Non-violent Vols

Singer/song-writer Elton John assured us that "Saturday night's all right for fighting." Well … apparently not. Last weekend's ugly brawl between Miami and Florida International football players resulted in national outrage … along with a slew of dismissals and suspensions.

Could Tennessee be involved in such a malicious melee? Not a chance, say Vol coaches and players.

Senior linebacker Marvin Mitchell is no angel. He was suspended last spring following an arrest on a disorderly-conduct charge in the wee hours of the morning at a campus-area convenience store. Still, he expressed disgust when asked about the five-minute battle royal that erupted during the Miami-FIU game.

"Those guys showed no character," Mitchell said, adding that he was especially upset seeing "a whole group of guys jump on and that type of thing. It doesn't show any kind of leadership in the program or the coaches. It just looks bad as a whole."

Mitchell understands that football is a violent game but says there's plenty of legal contact allowed without players resorting to illegal contact, as well.

"Football is meant to be played between the whistles," he said. "If a guy gets rowdy you've got to be the guy to step in and say, ‘Hey, get ‘em next play.' You can't do those type of things those guys did down there (Miami) to get themselves in trouble."

Fair enough, Marvin. But how do you respond when an opponent removes his helmet and starts beating you with it, as happened during the Miami-FIU skirmish?

Mitchell took a deep breath and pondered his options before responding:

"You just have to be smart. You look ahead to the future, so you don't get yourself in trouble in that situation. You might have a quick temper at one moment but you've got to pull yourself back."

Vol head man Phillip Fulmer spoke with his players on Monday about the much-publicized incident in the Miami-FIU game. He was pleased by their responses, noting that senior defensive tackle Turk McBride said it was "embarrassing to college football" and that the key to preventing such mishaps is "Don't leave the sidelines."

Fulmer played the game and knows tempers can flare in the heat of the action. That's why he says the best cure is a pre-emptive strike.

"You make those decisions (join the fight or make peace) collectively as a team sitting in the team room BEFORE the issue comes up," Fulmer said. "We always try to bring those things up.

"If you're out late at night and something comes up, you make that decision long before you get to that point as to how you're going to respond. You hope they have the maturity to walk away from those things."

Fulmer said he has asked several team leaders how they would respond if a fight broke out during a Tennessee game. All talked about keeping a cool head and trying to separate the combatants, rather than allowing the battle to escalate.

"All of them had great answers," the coach noted. "I didn't have to say it. They said it, and that's what I wanted to happen."


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