The SMU Death Penalty
This scandal took place in the late 1970’s in which boosters set up a ¨slush fund¨ so that they could make under the table payments to players and their families and in return the player would commit and later on sign a letter of intent on coming to Southern Methodist University. During the 1985 and 1986 season 13 players had been paid a total of $61,000, Payments ranged from 50 to 725 per month , During the 1986 school year the players had received a total of $47,000. The whole reason that this was so significant and gained so much attention was that they repeated these violations and didn’t just quit after the first time. After the first set of violations had been sanctioned upon SMU instead of immediately cutting off payment to players they issued a phase out plan in which they would continue to pay the players that they promised money to until they graduated. It all worked fine until a player who had been kicked off the team by the name of David Stanley had gone on a televised interview and explained the benefits he received from SMU.
After this surfaced the NCAA dropped the atomic bomb of sanctions upon SMU being the most harshest sanction in all of college sports these three words would forever leave an impact that may never be recoverable for Southern Methodist University. The Death Penalty. The Death Penalty is about as harsh as it sounds. The 1987 season was canceled; only conditioning drills were permitted during the 1987 calendar year. All home games in 1988 were canceled. SMU was allowed to play their seven regularly scheduled away games so that other institutions would not be financially affected. The team’s existing probation was extended until 1990. Its existing ban from bowl games and live television was extended to 1989. SMU lost 55 new scholarship positions over 4 years. SMU was required to ensure that Owen and eight other boosters previously banned from contact with the program were in fact banned, or else face further punishment.
The team was allowed to hire only five full-time assistant coaches, instead of the typical nine. No off-campus recruiting was permitted until August 1988, and no paid visits could be made to campus by potential recruits until the start of the 1988-89 school year. And finally they canceled the 1988 season entirely. SMU has yet to fully recover from this penalty as it still has an impact on their football success, the aftermath was catastrophic. Since 1989 SMU has defeated only two ranked teams and has had only three winning seasons. SMU didn’t even return to a bowl game until 2009 in which they routed Nevada 45-10. The Death Penalty has been used five times in NCAA Division 1 sports since the sanctions imposed upon SMU and is regarded as the harshest penalty in Collegiate level sports. (‘The Death,’ 2015).
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