Some Historical Perspective on the NCAA Sanctions
I think we’ve all agreed that “unprecedented” is the word of the day. Trying to speculate what will happen to Penn State University and Penn State football is largely impossible; no one has ever had to face such extreme NCAA and Big Ten sanctions.
But pieces of these scandals and sanctions, it seems, tend to stay the same.
SMU, for instance.
It was the first—and only—school to receive the death penalty. SMU was paying football players: $47,000 to 13 athletes during the 1985–86 school year, and eight continued to receive payments, $14,000 in all, the next year. It was a repeat offender, having been previously been penalized six times by the NCAA. The school was barred from playing the 1987–88 season but permitted to play seven away games the following season, sparing it the harshest penalty of disbanding the team for two years. In the end, SMU cancelled that second season in its entirety, citing a lack of players.
There were concerns, as there are now at Penn State, about how the penalty would affect the rest of the university and the athletic program. (Football generated two-thirds of SMU’s $6 million athletic budget—there’s an indication of how much time has passed.) “We are concerned with the human dimension, which will include the football players … and may include the loss of employees who have not been part of the problem,” SMU interim president William Stallcup said at the time.
And there was a governor involved, too. David Barron of the Houston Chronicle published some of his old stories on his blog post after the death of former Texas Gov. Bill Clements in 2011. The gist: Clements, who was serving a three-year term as chairman of the university’s board of governors, had overruled university officials in 1985 and ordered that payments to football players continue to be made.
Then there’s USC.
This case is useful for some perspective on how quickly Penn State’s sanctions came down. A Yahoo! investigation in 2006 found that star tailback Reggie Bush and his family accepted $100,000 from agents, among other improprieties. The NCAA didn’t hand down its penalty until December 2010. USC got a two-year bowl ban and lost 30 scholarships (10 per year over a three-year period). Reading that Sunday night, I suspected Penn State’s penalties would be greater. USC also had to vacate wins, another typical NCAA punishment.
And finally, there’s Ohio State.
The Buckeyes are one of the other Big Ten schools that’s on NCAA probation, having received a one-year bowl ban after it was determined that eight players received $14,000 in cash and tattoos in exchange for jerseys and other Buckeye memorabilia. I found this one interesting because Ohio State fans complained that they were treated so much more harshly than USC had been … and USC fans complained that they had been treated so much more harshly than Ohio State was.
One last note on the unprecedented nature of the Penn State sanctions. John Infante, who writes the Bylaw Blog and whose Twitter feed I recommend for anyone interested in all things NCAA, wrote this piece Monday afternoon, explaining the differences between this case and everything that came before.
Lori Shontz, senior editor
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