Hurricanes Take Field After Player's Slaying

By Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 9, 2006

CORAL GABLES, Fla. Nov. 8 -- Less than 24 hours after a University of Miami starting defensive lineman was shot dead in front of his apartment complex, the Hurricanes took the field in preparation for Saturday's game at No. 23 Maryland, which will go on as scheduled.

As Miami-Dade police continued interviewing witnesses in the case involving senior Bryan Pata, whose death was ruled a homicide, the football team assembled as scheduled on the campus practice fields at 3 p.m. Wednesday and went through a customary two-hour practice in pads.

The only differences to the routine: Miami Coach Larry Coker canceled the day's 6:30 a.m. film session, and extra security manned the players' parking lot and entrance to the Hurricanes' training facility. Media members, meantime, were barred from watching the workout (the first 20 minutes are usually open) and interviewing players, who filed solemnly off the field after the workout.

"I asked players to make today as normal as possible," Coker said at the edge of the field after the training session. "Was it a normal day? No. . . . Not out of disrespect, but out of respect for Bryan and his family, the players wanted to play."

No one has been charged in the shooting, and the investigation is continuing, Miami-Dade police spokeswoman Joanne Duncan said. Pata, 22, died outside of his south Miami apartment at about 7 p.m. Tuesday, less than two hours after the conclusion of that day's practice, according to university officials and the police.

Coker, whose team already had endured turmoil of a different sort because of the team's disappointing 5-4 record, said players and coaches were summoned to a late-night meeting after the shooting. Police detectives arrived during the meeting and interviewed some players, Coker said.

"Last night was a shock," Coker said. "It was almost a surreal moment. . . . There was not a lot of conversation. There were some tears."

There was little consideration given to canceling Saturday's game, Coker said, though Coker said Miami Athletic Director Paul Dee discussed the issue with Atlantic Coast Conference officials.

No player was excused from Wednesday's practice -- or asked to be excused, Coker said.

Grief counselors and chaplains were on hand Tuesday night to assist players. Coker said players will wear Pata's No. 95 on their helmets Saturday. His locker, Coker said, remains untouched.

Pata's high school coach, Anthony Saunders, said in a phone interview that he was told Pata suffered a gunshot wound to his head. Saunders said the shooting was especially troubling because Pata, who attended Miami's Central High, was a solid kid who stayed out of trouble.

"He had no real enemies that I know of," Saunders said. "Everybody liked him, and everybody's sad at what happened. . . . He was a great kid, just a big, fun-loving kid."

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