Editor’s note: This story was originally published after the Oct. 14, 2006, brawl at the Orange Bowl in a game between the University of Miami and Florida International University.
Players were stomping on other players’ heads. Some were swinging helmets. Isolated fights were breaking out from the west end zone to the 50-yard line.
And coaches and officials were unable to stop it.
What caused the third-quarter, bench-clearing brawl between the University of Miami and Florida International was unclear. But the result was instant chaos at the Orange Bowl.
When it was finished, after about five minutes, a combined 13 players from both teams had been ejected — five from Miami and eight from FIU.
Coaches pleaded with the players who remained to calm down. Dozens of police officers lined the field. And UM coach Larry Coker said officials threatened to call off the game if there were more fights.
“That never should have happened,” FIU coach Don Strock said. “I’m embarrassed for FIU. I certainly don’t condone that.”
Neither Coker nor UM athletic director Paul Dee would comment on the brawl specifically.
“It’s extremely unfortunate when you have something like this,” Dee said. “I don’t have enough information to tell you where things are. We’re going to take a look at the films and the tapes, and when we do that, we’ll have more to say.”
The brawl broke out with nine minutes left in the third quarter during a Hurricanes extra-point attempt. Photos showed FIU defensive back Chris Smith pummeling UM holder Matt Perrelli after kicker Jon Peattie made the extra point.
Both benches cleared, and within seconds, multiple fights broke out across the field. UM players Brandon Meriweather and DajLeon Farr kicked the heads of unidentified FIU players. At midfield, UM receiver Lance Leggett threw a running punch at an FIU player.
Coker said he did not see how it started, and FIU players also said they were uncertain. But Miami players did not have to wait to see the tape.
“It was totally started by FIU,” linebacker Jon Beason said. “I wish we would have showed more maturity. But at the same time, if you see two or three guys getting jumped on, you have to do what you have to do.”
Players from both teams had been exchanging shoves throughout the game. In the first quarter, a referee was heard telling an unidentified player, “Stay away from him!” when the official inadvertently left his microphone on.
But the scuffles were nothing compared to what happened in the third quarter. It took about 20 minutes for officials to restart the game. And while they conferred about ejections, at least two fights broke out in the stands.
Players from both teams might be suspended. But Coker said his team handled the situation well.
“I think this will affect the image of this program, but in a very positive way,” Coker said. “This won’t be a negative for the University of Miami.”