For four years, Tony Jarboe wrote a weekly column for www.turfsports.net while he was a student at Northwestern University. Upon graduation (yes, he did graduate) Tony got a real job in Washington, D.C. and exited Turf Sports with an honorable discharge. However, it looks like Tony has the writing itch and will, on occasion, contribute once again to Turf Sports. Welcome back Tony!
BRING BACK THE DEATH PENALTY…8-21-11
The University of Miami Hurricanes find themselves in the eye of a public relations storm after a former booster, Nevin Shapiro, admitted to paying 72 football players and other athletes between 2002 and 2010. Paying players is somewhat frowned upon by the NCAA.
The allegations of Shapiro claims to have given the Miami players range in value from minor things, like drinks and VIP access at nightclubs, to thousands of dollars in cash. In one instance, Shapiro alleges to have given one player $50,000 to sign with his sports management agency. Shapiro also paid bounties to players for doing things on the field, such as hitting the opposing quarterback hard enough draw personal foul penalties. Shapiro even claims to have paid for an abortion for a girl that one of the Hurricane players impregnated. While most of the allegations of improper benefits are for players that are no longer with the team, twelve current Hurricanes players are also embroiled in the scandal, putting both their seasons, and the season of the entire 2012 Miami Hurricanes football team, in limbo. If Shapiro’s claims are true, he would have violated at least four major NCAA bylaws. For more of the sordid details of this story, check out Yahoo! Sports (link to the original story: http://sports.yahoo.com/investigations/news?slug=cr-renegade_miami_booster_details_illicit_benefits_081611).
Miami is the latest, and most prominent, in a string of college football scandals. Ohio State, North Carolina, USC, and both participants in last year’s championship game (Auburn and Oregon) have either been charged or have admitted to wrongdoing.
The NCAA needs a change in culture. The scandals continue to grow in magnitude and affect many of the top programs in the country. Clearly, the NCAA’s penalties to this point haven’t been sufficient to deter rampant rule-breaking, so the penalties must be harsher. That is exactly why Miami should receive the “death penalty.”
The death penalty has only been handed down once in the history of Division I football. The Southern Methodist University Mustangs maintained a slush fund for about a decade, which they used to pay their players. Some of the school’s top leaders were in on the violations, and the problems persisted even after SMU was put on probation. This led the NCAA to cancel SMU’s 1987 season, and the school canceled the 1988 season on its own after determining they would be unable to field a competitive team. From 1981-84, SMU finished No. 5, 2, 12, and 8 in the final AP poll. Since the death penalty, the Mustangs have made only one postseason appearance, playing in the 2009 Hawaii Bowl. Powerhouse SMU has spent the last 20 years as “SM-who?”
There is a reason the death penalty is used so rarely. It took a top-notch football program 20 years just to be respectable enough to earn a bid in the Hawaii Bowl. It is devastating, and no fan wants to hear their school and “death penalty” in the same sentence.
Miami’s violations are not quite as serious as SMU’s. They don’t maintain a slush fund, and by all accounts, top-level administrators at the school and in the athletic department were unaware that this was going on. That said, even before these allegations came out, Miami was not exactly a pristine program. Sports Illustated even ran a magazine cover in 1995 with the words “Why the University of Miami should drop football.” For a detailed list of the school’s misdeeds, follow this link: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1006688/index.htm.
In 1995, the University of Miami had 57 athletes embroiled in a Pell Grant scam, which the feds call "perhaps the largest centralized fraud upon the federal Pell Grant program ever committed." In 2003, Miami lost scholarships for baseball infractions. It was defined as a “repeat offender” because of the Pell Grant Scandal. This means that, if Shapiro is correct, he was wining and dining Miami players against the rules and giving out cash hand over fist while this was all going on, making Miami a repeat repeat offender. Athletic department personnel and school officials have changed at Miami, but the one constant seems to be a culture of corruption.
That is why the NCAA needs to bring the hammer down and issue the death penalty. In a vacuum, this scandal would not seem to warrant such a severe penalty. However, these events didn’t happen in a vacuum. They are the latest events in a string of embarrassing scandals for the NCAA. They are also the latest sign that the University of Miami cannot or will not run a clean program.
The death penalty would send a signal to other schools, and perhaps more importantly, the public, that some things are more important than money. The University of Miami would suffer financially. But that is the price you pay for repeatedly breaking the rules. The public has rightfully become very cynical that the NCAA only cares about money. By issuing the death penalty, other schools would suddenly have a strong incentive to be on the lookout for people like Shapiro and ensure that they were following the rules. Particularly Ohio State, Auburn, Oregon, USC, and North Carolina, who are suddenly one step closer to the dreaded “repeat offender” category. The NCAA needs to restore integrity to college football. The NCAA needs to give the public a glimmer of hope that they care about something other than money. The NCAA needs to give the University of Miami football program the death penalty.