If you've been around or followed College Sports over the last 30-40 year the term "Death Penalty" should mean something very real and very scary to you, right? Usually the term is followed closely by "It'll Never Happen Again." Well apparently Miami took the other route as a report from Yahoo! Sports suggests. In light of this report, which is lengthy and AMAZING by the way, I think it's high time that the NCAA looks at bringing back the "Death Penalty" once again, only in much, MUCH, worse fashion for "The U." I mean seriously, this stuff makes what SMU did look like child's play. In the same breath it's also high time the NCAA takes a real good look in the mirror for a change!
O.k., time for a bit of a history lesson for those of you too young to remember the days of Pony Express and SMU actually being a powerful football program. SMU in the early 80's was one of the best College Football programs around and was pretty much "The U" before "The U" in terms of glitz and glamour in the city they called home, Dallas. Well, that all came crashing to a halt in the mid 80's as they were put on probation for paying players and then found to have continued doing so while on probation. As a result the NCAA nailed them with a cancellation of the 1987 season, leaving most players to transfer and reducing the program to rubble. It was under the repeat violator clause that SMU would be punished in such a severe way. The punishment also led to no home games in 1988 and SMU decided not to play at all that year. As a result of the two year removal of the program this type of punishment would be known forever as the "Death Penalty." The Mustangs wouldn't recover to a truly competitive team until just the past few years, that's how bad things got for SMU.
History lesson learned? Great. Now on to 2011 and the Miami football and basketball programs. The "Death Penalty" is serious stuff, as I've documented above, it affects hundreds of players, coaches, and athletic department staff that probably had nothing to do with this scandal and were probably on the up and up when it came to this situation. I really feel for the new football coach(Al Golden) and the new Men's Basketball Coach(Jim Larranaga), who should've been made aware of this situation before they were asked to become coaches in their respective sports and are about to suffer the brunt of whatever happens. On the other side I have no sympathy for the staff in the Athletic Department's Compliance area or the former AD's Paul Dee and Kirby Holcutt. How do you not know about this guy? How do you not hear about the MILLIONS..... AND MILLIONS of dollars that Nevin Shapiro "Allegedly" spent on a multitude of illegal contributions to players? Not only were most of the actions against NCAA bylaws, they were also ILLEGAL period(i.e. paying for prostitutes). I don't have enough space to print the laundry list of violations that are alleged to have occurred around the 2001-2009 Hurricanes. The list also includes I believe 75 players, well at least that's where I started to loose count myself, including big names like Andre Johnson, Vince Wilfork, Willis McGehee, Antrel Rolle, Sean Taylor and many, many more.
You may be asking, o.k. smart guy, what should happen to Miami if all this stuff is true? Simple: DOUBLE SECRET DEATH PENALTY! Seriously, we've all made mistakes in life and I guarantee we've also all had to pay for them as well. I know I have. These violations were to have taken place all while on probation for other major violations in the late 80's and early 90's. Therefore they would fall under the NCAA regulation of "repeat violators." If SMU giving players a slush fund of around $60,000 warranted a 2 year suspension of the program and putting them on a footing to absolutely suck for oh say 20 years, what does a few million $'s get you? I say it get's you a permanent TIME OUT, DO NOT PASS GO... YOUR PROGRAM IS DONE. What say you? Also, shameless plug here, but take a listen to last night's Badgers Power Hour where I was joined by Ryan Wooden of KnoxVegasVols to talk this subject at length alongside co-host Aaron Jones.
In that talk last night I mentioned my personal thought that if ever there was a case for the NCAA to turn the mirror on itself, it's this one. Obviously the system they have set up is broken. I can only imagine between the scandals at USC, Boise State, and lest we forget Ohio State it's clear that something is fundamentally wrong. On a side note, anyone else find it funny that not a single conference except the SEC seems to have been clear of this type of story in 2011? Hmmm, very curious indeed Watson! Anyway, I digress, back to the NCAA, I say shame on them for not seeing a broken system and really trying to fix it.
Right now the NCAA system totally encourages the "It's Only Cheating if You Get Caught" mentality amongst players and universities alike. Let's not kid ourselves, big time college sports is also big time money. Under the current system tell me why it would benefit the biggest names to not cheat the system, all they are going to get is a slap on the wrist and loose a few scholarships, right? The benefits of getting the big money donations and big money for the university clearly outstrip any punishment currently handed down by the NCAA. I think it's high time they took the NCAA Handbook and blew the thing up! Starting from scratch has to be better than what's going on now, because it sure isn't a good time to be a College Sports fan.
My idea to fix the issue? How about getting the NCAA and the major sports leagues like the NFL, NBA, MLB, MLS, NHL, and their respective agents together in a room for a common solution. Everyone talks about the solution being giving the players some more money to play the game, but what does that solve? It doesn't take the $1,000 handshakes out of the boosters hands, it doesn't take the other illegal benefits given to star players away either. I say if you come up with a solution that combines NCAA infractions with punishments not only during college but major consequences, such as being barred from playing in their league or losing any chance for a signing bonus at the pro level that just might do the trick. I guarantee you that those kids seeing million dollar paydays in their future will really think twice about jeopardizing that future knowing what could happen. Am I as nieve to think that's the end all be all solution? No. Reality is you'll always have people trying to cheat the system, but perhaps relaxing some of the "fringe" benefits like getting to go on Yacht parties or having high class dinners might ease things a bit for players that are strapped financially like every other college kid, just with no way to do anything about it until their time is up as a scholarship player. That's the part I just dont get. Knowing athletes growing up it always struck me odd not to be able to pick up their portion of a meal when we went out, you know being a nice friend and helping someone who maybe couldn't afford the things us normal college kids could.
In the end I think this whole story points to two things. One, is that the current NCAA system is broken beyond repair and needs to be ripped up and a new set of rules drawn up. Two, that it points to a total lack of personal responsibility in our culture today. It's always someone ele's fault, or my favorite, "can you blame them for taking the money because you know they come from a poor background," attitude. We need to get back to the days were we taught personal responsibility for the things we do and now is as good a time as any for someone to step up, why not the NCAA? Only time will tell ultimately.