The Most Scandalous Figures in College Football History

Erik UnderwoodCorrespondent IIIAugust 18, 2011

The Most Scandalous Figures in College Football History

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    With the recent report of the Miami Hurricane's receiving a large amount of improper benefits from a booster, I've decided to revisit some of the most scandalous figures in college football history.

    From Reggie Bush giving back his Heisman, to the SMU "Death Penalty," to the Miami Pell Grant fraud, it's all here for you to reminisce on.

Rick Neuheisel

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    Rick Neuheisel has had an extremely controversial and tumultuous coaching career since he was hired by Colorado in 1995.  After choosing to leave the Buffaloes in 1999, Colorado was investigated by the NCAA for 53 recruiting violations, 51 of which occurred while Neuheisel was the head coach. 

    Neuheisel got into even more hot water at Washington when he improperly visited five of the Huskie recruits.  The NCAA finished their investigation of Colorado and put the program on two years of probation.  Neuheisel was also not allowed to do any off-campus recruiting for seven months as part of the punishment.  

    After being questioned about betting on college basketball and reportedly having conversation with the San Francisco 49ers, Neuheisel is fired from Washington. 

    Although filling out a March Madness bracket probably shouldn’t have been a big deal, there is no question that the rest of Rick’s career was clouded with controversy.

Lou Holtz

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    Lou Holtz is typically not thought of as a dirty coach, but has left every program he coached at just before they were hit with NCAA probation.  NC State, Minnesota, Arkansas, Notre Dame, and South Carolina were all found to have violated NCAA rules while under the leadership of Holtz.

    Holtz was also overseeing the Notre Dame Football team when they were caught distributing steroids in the locker room during the late 80’s and early 90’s.  The NCAA allowed the Irish to handle the matter internally, but there is no way Holtz was unaware of all that was going on with his program.

    Holtz should go down as one of the most successful coaches in the modern era of football, but should not have a blind eye turned to the legacy he left at each school he coached.

Willie Lyles

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    Lyles is a scouting expert who was said to provide outdated recruiting information to the University of Oregon for $25,000.  He was also quoted telling Texas A&M to “beat” an $80,000 offer for LSU All-American Patrick Peterson. 

    Lyles was said to have close relationships to players who have attended both Oregon and LSU.

    NCAA investigations are still ongoing over whether or not Lyles had a hand in sending certain players to the schools that they play for.  Oregon and LSU have consistently been ranked near the top of the polls for the last couple years, but could be rocked with a severe punishment if the allegations are found to be true.

Barry Switzer

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    After almost two decades of successful football at the University of Oklahoma, the Sooners landed in the NCAA doghouse after several investigations of scandal in the program.  The highlight of the investigations was quarterback Charles Thompson’s attempt to solicit cocaine to a federal agent. 

    He ended up being convicted and sentenced to a two-year prison term.

    Several other Sooners were arrested for incidents including assault with a deadly weapon and rape.  All of the negative media brought Switzer to a decision to resign in 1989.  Switzer later became the Head Coach of the Dallas Cowboys, winning a Super Bowl with them in 1996.

Bobby Bowden

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    Florida state has acquired the nickname “Free Shoe University” because of an episode in which players went on a 90-minute shopping spree, picking out shoes, shorts, gloves, winter coats, and other clothing articles. 

    The national championship that they won in 1993 has been coined the “Tainted Title” by Sports Illustrated because of this and several player discipline issues at the school.

    Florida State always seemed to have a player in the news for an arrest or some other form of legal dispute.  Florida State was also documented to have provided cash payments to several players on the roster.  The ensuing NCAA investigation led to only a year of probation for the Seminoles.

    In more recent years, the Seminoles were rocked with an academic cheating scandal that forced Coach Bobby Bowden to forfeit wins from the 2006 and 2007 seasons.  Bowden was notorious for not properly disciplining players who had off-the-field issues while playing for the Seminoles. 

    Upon retiring after 2009, Bowden finished second in Division-1 victories behind Penn State’s Joe Paterno.

Reggie Bush

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    Reggie Bush was the first big story to break during the recent wave of college football scandal.  Bush and his family accepted benefits worth more than $100,000 dollars from sports marketing agents while he was at USC. 

    The family was provided with $54,000 in rent-free living at an agent’s $750,000 mansion, $28,000 to settle a previous debt, and weekly payments of $1,500 for various expenses.

    As a result Reggie Bush had to relinquish his Heisman Trophy and USC was stripped of their 2004 BCS championship.  The Trojans have also been put on two years of probation along with a two-year bowl ban. 

    The final part of the punishment is a docking of 30 scholarships over the next 3 years.  Only time will tell how negatively this will affect one of college football’s most prestigious programs.

Butch Davis

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    Although Butch Davis has never really been accused of any wrongdoing, he has presided over two programs who have been hit with serious NCAA sanctions. 

    First with Miami in the 90’s with the Pell grant scandal, then with North Carolina’s improper benefits and academic scandal over the last couple of years.

    Davis was fired by North Carolina because of a second wave of NCAA violations, leading to questions of whether or not Davis had anything to do with suspended players breaking NCAA rules. 

    Butch Davis has built two college football teams to be contenders, but both have ended being decimated by controversy, tarnishing his coaching resume.

Jim Tressell and Terrelle Pryor

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    Jim Tressell and Terrelle Pryor have found themselves to be the figureheads of the recent Ohio State scandal involving a Columbus tattoo parlor that was trading tattoos, and allegedly cash and drugs, to players in exchange for equipment and memorabilia.  The NCAA is still investigating what exactly happened at Ohio State, and should hand down a decision on the Buckeyes in the next few months.

    Tressell knowingly hid the violations committed by the players from the NCAA, which led to him being forced into resignation earlier this offseason.  In a report written by Sports Illustrated, Tressell was also accused of rigging drawings at camps, making sure the top prospects would win jerseys and cleats.

    Pryor chose to leave Ohio State to evade what would inevitably be a season-long suspension.  He instead became eligible for the NFL Supplemental Draft and waiting to hear if a team will choose him.

    Pryor was the most high-profile of the players involved in the scandal, and was also accused of signing autographs for cash.  Pryor’s choice of vehicle also came under scrutiny, as he was seen driving several different vehicles from a Columbus car dealership.

Nevin Shapiro

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    Nevin Shapiro is a jailed felon who was the ringleader of a 932 million dollar Ponzi scheme.  He was also a booster and huge supporter of the University of Miami.  In a bombshell report by Yahoo! Sports, Shapiro admitted to providing over 70 players with cash, jewelry, cars, TVs, prostitutes, and nightclub outings. 

    He claims to have provided these benefits over the 2000’s to several of Miami’s most high profile players.

    The NCAA has just began their investigation of the Hurricanes, who have already been sanctioned in the 90’s for setting up several student athletes with false Pell Grants.  This along with other improper benefits given to players allotted for upwards of $400,000 in illegal cash handed over to players.

SMU Athletic Director Bob Hitch and Recruiting Director Henry Lee Parker

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    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.