In the wake of the Syracuse basketball program getting slapped with NCAA infractions and receiving penalties such as having to vacate 108 wins, 12 less scholarship offers, and Boeheim being suspended for nine ACC games earlier today, I couldn’t help but think of some of the biggest scandals throughout college sports history.
There have been many infamous scandals that involve big-time programs throughout college athletics; paying players, school ineligibilty, and sometimes, sadly, you get the occasional rape or murder accusations/charges.
Let’s take a look at some of the biggest sports scandals throughout history.
The University of Michigan Mens Basketball Scandal or Ed Martin Scandal: This scandal had apparently been going on during the 80’s, but it didn’t seem the get any kind of steam until “The Fab Five” ran the basketball world back in the early 90’s, specifically when it involved “Fab Five” member Chris Webber.
According to the investigation that seemed to have gotten started after an automobile accident that involved Mateen Cleave’s during a recruiting visit, it was revealed that there was some sort of relationship between the Michigan basketball program and a booster named Ed Martin. It was revealed that during “The Fab Five” era that Chris Webber received more than $200,000 between 1988 and 1993.
In September 2002, Webber was indicted on five charges, including obstruction of justice and lying to a federal grand jury, for having misrepresented his relationship with Martin. Each charge was punishable by five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. He vowed to fight the charges.
In the fall of that year, Michigan decided they were going to impose their own sanctions. The most noticeable sanction was that they would remove the banners from the 1992 and 1993 Final Four, which “The Fab Five” led them to.
Kentucky Basketball gets the death-penalty (well, kind of): Kentucky basketball didn’t play one minute in the 1952-1953 season due to a point-shaving scandal that they were involved in a few years earlier. Although the Wildcats didn’t actually get the “death-penalty” pretty much because the penalty didn’t exist back then, they were banned from Southeastern Conference play, and it has been said that the NCAA pressured a lot of schools not to schedule them.
The Duke Lacrosse Scandal: In March of 2006, three lacrosse players were accused of raping an exotic dancer at a party one night. The scandal got nationwide attention that eventually led to the rest of the season being cancelled and it also led to the resignation of the team’s coach.
Although the charges would be later dropped due to many holes in the accusers story, the scandal hurt the schools reputation and the members of the lacrosse team.
The 1978-1979 Boston College Point-Shaving Scandal: This is one of the biggest point-shaving scandals in NCAA history.
The scheme was started by brothers Rocco and Tony Perla from Pittsburgh, PA. The Perla brothers were small-time gamblers who saw the 1978–79 Boston College basketball season as a perfect opportunity to earn a lot of money. Through a middle-man, they contacted Henry Hill, a Lucchese crime family associate from New York.
The scheme involved many Boston College basketball players at the time that the brothers and Hill recruited and bribed to ensure that the team would not win by the required margin, in other words they were paid not to cover the spread.
The scandal became exposed when Hill was arrested and indicted on drug trafficking in 1980 where he later turned informant to avoid jail time. Hill offered to come clean about the full story if he were to gain immunity, which was granted to him. After the four-week trial, Tony Perla was sentenced to ten year imprisonment while his brother, Rocco, received just a four year imprisonment.
The Boston College basketball team ended its 1978–79 season with a 22–9 record. It is unclear how much money the players involved in the point-shaving scheme were paid. Hill reportedly cleared over $100,000 and bettors higher up the line were said to have made up to $250,000
Baylor Basketball Murder: During the summer of 2003, Baylor player Patrick Dennehy was murdered by then teammate Carlton Dotson. Dennehy and Dotson got into a heated argument with one another while they were practicing firing their guns in the Waco, Texas area, which then resulted Dotson shooting and killing Dennehy.
After the murder, then basketball coach Dave Bliss ordered the players on the team to lie about the story and to tell investigators that Dennehy was a drug dealer in attempt to cover up NCAA violations that would come to surface during the investigation of the murder.
This attempt did not work and the NCAA came down on Baylor hard by giving the Bears probation, loss of scholarships, recruiting restrictions, and a ban from non-conference schedule from the 2005-2006 season. Baylor also was slapped with smaller penalties as well.
Reggie Bush Returns His Heisman Trophy: After listing the previous stories, perhaps returning your Heisman trophy isn’t all that bad.
The majority of the nation knows the story. It came out after he was long gone from Southern California, running back Reggie Bush and his family had received more than $300,000 from various benefits during his time at USC. Bush was later stripped of his Heisman trophy as a result of this.
Penn State and Jerry Sandusky: I’m not going to go into detail as to what happened because I’m pretty sure we all know what happened. When something as scandalous involving a coach and the raping of many innocent children over a spam of many decades that involve one of the biggest, most reputable schools in the country and a college football icon such as Joe Paterno, to me, it’s not called a scandal, it’s called a tragedy that shocked the nation.
Oklahoma and Everything: Nearing the end of the Barry Switzer era, it seemed as if that the Oklahoma football team just couldn’t stay out of trouble. Oklahoma was busted for, pretty much, everything you could possible think of; paying players, cheating (the cliche stuff), rape allegations, failed drug test, players shooting each other, and then quarterback Charles Thompson getting busted for selling cocaine to an undercover cop. Does anybody remember that infamous Sports Illustrated cover with Thompson wearing an orange jumpsuit in handcuffs?
In the following months of all that insanity, the NCAA banned all athlete dorm rooms, where the majority of this madness had allegedly took place.
“Loss of Institutional Control”: This term really sounds like some sort of gang just walked into the University of Miami and took over the entire school.
There have been many scandals involving the University of Miami, but nothing seems to sticks out more than the Pell Grant scandal in 1995. It was revealed that over $250,000 dollars we given away to many Miami football players under false pretenses . While this was going on, several players pooled their money together and awards were given out to the best player who had the best tackle in a game.
While this remains the only major infraction from Miami since 1987, it is the fifth largest single infraction in NCAA history which resulted in a single year postseason ban, a loss of 31 scholarships, and three years probation.
SMU Football Gets The Death Penalty: What they did may not be as bad as what I have mentioned earlier, but the SMU Mustangs is the first and only school to have received the death-penalty in college football.
As a result of paying players, the SMU football program became one of the best college football programs during the 1980s. However, the success would not last long. After getting busted by the NCAA the first time for pay-for-play, SMU just seem to not care what so ever and continued to do so. SMU would continue to do pay-for-play over the next several years even after the NCAA busted them and handed them many penalties.
After multiple times of handing SMU just small penalties, the NCAA just decided that it was time to lay down the hammer on them, and decided to give them “the death penalty”, in which SMU was unable to have a football program during the 1987. Even though the Mustangs could have fielded a team in 1988, SMU decided not to have a football season during that. SMU football would have a football program in 1989.
From 1989 to the 2008 season, SMU would go on to have one of the worst football programs in college football. In the 2009 season, it appears that SMU are starting to become a great team again as they have gone on to have winning season since then.