On August 16, 2011, Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports dropped a bombshell on the sports world. It was widely known that the University of Miami was being investigated, but the magnitude of the investigation was not know…or even dreamed of. The report was based off of hours of interviews and mountains of documents and photographs over the course of a year. It was a refreshing read in an era of knee-jerk journalism. Many in the media are wondering if the NCAA could issue a “death penalty” to the University of Miami. This would effectively ruin the entire athletic department at the University of Miami and recovery would take years, if not decades. I think before we announce to the world that The U is deserving of the “death penalty” we should take a look at history.
Southern Methodist University took rules violations to a different level. They were riding high from the most successful run in school history. From 1980 to 1985, they compiled a 55-14-1 record with three Southwest Conference Titles. However, they were on probation five times between 1974 and 1985. The latest penalty in 1985 was the result of a current SMU player confessing to taking a sum of money to withdraw his commitment to his hometown school, the University of Pittsburgh. For this, the Mustangs received three years probation, a three year bowl ban, and a television ban in 1986. Prior to the 1986 season, however, a story of greater magnitude unfolded. WFAA-TV in Dallas investigated a tip given to them about a former player. This player had his scholarship taken away as he was struggling with a drug problem. This player, David Stanley, claimed to have been paid $25,000 along with a monthly stipend for his family, so they could move to Texas. In the following months, many more infractions would be uncovered with tens of thousands of dollars being exchanged between the school, boosters, and players. It was also proven that school administrators had in fact known about the payments. This led to the NCAA handing out the “death penalty” to the school on February 25, 1987. This entailed the cancelation of the 1987 season and all four home games of the 1988 season. SMU voluntarily cancelled the remaining games in the 1988 season because of the inability to field a competitive team. SMU was also without 55 scholarships over a four year span. They did not have a full allotment of scholarships until 1992. SMU did not reach a bowl game again until 2009. Read more about the SMU scandal here.
On April 23, 2006, Yahoo Sports reported that the family of Reggie Bush received over $100,000 in extra benefits from marketing agents. In 2009, men’s basketball coach Tim Floyd admits to paying a recruit. After years of investigation and court battles the NCAA handed down a stiff sentence to USC. Reggie Bush was stripped of his Heisman Trophy. The 2004 BCS National Championship was vacated. The Trojans also received a two year bowl ban and are limited to just 15 football scholarships for three years. Many in the media thought this was an extraordinarily harsh punishment for a couple of isolated crimes. A timeline and related articles can be found here.
In December of 2010, reports began to surface regarding wrongdoing amongst players at Ohio State University. These allegations ranged from receiving discounted tattoos and selling memorabilia, both of which are NCAA infractions. The dominos began to fall after months of investigation, and lies/deception from the Ohio State administration. Five players, including quarterback Terrell Prior, were allowed to play in the Sugar Bowl, but were suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season. Jim Tressel resigned in May of 2011. Athletic Director Gene Smith has been spinning the story for months. There is proof of Pryor receiving checks from a local memorabilia dealer. (CHECKS! Ever think of a paper trail?) The worst part of all of this is the cover up. It started with Jim Tressel and made its way to Gene Smith, E. Gordon Gee, and Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney. Jim Delaney has a reputation of being the most powerful man in NCAA football because he has a firm grasp of the BCS purse strings. USC’s violations were isolated, if not severe. USC did, however, comply with the investigation when approached. Very little was found in previous knowledge of the Reggie Bush scandal. As the facts come out about Ohio State, more lies and cover up attempts are revealed. Although the case is still ongoing and more allegations maybe discovered, a July 21st hearing revealed that Ohio State was not, at that time, going to be charged with the severe “failure to monitor” charge. Many are reporting that the vibe is that the NCAA is going to take it a lot easier on Ohio State than they did USC. This infuriates me because the lies and deceit make tOSU worthy of being made an example of. That remains to be seen.
The Yahoo article sums up the allegations for me. There is no timetable on when a decision will be made. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I first read the article. I remember thinking that if ever there was a case for the “death penalty” that this would be it. The story is out of Hollywood. A rich guy wants to be involved and funds every form of debauchery imaginable. He immerses himself into the program and is taken in willingly by the school’s coaches and administrators. He even leads the team out onto the field on a few occasions! You can’t make up a scenario like this. There are collaborating witnesses, photographs, bills, statements, and witnesses that all support the allegations. As flabbergasted as I am regarding this story, I am starting to think that there is no way that the NCAA will hit them with the “death penalty”. First off, I have been hearing for years that the NCAA regrets using the penalty on SMU given how it destroyed that program. I also think that even as corrupt and shocking as the allegations were at Miami it still wasn’t as bad as what was going on at SMU. They had multiple boosters, a slush fund, administrators and coaches fully aware of what was going on, multiple offenses in the previous years, and a blatant disregard for the rules. What was going on at Miami maybe as bad and as shocking as what happened at SMU, but the prior legislation isn’t there to support a similar charge. Miami should be punished severely. There are many jobs that should be lost over this. There are many players that will be suspended or permanently banned from college football over this. Probation, bowl bans, TV bans, loss of scholarships, etc will all be extreme and staggering. It will be a very harsh punishment for the Hurricanes, but when all is said and done I believe that they will escape the death penalty.