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SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
11/08/2006 12:08:00 PM

Miami in Mourning

Oakland Arena
Miami's season has already been a difficult one, but now the Hurricanes must deal with true tragedy.
Joel Auerbach/US PRESSWIRE
Last Sunday, one of my “Five Things We Learned This Weekend” was that “it’s getting to be beyond ugly in Miami.” Beyond calling for coach Larry Coker’s head, after last Saturday night’s loss to Virginia Tech, some fans at the Orange Bowl spit at and poured beer on Hurricanes players as they ran into the tunnel. This, of course, came just a few weeks after the controversial brawl with Florida International.

All of that suddenly seems inconsequential.

Miami defensive lineman Bryan Pata, a three-year starter and one of the most revered players on the team, was shot and killed outside his apartment complex on Tuesday night. In an incomprehensibly sad scene observed by the Miami Herald, the player’s mother, Ronette Pata, wearing her son’s No. 95 jersey, jumped out of a Lexus that had arrived outside the police line about 9:30 p.m. last night and screamed, ''My baby! My baby!'' before collapsing into the arms of a Miami-Dade detective.

“We all know that [football is just a game], but this just magnifies it,” a remarkably composed Coker said in Wednesday morning’s ACC teleconference. “It was so gratifying seeing Bryan so close to getting his degree, possibly having a chance to play at the next level. All of that is wiped out in an instant.”

Sadly, the Miami football community is no stranger to tragedy. Two former players, Al Blades and Chris Campbell, died in car accidents just a few years ago. And in 1996, linebacker Marlin Barnes was the victim of a gruesome murder at his on-campus apartment. “We’ve been through this,” said Coker. “We’ve got a great network in place.”

Still, I can’t even begin to imagine what Miami’s players are going through right now. On Tuesday afternoon, Pata was practicing right alongside them. A few hours later, he was gone. “Last night, everyone was in shock and disbelief,” said Coker. “Today is a day of reality. No. 95 won’t be at his locker. No. 95 won’t be in the stretch line.”

This team has already been through an emotionally wrenching season, and now it must deal with the ultimate trauma -- and somehow turn around and play a game Saturday at Maryland. All of the football-related questions that have hovered over the program the past few months are still out there, but you can put them on the back-burner for now. Win or lose, the next few weeks for Miami will be all about grieving.

“We’ve had some bad things happen, and the season hasn’t been the season we hoped it would be, but at the University of Miami, we can handle it,” said Coker. “Losing a game’s not a tragedy; this is a tragedy.”
posted by Stewart Mandel | View comments |

Comments:

Posted: 2:03 PM   by dballou
I am a friend of the Miami program. I knew Bryan Pata through the football team. I can say that every time I think of him I see him smiling. He was a kind young man, and he allways treated the fans with respect. Bryan was a true Hurricane. He had a fire to win, and the heart of a champion.He will be missed , not just in football , but in the world we live in.Good people are hard to find. He is with God, and our prayers or with his family. Canes forever.
Posted: 2:52 PM   by ivan
As a Buckeye fan I want to extend my condolences to the Miami community and especially to the Pata family.
Posted: 2:53 PM   by ivan
As a Buckeye fan I want to extend my condolences to the Miami community and especially to the Pata family.
Posted: 3:43 PM   by FIU alumn
I hope when people read about this kid being killed they realise this has nothing to do with the University of Miami program. National media members are taking the opportunity to further bash the football team over something that isn't even football related. This is a national, societal issue where people are dying daily at the hands of guns. Pata was murderd in front of home in a nice neighborhood where shootings are most definitely NOT the norm. Pata was anything BUT a "thug." Warm hearted and kind, he was fun loving and generally would do anything for his friend and family. All of our thoughts and prayer should be with Pata's family and friends, including his "family" at the University of Miami.
Posted: 4:07 PM   by jonmarr
This is just terrible. What a tragedy for his family, and for the team. As a Hokie fan, I've never routed for the 'canes, but always admired their tremendous teams. But I'll be routing for them on Saturday.
Posted: 4:41 PM   by AArroyo
As a Gators fan and a person that doesnt care much for the Miami program I truly feel for the team and hope that they are able to turn their season around in rememberance of their fallen teammate. My heart goes out to the team and the Pata family.
Posted: 4:42 PM   by Marco
Thanks for the great article and for not taking a swipe at the Miami program like other members of the media are doing today. This was a random act of violence and everyone's prayers should be with the Pata family
Posted: 4:45 PM   by Greg
As a Florida Gator, you always talk about hating the Canes, but you never want to hear about something like this. my condolences to Pata's family and teamates.
Posted: 4:56 PM   by MiaMi
From Miami's die hard U' football fans, we will miss you B.
Hopefully the critics can back off and let us remember him as a person !

God Bless...
305
When something like this happens, what else can we do but step back and put everything in perspective. Football isn't so important after all. All condolences to the U and the Pata family.
Posted: 5:35 PM   by jadiam lopez
I want to thank you all for being so kind today, a day that will be remembered by some.. as a memory of what pata brought to us.. i new him by way of maysapce.. and he'll be missed as a friend.... i 'll pray for his fam... and like other have said... this isnt the U... this is a person... outside of the U... Forever, n always.. U
Posted: 5:44 PM   by Paul
I first learned of the tragedy this morning as I walked into work. People were in my face, saying "Miami is back to being Miami". Folks don't understand UM has been more of a model program the last 4+ years. Not only have the W's continued to pile up, but the police blotter was practicaly non-existent. Now, because of the past few months, people think Miami NEVER changed. How wrong they all are!!!

I wish nothing but the best for the Canes and hope the Pata family can get through this tragedy!
Posted: 6:27 PM   by BDsports
This is a tragedy and my thoughts and prayers goes out to Bryan Pata's family and friends, as well as his teammates and coaches.

It's a tragedy not only because a promising young man is dead but that America has another case of gun violence. UM needs to put pressure on Miami Police Dept to step up security around the campus and the university's own police force needs to be more visible!
Posted: 6:51 PM   by Timmy
I have never been a fan of Miami football, but the things that this program has endured this season is truly a test of will. God will never place more on us than we can bare. There is a light at the end of this deep dark tunnel that Miami is in at this time. I for one will be praying to Miami, and at this point more importantly the Pata family, from this day forth. The obsticles that are placed in our path are to make us stronger, and only the good die young. R.I.P. Bryan!!!
Posted: 7:56 PM   by Sara
Miami, I am soo sorry to hear of the death of Bryan Pata, I send oceans of love and healing with this post!
Posted: 7:58 PM   by gmenirish
Reality check guys: Horrible tragedy, hopefully it will inspire transformation of the program.
Posted: 9:35 PM   by zerocool
I moved to south florida from michigan almost a year ago, and one of my priorities was to watch and game at the famous orange bowl, so what better game than the VA Tech vs. Miami game... I watched a Miami team play its heart out and lose. I gained a lot of respect for them as a team. and I hope this event will remind everyone what is really important in life. I pray for the player, his family, and his team. I hope everyone is rooting and showing support for them come Saturday... GO CANES!!!
Posted: 9:47 PM   by 410is
This hurts....badly, and for many reasons, most of which have nothing to do with football. As a life long canes fan it seems like we are cursed. Maybe we can pull together....for Bryan, big #95.
Posted: 9:59 PM   by PPT
Bryan... We'll miss your presence on campus. All thoughts and prayers to you and your family.
Posted: 12:38 PM   by Jay
I knew Bryan from playing against him in high school games a few years back. We had a couple of battles, he was a D Line, I was O Line. I can't remember anyone more talented, more passionate to win, but also can't remember anyone with a bigger heart, or a bigger smile. As a lifelong U fan, and even more, as a Bryan Pata fan, this hurts. My thought, prayers go out to the Pata family, and to the U family.
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