Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Death Penalty: How We Learned to Fear the Bomb

I'd like to put a side-note in this while I still have the chance. Yahoo! Sports broke this story that I'm about to write about and they are currently investigating this scandal. Do I honestly trust Yahoo! Sports? Not really. The media can do anything to make or break something. However, sports news holders such as ESPN are picking up the ball and running with it. Basically, I can't be liable for making a mountain out of a molehill. I'm only a college student. Geez. Anyway...

Have you ever gotten that thrill from doing something completely illegal? That illegal thing becomes so much fun that you just keep doing it until you get caught. Until then, you know that everything in life may just go hunky-dory until someone you know ends up getting caught doing something you weren't expecting. Then...

...enter the atomic bomb.
Possibly first casualty in NCAA Division I since 1987.
This "atomic bomb" could destroy a team, a school, a conference, and even a league. Something of this magnitude has not occurred in NCAA Division I in almost 25 years. The last time it happened, it wrecked more than just the team; this "atomic bomb" destroyed a Division I conference. You could call this the vicious cycle that we have been dealing with as of late in the case of college students, scholarships, agents, and salaries.
This casualty is known as the death penalty. It wasn't exactly known as the death penalty until the 1980's, but this term only describes so much about the punishments that are delivered with this sanction.

How did the bomb start?

Well, it sort of "started" way back in the 50's. The University of Kentucky's basketball team was in the midst of a gambling scandal, where players would take the money from bookies placing bets. Because of this, their season was canceled--and even worse--the players directly involved in the controversy were barred from playing in the NBA. Brutal, right? We're just getting started. In the 1970's, the University of Southwestern Louisiana was accused of many violations including forgery and academic fraud (that one is a big deal), resulting in their being barred during the 1973–74 and 1974–75 seasons. Yes, two seasons. Recently, Morehouse College's varsity collegiate soccer program was under fire for signing ineligible players that had played professionally for a brief time before enrolling. If you're wondering what happened to their team, they've been on probation for the past five years and only have an intramural team. A men's college tennis team at MacMurray College in the mid-2000's also conducted major infractions by obtaining scholarships from men from different countries. This resulted in a death penalty, shutting the tennis program down for two years.

Perhaps one of the biggest death penalty cases comes from Southern Methodist University in the mid-1980's. Now this is a heavy bag of worms. If you thought corruption was bad before, you'll see that it's absolute hell instead. Now, because SMU was a relatively small Division I school in the now defunct Southwest Conference (more on that later), the administration tried everything in their power to try to keep their athletics program healthy. Since their sneaky ways of "keeping healthy" was along the lines of breaking the rules, many violations were slapped on them between the mid-70's and mid-80's. After the NCAA found out about several issues including student payroll, the team was barred from bowl games and television appearances in 1985 and 1986.
But wait! It gets way juicier than this.
Ya rly.
So basically this is when the "you know what" hits the fan. A player was kicked off the team for substance abuse. This guy claimed that SMU paid him $25,000 to play with the team in 1983, and was paid monthly after that. After saying that, many officials denied the fact that it ever happened.
Let's start digging the hole, kids.
Lo and behold, after athletic scholarships were banned at SMU via petition in 1986, things got nastier. NCAA later found out that players were paid about $61,000 from a slush fund from a booster. But apparently, the slush fund went on for a while, as there were NFL players at that current time who were paid from that slush fund, and the school president (dead serious) paid those guys nearly $1 million to shut up about it.
Oh no no no, it gets even better.
The NCAA Infractions Committee began wondering what exactly they were going to do as far as penalizing SMU. At first, they were thinking about extending their already occurring probation for an additional four years for each infraction. However, they decided to go the path less traveled, leading to the unanimous vote of the cancellation of SMU's entire 1987 season and 1988 home games. This could have been much worse; since the penalties could have intensified immensely hadn't SMU been cooperative. I mean much worse as in a complete cancellation of the '88 season.

Because SMU was so deep in their own mess, they granted release to all of the SMU football players, allowing them to transfer to other teams (the SEC loved this) and formally canceled their 1988 season. Why did they do that? Easy--since the death penalty prevented all ways for SMU to recruit, award scholarships, have efficient coaching, practice, and do any more damage through boosters was completely eliminated.
In layman's terms, the SMU athletic program was basically in quarantine from NCAA Division I.

Since that time, there were bad reputations and violations that continued in that conference (not just from SMU), and the Southwest Conference was discontinued in 1996.
The end. Yaaaaaaaay.....not.

Now here's our situation today.

There's this guy named Nevin Shapiro. He was a booster for the University of Miami for several years and was convicted of fraud and laundering from a Ponzi scheme from last year. He claimed that he has proof of financing donations to The U's football program between 2002-2010 totaling nearly $2 million among at least 70 players. Because the baseball program at the University of Miami has also been under fire for numerous violations, The U as a whole can be considered a repeat offender, making them capable of receiving the death penalty. Apparently after much talk by the NCAA, there's a chance that The U may go down with the ship.

However, due to the total damage it could do to a school financially, the NCAA is far from trigger-happy on this. If it destroyed a school and started a fire on a former Division I conference, it's a big deal.


While The U is spiralling down into this vast amount of controversy, a lot of people are looking at the fact that they're not the only schools who have been under fire when it comes to the illegal practices of things such as "boosters" and agency among college student-athletes. Teams such as Ohio State and UNC have been under fire for various violations, leading to a lot of coaches/administrators stepping down. In a recession like this, everyone has a price. Students are looking for money for their talents earlier on, especially when it comes to the daily expenses of every day life.

As of reports on Friday, the concept of the "death penalty" is now being considered an option by the NCAA. And here's the thing: why shouldn't they at this point? They have evidence spanning over eight years, and with the additional elements against The U, the team, as well as the ACC, is in total jeopardy right now. What will this mean for the guys in Miami? No playing, no practices, no recruitment, no scholarships, and a loss of profit in games at their respective stadium as well as stadiums in rival schools. This is pretty much the same stuff that happened at Southern Methodist. However, this time will be more dangerous as money is about as important to life and growth as food and water at this point, and more schools will be at a loss this year. A death penalty could also destroy the student-athletes' chances of getting some sort of a "salary" or "stipend" for playing college sports.

Are the rules outdated? Some might say that now, especially with the painful loophole that NCAA schools are suffering through right now. The concept of paying players would be rather difficult, because it is illegal for the fact that college sports isn't a legitimate "career," and that the NCAA would have to find a way to pay every college player either on a sports scholarship or on a Division I, II, or III team. I don't think the NCAA, let alone the country, has the financial capacity to back that up. Because being paid is not exactly possible, the usage of boosters and underground agency is heating up and then there is the fear of continuing on without getting caught. The U went eight years without getting caught in some way, and now...there's a chance they're about ready to ruin the season and the additional perks of recruitment and practices.

Since there's this huge exposé on Miami, the stories about teams wanting to jump from the ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) to the SEC (Southeast Conference) are running wild. Because a lot of team organizations saw what SMU's death penalty did to the SWC (Southwest Conference), they're ready to run at any second.
C'mon guys, it's not like we're preparing for a beached whale explosion here. (sorry animal lovers)
Why are we all moving so fast and jumping to conclusions? I'm about 75% sure that the NCAA will not impose the death penalty and just lay down heavier probation on the University's athletics program. Now if it were just the football team itself doing this for as long as SMU did and kept doing it time after time after probation after violation, then it would be absolutely necessary. For right now, let the negotiations continue.

Do you now see how afraid everyone is about that bomb? It's worse than The Blob, Galactus, and December 21, 2012 put together. Sorry, I trailed off there.

As for that bomb.... is it the red wire? Or is it the blue wire?
Only the head honchos of the NCAA can handle this.