Power Ranking the Top 5 College Football Scandals of the Past 5 Years
Over the past few years, college football scandals have made nearly as many headlines as the games themselves. From USC to UNC, the scandals have made the past few offseasons much more interesting than usual.
In the process, the NCAA has made a mockery of itself, finding little-known rules to bust some of the top programs in the country, but refusing to make a definitive decision.
The NCAA was the focus of a recent South Park episode, which portrayed it as an unfair and unethical organization.
However, regardless of the NCAA's standing in the court of public opinion, cheating has become more prevalent—or at least more visible—in college football in recent years. And in light of the latest scandal at Ohio State, let's check out the top five NCAA scandals of the past five years.
No. 5: Cam Newton and the Pay-for-Play Scandal
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Had this incident ever materialized, it would have been No. 1. However, the Heisman Trophy and national championship-winning quarterback was acquitted of wrongdoing, but not without controversy.
Cam Newton had a checkered past, including a laptop theft and being caught cheating while at Florida. He transferred from the University and played in junior college before moving to Auburn.
Newton caught the nation by surprise in the early part of the season, but was rocked by scandal when it was discovered that his dad, Cecil Newton, had solicited money from Mississippi State in exchange for his son's commitment.
However, since there was no proof that Cam Newton knew of his father's "pay-for-play" plan, the NCAA allowed him to play in the SEC championship game and national championship.
He eventually led Auburn to a national title.
No. 4: Alabama Textbook Scandal
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Named one of the "dirtiest" programs in terms of NCAA violations, Alabama was hit hard by the NCAA in 2009, when it was discovered that athletes, including football players, had received free textbooks that they distributed to other students.
The university failed to monitor the textbook system, which allowed the athletes to receive the free books. Overall, 16 sports were affected.
Despite just getting off probation in 2006, the Crimson Tide were put back on probation until 2012 and were forced to vacate all of their wins from 2005 to 2007.
No. 3: North Carolina Improper Benefits Scandal
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Heading into 2010, North Carolina was supposed to have one of the top defenses in college football. That changed, however, when star defensive linemen Marvin Austin and Robert Quinn were suspended for receiving improper benefits.
The two reportedly had ties with an agent and received improper benefits at a party in Miami. Wide receiver Greg Little was also suspended.
While the North Carolina program was left relatively unscathed, it had to deal with the loss of two defensive stars who could have helped lead the Tar Heels to a much better season.
No. 2: "Tressel-Gate"
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This one still has a lot of moving pieces and could end up being the biggest scandal of the past five years.
It started when it was discovered that Ohio State football players had received discounted tattoos at a local tattoo parlor. It was also leaked that a number of players received free cars from a local dealership.
Later on, Yahoo! reported that head coach Jim Tressel knew about the discount tattoos after telling investigators that he didn't.
Five Buckeye players, including stars Terrelle Pryor, Dan Herron and DeVier Posey, were suspended for the first five games of 2011. Tressel was suspended for the first two, but voluntarily changed his suspension to five games.
Because he lied to NCAA investigators, Tressel could be in even more trouble. A number of coaches who have done similar things have been fired by the NCAA and Tressel could potentially lose his job in the near future.
No. 1: USC and the Reggie Bush Scandal
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USC has been perhaps the hardest-hit school by an NCAA investigation in the past decade.
After it was discovered that former star running back Reggie Bush received improper benefits, the school was hit with a two-year postseason ban, forfeiture of wins (including the 2004 BCS Championship) and a reduction of 10 scholarships for the next three years.
In addition, Bush returned his 2005 Heisman Trophy and head coach Pete Carroll left the program for Seattle, although he claims that was unrelated to the investigation.
USC appealed the decision, but recently, the NCAA rejected that appeal, ensuring that the 2004 BCS Championship would be vacated and the other punishments would remain.