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Original Issue


An open letter to the president of Miami urges him to dismantle his football program to salvage his school's reputation

Mr. Edward T. (Tad) Foote II
President, University of Miami
Coral Gables, Fla. 33146

Dear President Foote:

In 1939, University of Chicago president Robert Maynard Hutchins,
exasperated by the destructive influence of big-time football on
his campus, announced that his school, then a member of the Big
Ten, would no longer field a team. Hutchins's counterpart at the
University of Arkansas, William Fulbright, the future U.S. senator
from Arkansas, applauded that decision. Fulbright -- the father of
the woman who would become your wife -- congratulated Hutchins for
his ``courageous defense of the university and its true function''
and for standing up to the ``worst excrescences of our educational
system'' by doing away with a sport that had undermined Chicago's
academic reputation and made it hostage to those with no regard
for the rules.

It is time to do right by the words of your late father-in-law and
heed the example of the man he hailed 56 years ago. The
revelations of the past few months make it clear that the Miami
football program has become a disease, a cancer that is steadily
devouring an institution that you have worked so hard to rid of
its image as Suntan U. The Hurricanes have won four national
championships during your 14 years as president, but they have
done so at incalculable cost to the university's reputation and
integrity. You have gone through three athletic directors. You are
now on your fourth football coach. But only one president has
presided over this hurricane with a black eye.

It is time, President Foote, to fire the program.

For all its victories, Miami football has been worse in more ways
over a longer period of time than any other intercollegiate
athletic program in memory. Scan the list of abuses that beset
college sports, and your football team can claim, going back to
1980, at least one entry in virtually every category: improper
benefits; recruiting violations; boosters run amok; academic
cheating; use of steroids and recreational drugs; suppressed or
ignored positive tests for drugs; player run-ins with other
students as well as with campus and off-campus police; the
discharge of weapons and the degradation of women in the football
dorm; credit-card fraud and telephone credit-card fraud.

During the past decade your school enrolled and suited up at least
one player who had scored a 200 on his verbal SAT -- the number
you get for spelling your name correctly. An on-campus
disturbance, involving some 40 members of the football team,
required 14 squad cars and a police dog to quell. Fifty-seven
players were implicated in a financial-aid scandal that the feds
call ``perhaps the largest centralized fraud upon the federal Pell
Grant program ever committed.'' And among numerous cases of
improper payments to players from agents was one in which the
nondelivery of a promised installment led a Hurricane player to
barge into an agent's office and put a gun to his head.

The illegal acts with which your Hurricanes have been charged run
the gamut from disorderly conduct and shoplifting to drunken
driving, burglary, arson, assault and sexual battery. Surely you
read the exhaustive and chilling piece about your football program
in The Miami Herald of May 18. That paper's reporters did the
math: No fewer than one of every seven scholarship players on last
season's team has been arrested while enrolled at your university.
No wonder running back Melvin Bratton, a Hurricane from 1983 to
'87, when asked what students thought of the team's rap sheet,
said, ``They're too scared to say anything to us.'' The old jokes
-- about Miami being the school where they take the team picture
from both the front and the side; about the Hurricanes topping
every poll from UPI to MCI to FBI -- simply aren't funny anymore.

Your school is known nationwide as the place that holds in
contempt the most elementary conventions of sportsmanship. Your
team's behavior before the Fiesta Bowl in January 1987, when a
dozen of your players arrived in Arizona wearing combat fatigues
and the entire team walked out of a pregame steak fry with
opposing Penn State, might be excused as a lapse in taste. So,
too, might the 1986 episode in which your mascot pointed a toy
machine gun at a visiting team just before a game. But those
occurrences only prefigured the January '91 Cotton Bowl, during
which your Hurricanes committed a Cotton Bowl-record 16
penalties, including 10 personal fouls and unsportsmanlike-conduct
infractions, during their 46-3 victory over Texas. Surely, as a
former Marine, you must have been appalled at an environment in
which players could openly defy coach Dennis Erickson's efforts to
restrain them during that game and then have one of them say, as
center Darren Handy did, that their behavior ``might be
embarrassing to the university and the coaches, but it's not to
the players. We enjoy it.''

It would be one thing if your troubles began and ended with your
players. But the miscreants have been on your payroll, too. As
founding chairman of the Miami Coalition for a Drug-Free
Community, you must be horrified that for three years an academic
counselor in the athletic department systematically looted the
federal Pell Grant program, which provides funds for needy
students, in part to support his cocaine habit; that a secretary
in your football office admitted to the Herald that she supplied
marijuana to, and used it with, players, including on the eve of
the 1994 Fiesta Bowl; and that in 1988 one of your strength
coaches pleaded guilty to possessing steroids.

Your last coach, Erickson, was notorious for his carousing. His
drinking was well-known around town, but it didn't catch up with
him until he left last winter for Seattle, where he now coaches
the Seahawks. In April he was nailed for drunken driving with a
blood-alcohol level that was more than twice the legal limit. But
one Erickson assistant, Gregg Smith, pleaded no contest to a
charge of reckless driving after initially being charged with
driving under the influence, and another, Ed Orgeron, reached a
civil settlement after he was arrested in connection with a bar

It turns out, says the Herald, that members of your coaching staff
even invited a player to drink with them. But then, Hurricane
players have had little reason to respect their coaches; during
your tenure on campus the team has been in the charge of three
different men -- Howard Schnellenberger, Jimmy Johnson and
Erickson -- each of whom, within two weeks of insisting that he
wasn't leaving for another job, left anyway. The man you hired to
replace Erickson, Butch Davis, has a reputation as a straight
arrow. But in light of his having been a key member of Johnson's
staff at Miami, the choice of Davis hardly signals the departure
you so desperately need.

The Herald's recitation of damning details goes on: It tells of
players' visiting a downtown strip club so often -- at times
escorting high school recruits -- that the place came to be known
as ``the office.'' It describes how in 1992 authorities shut down
a Hurricane hangout, Luke's, the club owned by 2 Live Crew rapper
and Miami supporter Luther Campbell, for serving alcohol to minors
and permitting nude dancing and the open smoking of marijuana. But
the Herald's portrait of your football dorm, Foster Hall, as a
place where serial intercourse with drunk or passed-out women was
commonplace, and where players peeped at one another as they had
sex, makes Luke's look like a day-care center.

The Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel has weighed in too, reporting
that over the past two years, your athletic director, Paul Dee,
suspended critical parts of what had been a rigorous drug-testing
policy, and that Erickson failed to report numerous positive tests
of several players, including at least one of All-America
defensive tackle Warren Sapp's. Had Sapp's test results been
revealed, he might have faced a suspension that would have
affected not only his career but also your football team's

The Claude-Rains-in-Casablanca observation -- ``I am shocked . .
. shocked!'' -- won't do anymore. This is where your football
program stands midway through the 1990s: Campbell, your most
notorious booster, has threatened to bring down the program by
telling the NCAA all he knows if his main man, Ryan Collins, is
not named to start at quarterback for Miami this fall. One
former rival, South Carolina, which has had its own share of
run- ins with the NCAA, considers your team such a pariah that
it refuses to play you anymore. Now even longtime Herald sports
editor and columnist Edwin Pope, an ally of yours and your
athletic department's through virtually every scandal, has
broken ranks. The final straw for Pope was Dee's lawyerly
doublespeak in the wake of the Sapp saga. Surely you know: For
you to lose the pontiff on Hurricane football is like LBJ losing
Cronkite on Vietnam.

Pope can't understand why you assigned Dee, your general counsel
during the Pell Grant scandal, to investigate why the athletic
department ignored its own drug-testing policy, a mess to which he
was a central party. Of course, you also had appointed Dee to a
committee that spent two months reviewing the Hurricanes' conduct
during the Johnson era, back in the mid-1980s. The committee
recommended the hiring of a former NCAA investigator to help
monitor compliance, but otherwise it concluded that there was
nothing amiss that a 46-page student-athlete handbook and code of
conduct couldn't cure, and it pronounced your football program one
of integrity ``on and off the field.''

That committee's verdict sounded like many of your own utterances
over the years. In 1983 you praised Schnellenberger, during whose
tenure Miami's pattern of taunting began and its graduation rate
dipped into single digits, for presiding over a ``showcase'' in
which ``athletes are students'' and men of ``honor and
integrity.'' In '86 you said, in response to the committee's
report, ``We have made great progress in recent years, and we will
make more.'' You said this in '87: ``I'm an old-fashioned guy, and
for me the answer is to go back and insist that they be students
first and athletes second.'' And in '91: ``Watch us.''

We've watched. So presumably has the NCAA, which has punished your
school only once during the last 15 years -- in 1981, for major
recruiting violations. But the gumshoes from Overland Park, Kans.,
are now upon you, following up on players' claims in the spring of
'94 that Campbell and former Hurricanes gave them incentive
payments for everything from vicious hits to touchdowns. Campbell
denies the accusation, but the NCAA will also be investigating the
institutional implications of the Pell Grant and drug-testing
fiascoes. If the NCAA had a RICO statute, the tool the feds employ
to prosecute an ongoing criminal enterprise, your practice field
would already be a palm grove.

Certainly the university's efforts to turn Erickson into a
scapegoat for the failure of your drug-testing policy is itself a
plea of guilty to the most-dreaded charge a university
administrator can face from the NCAA: ``lack of institutional
control.'' So, too, is the contention that no senior university
employees had a clue that assistant academic coordinator Tony
Russell parceled out more than $128,000 in fraudulent Pell Grants
to 57 players from his athletic department office. Russell, who
was sentenced to three years in prison, has consistently denied
that anyone else knew what he was up to during the three years he
ran his scam.

Once the NCAA gets through with a school, ``lack of institutional
control'' often translates into ``lack of much of a football team
for the next few seasons.'' That possibility argues even more
persuasively for taking drastic, preemptive action yourself. Yet
in the wake of the collapse of your drug-testing policy, you
appointed still another committee, only this time -- you must be
getting really serious now -- the committee was supplemented by a
``special task force'' charged with reviewing the activities of
the entire athletic department. And you're still saying
essentially the same things you have said for a dozen years. ``If
something is broken, we will fix it,'' you told The Dallas Morning
News last month. ``We remain committed to offering competitive
intercollegiate athletics with integrity, on and off the field,''
you said in a press release last week. And: ``I believe and
predict the difficulties that have plagued the team in the past
are history,'' you said to the Herald on May 18.

We might believe and predict the same thing, if you weren't
sounding less and less like the leader of a university that you
once proclaimed would become ``this generation's Stanford'' and
more and more like one of those flight attendants who says, ``We'd
like to be the first to welcome you to Cleveland,'' but never
actually welcomes you to Cleveland.

No one is mistaking Coral Gables for Palo Alto. Which is a shame,
because if it weren't for your football team's excesses, there
might be reason to do so. You have added faculty, lifted the board
scores of incoming freshmen and raised $517 million in a five-year
fund-raising campaign. Even as you have done away with the
recreational-education and physical-education majors in which
football players were often stashed, an enhanced academic support
system has helped the team's graduation rate climb steadily,
topping out in the respectable low 70's the last time the NCAA
checked. We sat in your office in 1991 and heard you rightly
celebrate your decision to do away with your football dorm, over
the objections of Johnson and your then athletic director Sam
Jankovich five years ahead of the NCAA's deadline for phasing them

But precisely because you have proved that you can be an
effective president, you should be able to summon the courage to
shut down the football program. Oh, the boosters will surely
howl in outrage. Some trustees will, too. ``That to me is an
irresponsible suggestion,'' says Ron Stone, an insurance
executive who is a member of the board's athletic affairs
committee. But then your trustees just don't get it. One of
them, former U.S. Undersecretary of Commerce Charles Cobb,
actually characterizes the men who have presided over your
athletic department over the past 15 years as

The trustees won't be an easy sell. You butted heads with the
board back in 1984 when you proposed rescinding the admission of
anyone, football players included, who didn't take seriously your
Freshman Institute, a six-week summer orientation program for the
academically deficient. Jankovich and Johnson protested that no
recruit would sign a letter of intent if the school could abrogate
it a few months later. The trustees lined up against you, and you
lost that battle. There was even a confidential memo sent around
the athletic department that read in part, ``[Stiffer academic
standards] could mean that our department could become another
Rice or Northwestern -- what a thought!''

But get your board to ponder this: What positives has football
brought to the university? And could they possibly counterbalance
the persistent, numbing negatives? Football has produced an
operating profit over the past few years, but -- to quote Tad
Foote again -- ``profitability is fundamentally incompatible with
the essence of a university. A department of philosophy will never
be profitable, but without one, there is no university.'' Besides,
your membership in the Big East means that you can now share in
that league's huge take of NCAA basketball tournament revenue,
which would help tide your athletic department over. Sure, the Big
East admitted Miami because it wanted a piece of the bowl and TV
revenue from its football team. But if you were to shutter your
football program because it is rife with corruption, the league
could hardly excommunicate you without looking like a bunch of
unprincipled gold diggers.

In fact, getting rid of football would help you achieve your goal
of transforming Miami into a first-rate private university in an
urban setting. Several studies have found that athletic success by
itself has no effect on alumni giving. On the contrary, according
to at least one study, when winning is accompanied by the outrages
with which you have become all too familiar, football glory may
actually discourage contributions. In 1986, the year after Tulane
shut down its basketball program in the wake of a point-shaving
scandal, donations to that school leaped by $5 million. Wichita
State raised $26 million in a special drive in '87, the year in
which it dropped football. In roughly the same period during which
your football program dragged Miami's name through the mud,
another urban, private university has gone big-time -- raising
huge amounts of money, going on a building binge and raiding the
Ivy League for faculty -- without big-time sports. And no one has
any less respect for NYU because it doesn't field even a club
football team.

Other schools have abolished a major sport for far less cause than
you have to do so right now. After all, the Tulane point-shaving
allegations were never proved in court, and when the NCAA
sentenced SMU football to a one-year death penalty in 1987 (the
school voluntarily added a second year), it was primarily for
flagrant and recurrent violations committed by boosters. Your
football team is malignant, recidivist and scarcely integrated
into your campus. Your city has the Dolphins and hardly needs a
jayvee pro team. Your alternative -- to field a national-title
contender in a town known for lax living and easy vice, while
South Florida's warring newspapers continue to look for any
misstep they can find -- is no alternative at all.

So do it. Get rid of Dee. Call Davis into your office and offer
him a new job managing your overhauled athletic department. Tell
every player on scholarship that you will honor his grant-in-aid
if he wants to stay on as a regular student. Embark immediately on
a fund-raising drive; you'll be astonished at how many alumni will
open up their wallets in response to your courage. Then wait a
decent interval. At the University of San Francisco, where
renegade boosters were responsible for the Dons' basketball
program being hide-strapped with back-to-back probations,
president John Lo Schiavo closed down the sport in 1982 and waited
three seasons before bringing it back. He was careful to hire a
staff as committed as he was to his vision of the university and
to keeping boosters at bay. SMU has brought its admission
standards for athletes into line with those for the rest of the
university, and the Mustangs' graduation rate has achieved
respectability. If you do it right, when the time comes to bring
back football at ``this generation's Stanford,'' your students and
alumni will walk tall again.

``As president I take full responsibility,'' you said last week.
``The buck stops with me.'' If you really believe that, don't even
think about resigning. Think instead of Robert Maynard Hutchins.
Think of Senator Fulbright. Think of your own words. ``Those with
responsibility for the academic mission of universities --
faculties, deans, provosts and presidents, not coaches, athletic
directors and alumni associations -- must lead,'' you wrote in
1982. ``Universities exist for teaching and research, not winning

As your de facto athletic director, Luther Campbell, might put it,
You've talked the talk. It's time to walk the walk.

Alexander Wolff

COLOR ILLUSTRATION COVER ILLUSTRATION Why the University of Miami should drop football [text on cover]

COLOR ILLUSTRATION: ILLUSTRATION BY ANDREW DAMON [photo of University of Miami football player shattered into shards]

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BIEVER The results of Sapp's drug tests were belatedly revealed. [Warren Sapp with his arms raised, holding his helmet in one hand and making the "#1" sign with the other]

COLOR PHOTO: MAURICE MCINNIS/LGI Players say Campbell paid them. [Luther Campbell talking on telephone] COLOR PHOTO: DOUG HOKE Out-of-control Hurricanes shamed themselves and Miami at the '91 Cotton Bowl. [Miami players cavorting on the sideline]

COLOR PHOTO: ANDY HAYT Fatigues at the '87 Fiesta Bowl marked a sorry era. [Miami player wearing fatigues and sunglasses]

COLOR PHOTO: HEINZ KLUETMEIER The trouble began under Schnellenberger. [Howard Schnellenberger wearing orange sportcoat and smoking pipe] COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BIEVER Johnson's reign was the subject of a university inquiry. [Jimmy Johnson being carried off of field in celebration] COLOR PHOTO: ANTHONY NESTE Hard-drinking Coach Erickson set a poor example for his players. [Dennis Erickson talking with Miami players]

COLOR PHOTO: BILL FRAKES Davis may be Mr. Clean, but he also may be too late. [Butch Davis] COLOR PHOTO: BILL FRAKES Foote's lofty goals have been laid low by football. [Edward T. (Tad) Foote II]

The football program has become a cancer devouring your

Hurricane players have had little reason to respect their coaches.

You must summon the courage to shut down the football program.