation for the remainder of the academic calendar year, must complete 10 hours of anger management counseling, and will undertake a community service project to educate South Florida youth on appropriate behavior as related to athletics, the Miami Herald reported on its Web site Monday.

"This is certainly embarrassing. It's disgraceful. It's amazing. I've run out of words," FIU coach Don Strock said Monday. "There's no place for it in college football or football period. This is way overboard. I apologize to all the fans of college football for this taking place."

The ACC and Miami (4-2) suspended Reddick, Carlos Armour, Chris Barney, James Bryant, Tyrone Byrd, DajLeon Farr, Ryan Hill, Bruce Johnson, Charlie Jones, Brandon Meriweather, Brian Monroe, Derrick Morse and Randy Phillips.

All will miss Saturday's game at winless Duke.

Shalala also said it has been put in writing that coach Larry Coker and his staff will be held accountable for players' actions.

"I feel responsible for what happened Saturday night," Coker said Tuesday.

Miami coach Larry Coker said
he found the sanctions ordered by his school and the Atlantic Coast
Conference to be fair.

"We are accountable and we need to take care of our athletes
and do everything we can to make sure these things don't occur,"
Coker said. "When you have a terrible incident like this, it
really brings home the consequences.

"I want to do what's best for the University of Miami and not what others think is best," Coker said.

Shalala will meet with FIU president Mitch Maidique on Thursday
to determine if next season's game between the teams will be
played. An announcement will be made by the weekend, Shalala said.

The NCAA, in a statement released Monday, called the fight "wholly unacceptable."

"It is hoped that the actions taken by Miami, FIU and the conferences will send a message that such behavior is not tolerated," the NCAA statement said.

There were many instances of heated words being exchanged during -- and before -- the game.

But shortly after halftime, unsportsmanlike turned into unruly.

Bryant bowed to the crowd after catching a touchdown pass with 9 minutes left in the third quarter. Moments later, Chris Smith wrestled Miami holder Matt Perrelli to the ground and punched him, and McDuffie kicked Perrelli in the helmet.

Morse jumped onto the Smith-Perrelli pile, Singleton followed and tried to punch the Hurricanes' Calais Campbell -- and benches began to empty.

Several players from both sides appeared to throw punches. Meriweather was seen attempting to stomp on FIU players, while an injured Golden Panther swung a crutch menacingly at several Miami players.

After practice Tuesday, Perrelli, who was uninjured in the
melee, said he wanted to move on.

"We've got to get ready for Duke. ... That's what we're trying
to do," Perrelli said. "That's all I want to talk about. No
comment about the fight."

Meriweather issued a written statement of apology Tuesday and said
he did so without the urging of any university official.

"I was not part of the initial fight that broke out,"
Meriweather wrote. "However, I did see that my teammates and, more
specifically, the placeholder were being attacked by the FIU
players. At that point I went over the pile so that I could control
my teammates and prevent the fight from becoming worse. When I
arrived at the pile, I did not use my better judgment."

Hurricanes quarterback Kyle Wright said the brawl aftermath has pulled the team together.

"Definitely. Especially with everyone trying to pull us apart and say we're a bunch of criminals. Outside of this program nothing else matters," Wright said.

The suspensions come at a terrible time for Miami, which has six ACC games remaining -- and probably needs five wins to even have a chance at playing for the conference title.

Yes, Miami is playing winless Duke next. But the Hurricanes will play that game without their best kick returner (Johnson), their second-best running back (Jones), two key secondary members (Meriweather and Randy Phillips), their right guard (Morse) and their punter (Monroe).

Suspended Miami players continued to practice with the team.
Most wore green scout-team jerseys Tuesday.
Coker said the practice wasn't as sharp as he would like, which
he attributed partly to fatigue from all the attention devoted to
the fight in recent days.
"We'll put that behind us," Coker said. "It's all Duke from
here on out. ... Let's move forward. Let's don't look back."

"This is not the old Miami. This is the new Miami. We've always known we can't make mistakes. We don't get a break," Shalala said.

Information from ESPN's Joe Schad and The Associated Press was used in this report.