SMU built a football powerhouse in the 1980’s through scandal and deceit. The Mustangs were caught paying lineman Sean Stopperich to decommit from the University of Pitt and instead verbally commit to SMU. The NCAA put SMU on probation and banned them from bowl games in 1985 and 1986. SMU was also banned from live television in 1986.
Despite the punishments, SMU did not learn their lesson, which was revealed when former linebacker David Stanley confessed that he had been paid $25,000 to play football at the university. Athletic Director Bob Hitch and Recruiting Director Henry Lee Parker were confronted in an interview with letters that contained said payments with their initials on it.
Despite the overwhelming evidence, both men denied any wrongdoing.
The NCAA finished their investigation and handed down the stiffest punishment ever to be given to a Division-1 football program, the “Death Penalty.” SMU would not be allowed to engage in any football activities for the entire 1987 season. They chose to skip the 1988 season as well because of the predicament they had landed in.
It took 20 years for SMU to return to a bowl game, and in that time they only recorded one winning season. With June Jones at the helm, the Mustangs have been a clean program and seem to be on their way back.