Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Tragedy strikes 'Da U'- again

The University of Miami football program was already experiencing a terrible year both on & off the field.
Tonight things just got tragically worse for the embattled school.

22-year old senior defensive end Bryan Pata was found dead in the Miami suburb of Kendall Tuesday evening from a gunshot wound. Details are sketchy right now but early word has witnesses pegging it as a drive by-type shooting, although no official word has been released from either local police or family members.

Pata was a 6'4", 270lb starter who had played in 41 games with the 'Canes over the past 4 years and was expected to be a late-round selection in next spring's NFL draft.

The troubles for the school go back at least a decade, from the car crash death of Philadelphia Eagle & Hurricane icon Jerome Brown to the recent deaths of linebacker Marlin Barnes (shot in 1996) and alums Chris Campbell (car crash in 2002) Al Blades (car crash in 2003.)

But this year alone there had been numerous image-crushing incidents, starting with a brawl in January's Sugar Bowl loss to LSU, the shooting of safety Willie Cooper and subsequent retaliatory fire by teammate Brandon Meriweather in July, to the ugly on-field melee versus FIU last month that saw 30 players suspended from both schools and Miami come under intense fire for not reacting strongly enough to the incident.

But those incidents pale in comparison to having a teammate, student and community member gunned down in the city area while students are still in class and games are still left on the schedule; Miami is set to travel to Maryland to take on the #23 Terps Saturday, but I'm sure a game is the last thing on those kids' minds right now.

The scars left from brawls heal. The scars from the loss of a member of the family never do.

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