Brawl not the only thing that ties FIU, Miami programs Print
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Monday, 10 September 2007 09:43
NCAAF Headline News

 CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) -Miami coach Randy Shannon answered quickly, not wanting to discuss the topic at length.
He had heard the question before and will field it many more times before his Hurricanes host Florida International on Saturday. It was about his son Xavier, a starting offensive lineman for the Golden Panthers, and how seeing him as an opponent might affect Shannon's thoughts during his weekly game-planning regimen.
``You'll hear me say this a lot,'' Shannon said. ``My son is on the football team there. When we play, he's the enemy. When it's over, he's my son.''
Simple as that.
The father vs. son element is hardly the only connection between the programs, who are forever linked by the on-field brawl between the teams a year ago - but have countless other ties that bind.
Brother vs. brother, friend vs. friend, rival vs. rival, this series between schools a mere 9 miles apart has about every relationship imaginable.
``Just about every home you go into in South Florida, there's either a Miami alumni or an FIU alumni and, in most cases, there's one of each,'' said FIU athletic director Pete Garcia. ``So whether it's a kid, a parent, an uncle, an aunt, if they went to one of those schools, they're probably down here in South Florida. And this series is great for South Florida.''
That series didn't have a great start.
There were a number of chippy incidents in the first half of last year's game, the first-ever meeting between the schools, which Miami won 35-0. Tensions boiled over with 9 minutes left in the third quarter as players from both teams rushed the field, some kicking and stomping, some using crutches and helmets as weapons and others simply punching and pushing. FIU suspended or dismissed 18 players for their actions; Miami had 13 players suspended.
Garcia's first official day at FIU was Oct. 16, two days after the brawl. Until then, he was a senior associate athletic director at Miami, working under Hurricanes AD Paul Dee.
``I'm glad I was technically unemployed that night,'' Garcia said, laughing. ``It wasn't my fault.''
The brawl notwithstanding, links between Miami and FIU run deep - starting with the coaches.
FIU coach Mario Cristobal was an assistant at Miami alongside Shannon for years, plus has two national championship rings from his playing days with the Hurricanes. He was hired by FIU in December.
``This needs to be a great game,'' said Cristobal, who also faced Miami when he was a Rutgers assistant. ``These guys played on the same high school teams. They played against each other in high school. And you know how important football is down here in this South Florida community.''
There are plenty of other examples.
- FIU linebacker Jarvis Wilson is the brother of Miami star safety Kenny Phillips. It's the first time the former Miami Carol City High teammates will be on opposite sides of the field.
- Tiger Clark was the MVP of the 1988 Orange Bowl, when Miami beat Oklahoma for the national title. Clark, now FIU's defensive line coach, was once a Miami teammate of Cristobal and current Hurricanes linebackers coach Micheal Barrow.
- At least six other FIU football staffers (coaches Jeff Popovich, Greg Laffere and Mike Cassano Jr., operations directors Matt Winston and Dennis Smith, and defensive graduate assistant Juan Navarro Jr.) played or worked at Miami. Plus, Miami defensive line coach Clint Hurtt held that job at FIU in 2005.
- The rosters are dotted with at least 58 players who went to high school with someone from the other sideline. One has worn both teams' uniforms: FIU tight end Eric Kirchenberg transferred there from Miami.
``We're rivals that are like 5 minutes away and a lot of the guys know each other,'' Miami defensive end Calais Campbell said. ``One of our old coaches is there coaching now. So I'm looking forward to the game. It's supposed to be fun.''
It's supposed to be, but the coming days likely won't for Randy Shannon.
He isn't planning on talking much about the brawl, doesn't relish his son being an opponent and probably cannot wait for the final whistle to blow Saturday night.
There's only one thing he's looking forward to this week.
``Playing against FIU,'' Shannon said. ``That's about all.''
 

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