5 Most Notorious College Football Programs
Miami, USC and SMU are among the most notorious college football programs. They are teams that have combined on-field success with off-field turmoil.
By now, any college football fan knows that corruption and cronyism run rampant at just about every institution. It’s a sobering thought, especially when your favorite team comes under suspicion.
However, some schools have made a habit of occupying the headlines for something other than success on the field.
University of Miami
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No college football program is as well-known for breaking the rules as the Miami Hurricanes.
Though the Canes are currently experiencing a bit of a dry spell, the program was among the most reviled and revered schools in college football during the 80s and 90s.
Howard Schnellenberger breathed life into the the Miami program by recruiting “The State of Miami,” pulling in players from Florida neighborhoods that would scare off many of his coaching competitors. This approach built teams with a never-before-seen blend of size, speed, and swag.
The pinnacle of Miami’s brash dominance came in the 1991 Cotton Bowl against Texas. The Canes were flagged for 16 penalties for a total of 202 yards, but still boat-raced the third-ranked Longhorns, 46-3.
The penalties set a Cotton Bowl record, but so did the margin of victory.
Miami backed up its on-field histrionics with a long and distinguished record of NCAA violations.
Most recently, former Miami booster Nevin Shapiro detailed a pattern of events that shed light on a school with a blatant, institutionalized disregard for the rules.
University of Southern California
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In 2010, USC was sanctioned by the NCAA for violations involving improper benefits received by Heisman trophy winner Reggie Bush, as well as basketball star O.J. Mayo.
The Trojans were docked scholarships, forced to forfeit wins from 2007-2008 and banned from post-season play in 2010 and 2011.
On top of that, the Heisman Trust stripped Bush of his trophy.
All of this commotion led to the departure of coach Pete Carroll and an uncharacteristic five-loss season last year.
USC hadn’t had a long history of NCAA violations before the penalties in 2010, but Marc Tyler’s comments earlier this year point too a program that still probably shas some skeletons in its closet.
Even so, there is a silver lining for USC fans. The Trojans’ post-season ban during the last two seasons almost certainly played a role in Matt Barkley’s decision to return for his senior season.
The Ohio State University
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After building what seemed to be a squeaky-clean program in Columbus, everything came crashing down on Jim Tressel, all over a couple of free tattoos.
Yet, as is often the case, it wasn’t the act that hurt the Buckeyes. It was the cover-up.
Even after the news broke about the free tattoos that Terrelle Pryor, Boom Herron and others received, all of those players were allowed to participate in the Sugar Bowl.
Only when an investigation revealed that Jim Tressel withheld information from the NCAA were the Buckeyes punished severely.
Tressel was dishonorably discharged from his role, but seemed willing to take a personal bullet to save the program as a whole.
However, the NCAA had other plans.
Just last month, the NCAA handed down another charge against Ohio State for failing to monitor the activities of a booster.
The Buckeyes have proactively sacrificed some scholarships, but there’s no guarantee that the NCAA hammer might not drop on OSU once again.
Florida State University
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Just when it looked like Bobby Bowden would grab hold of the NCAA all-time wins record, his Florida State Seminoles were embroiled in one of the largest academic cheating scandals in recent memory.
The NCAA discovered that numerous athletes, spanning multiple sports in addition to football, had received improper help with their academic responsibilities. The fraud occurred over at least a three-year period, leading to vacated wins during that took Bowden out of the running for the title of winningest coach ever.
Though the NCAA wasn’t able to find any evidence that Florida State administrators were aware of the cheating, these long-term, widespread violations shed some doubt on the cleanliness of the Seminoles’ program throughout their successful run over the last couple of decades.
Southern Methodist University
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Southern Methodist University holds the dubious honor of being the only Division I—now "FBS"—football program ever to receive the death penalty from the NCAA.
The Mustangs didn’t play a single football game during the 1987 and 1988 seasons. Prior to receiving the death penalty, SMU had been sanctioned seven times by the NCAA, which was more than any other program at the time.
The depth of administrative corruption at SMU is jarring.
Many schools have struggled with outside boosters or agents offering extra benefits to football players, but SMU apparently decided it’d be easier to streamline the process. The Mustangs' “slush fund” was supplied by boosters, but payments were distributed to players by school administrators.
SMU has never rebounded to it’s pre-death penalty glory days, and with such a tarnished reputation.
It likely never will.