If you’re old enough, you might remember SMU who got whacked with the only NCAA death penalty ever back in the 1980s after ten years of sanctions and systematic cheating. The Mustangs football program was temporarily shut down.
At the heart of the matter, SMU players had been getting paid with funds provided by boosters for years, and top school officials—not just coaches—were involved in the shenanigans.
“In the nine years I served on the (NCAA) committee on infractions I never saw another one that was even close to what occurred in the SMU case,” said University of Oklahoma law professor David Swank, a former NCAA vice president.
“In that case you had the involvement of basically members of the board of trustees and the regents,” he said. “And it was repeat violations which made it a very serious case.”
SMU had been sanctioned multiple times in the 10 years leading up to receiving the death penalty for recruiting violations, including being placed on three years’ probation in 1985. But the money kept flowing because school officials, including former Texas Gov. Bill Clements, the head of SMU’s board, were afraid that players already on the payroll would expose the cheating if they were cut off.
Miami football was hit with NCAA sanctions in 1995 after a financial aid scandal involving at least 50 players. The Hurricanes received three-year’s probation, a one-season bowl ban and were stripped of 24 scholarships.
“At Miami … it looks like it focuses on one outlaw.”
Much like the Miami case, the SMU scandal came to a head at a time when NCAA investigations were rampant in college football. Some SMU supporters claimed the Mustangs were merely trying to keep up with Southwest Conference rivals Texas, Texas A&M, Houston, Texas Tech, Baylor, TCU and Arkansas.
“Every school had been investigated,” said Bo Carter, the former longtime sports information director of the Southwest Conference and Big 12.
“In the `80s, no one had very strong compliance programs. The conferences were trying to enforce things through self-policing.”
ESPN analyst Craig James, who with fellow tailback Eric Dickerson formed the famed Pony Express backfield for SMU from 1979-82, claims he wasn’t aware of the rampant rule-breaking. James points out that back then boosters had far more access to players and recruits.
Sounds like Miami may have fallen victim to the Wild West mentality of Nevin Shaprio…
If the Suits In Indianapolis (Formerly Kansas) can’t prove that Miami officials were in on his dealings, the “Death Penalty” is highly unlikely.