UM FOOTBALL

Miami Hurricanes say bullying not an issue: ‘Everyone here is treated as equal’

 

The Hurricanes and coach Al Golden addressed the Dolphins’ bullying situation Tuesday. The players said they haven’t seen anything similar among teammates.

 
Coach Al Golden huddles with players during UM's game against Florida State at Doak Campbell Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013.
Coach Al Golden huddles with players during UM's game against Florida State at Doak Campbell Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013.
Al Diaz / Miami Herald Staff

sdegnan@MiamiHerald.com

University of Miami senior tight end Asante Cleveland was in a barbershop when he first heard about the Miami Dolphins scandal involving offensive lineman Richie Incognito and his bullying of fellow lineman Jonathan Martin.

“The way it was explained was Jonathan Martin was kind of being a baby,” said Cleveland. “But now that I’ve heard more of the story it seems like this was way past anybody’s perception. It really took a lot of courage for him to step up and take a stand for something that he knew was wrong. He should be commended for that.”

A few Hurricanes talked about the situation Tuesday and were asked if they’ve ever seen anything similar happen in college or their own locker room.

“I’ve never seen anything like that anywhere,” said the 6-5, 258-pound Cleveland, from Sacramento, Calif. “It seems like it’s pretty easy to keep from doing that because we’re around people who genuinely care about each other, so that’s never a problem. You just have to know the people around you.

“I guess the Dolphins organization now knows they had a problem.”

Senior safety A.J. Highsmith’s dad, Alonzo, played fullback for the Hurricanes from 1983 to 1986, then for the Houston Oilers and Dallas Cowboys in the NFL. He now is a senior executive in the Green Bay Packers front office.

“That’s one of the biggest differences between college and the NFL,” A.J. said. “Guys in college live together. You bond on a regular basis and you’re around each other a lot more. It’s a closer relationship, as opposed to the NFL, where you hear about it, even from my dad and other guys I know.

“The NFL is more of a business, so you don’t have that bond with one another all the time. It’s easier to rub people the wrong way in an atmosphere like that as opposed to being here all the time because we’re around each other more than we are our own families.”

What would happen if coach Al Golden ever knew that was going on?

“I don’t think it would have to get to Coach Golden,” A.J. said. “We’d handle it ourselves between the leaders on the team and the older guys. We don’t allow those kinds of things to go on. That’s just the standard. You know from Day One you can’t treat people that way.”

Golden indicated that he didn’t know the intimate details of the Dolphins case, but said that type of situation “is something we address. It’s something at training camp we talk about. In fact, this year I shared the article on what happened at FAMU with their band [and hazing]. There’s no place for it in the workplace. There’s no place for it in athletics. It’s obviously something that has to be addressed on every level. We believe we’re very proactive in our approach…

“You have to make sure you have a good leadership council and that they communicate to you.”

Golden said that every time a situation arises like the one happening with the Dolphins, he uses it as a teaching tool.

“To me, what little I know, it’s really about abusive behavior. It’s outside the realm of hazing. Neither has any place, for sure.”

Two of his offensive linemen agreed.

“That’s a person. That’s somebody’s kid. That person means just as much as anyone else,” said tackle Ereck Flowers. “Everybody here is treated as an equal.”

Added guard Jon Feliciano: “Coach Golden doesn’t like stuff like that. We’re all part of the same team.”

Cleveland was told that several years ago, the UM upperclassmen shaved the heads of freshmen on the first day of fall camp. He was asked if they do anything similar now.

“No,” he said. “The only thing we had to do as freshmen was dance. That’s all. Nothing serious. But definitely not, ‘Give me $15,000 or [else].’ ”

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