Return of the U

Sports blotter: "Plant City, indeed" edition
By MATT TAIBBI  |  July 30, 2008

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’Canes blowing again
Remember the days when the University of Miami dominated college football? For a four- or five-year stretch there, there was “The U,” and there was everyone else. They racked up ungodly numbers and had other teams beaten and humiliated before the season even began.

And that was just in the sports-crime department. In the days when Miami was almost always a lock to be the preseason number-one team, when 59-0 ass-whippings of top-20 opponents were nothing to write home about (are you listening, Syracuse?), and coaches like Butch Davis and Larry Coker each year flooded the NFL with skill-position stars on both sides of the ball, the U was also racking up arrests with the best of them.

The school was constantly in trouble for one reason or another: if it wasn’t a Pell Grant scam that cost the program more than 30 scholarships over three years, it was promising linebackers James Burgess and Jammi German getting rung up on battery charges, or star cornerback Antrel Rolle getting busted in a bar fight, or all-world recruit Willie Williams setting the unofficial sports arrest record before even arriving on campus.

Then came a pair of school-wide humiliations: the notorious “7th Floor Crew” incident (in which a group of U players recorded a controversial, more-than-unusually-lewd rap song) and the celebrated on-field brawl with Florida International. During these past few years, Miami has fallen in the college rankings, while its arrest rate appears to have fallen off too. That is, until now.

This past week, former Miami quarterback Kenny Kelly — the architect of the Canes’ 9-4 campaign in 1999, in which they beat Georgia Tech in the Gator Bowl — was busted on felony drug charges. Kelly was nailed for possession of marijuana of more than 20 grams, and purchase and solicitation to deliver marijuana.

Kelly actually represents the marriage of two different sports-crime institutions, as he dropped out of football following Miami’s 1999 season to pursue a professional baseball career in the minor-league system of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, at one time the arrest leaders of the baseball world. Kelly made it to the bigs briefly in two separate runs — once in 2000, and once in 2005, playing sparingly for the Rays, Reds, and Nats. His best year was in 2005, when he went 3-for-9 for the Reds. Those three hits helped lift his career batting average to .286, which is likely where it will stay, now that he appears to have washed out of pro sports. At the time of his arrest this past week, Kelly was a quarterbacks coach for Plant City High in Florida.

He was busted as part of a “narcotics round-up,” which is a fancy way of saying that the Tampa PD was padding its stats by picking up every brother with a nickel bag within the county lines. One wonders why the police don’t have better things to do than worry about grown men carrying bags of weed. Unfortunately, that rhetorical question won’t be answered in time to save Kelly’s career. Five points for the weed — it would have been one, except for the Supernaturally Large Quantity exception.

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