Dear NCAA President Mark Emmert: Please Hit Miami with the Death Penalty

Joe M.Correspondent IIAugust 23, 2011

EL PASO, TX - DECEMBER 30:  Sebastian the Ibis of the Miami Hurricanes during play against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Sun Bowl on December 30, 2010 in El Paso, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
EL PASO, TX - DECEMBER 30: Sebastian the Ibis of the Miami Hurricanes during play against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Sun Bowl on December 30, 2010 in El Paso, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Miami fans will no doubt find something cold, calculated, and callous in the title of this article but the fact remains no school could use the reality check more than the University of Miami aka “Thug U.”

In order to be eligible for college athletics most dubious distinction, the appropriately named “Death Penalty” the rules state that the school must be a repeat violator within a given number of years. Usually four, but in this case its rumored that requirement may be waived because of the severity of the allegations.

As any sports fan knows, Miami, with its history of bending the rules and general underhandedness, definitely fits the bill and it's high time they paid the ultimate price.

SMU has suffered alone long enough, its time someone else share the spotlight

What an appropriate candidate the University of Miami would make. It's nothing personal—if not you then I’d be hoping for Southern Cal or Ohio State. But rules dictate one has to be a repeat offender and you present the best case since 1986 and SMU.

To anyone who has watched ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary series, most notably “The U” and “The Pony Exce$$” you know what I am talking about. For those who haven’t, I highly recommend these two films.

Basically, “The Pony Exce$$” chronicles the Southern Methodist University Mustangs, a small private school in Dallas’ rise to national prominence in the NCAA college football national poll in the early 1980’s. 

They rose on the backs of a University sponsored slush fund used to pay athletes and buy prestige in the form of illegal benefits that we see so common today at other schools such as Southern Cal, Ohio State, and the University of North Carolina.

Spoiler alert, but basically it worked, SMU was brought to national power until it all came crashing down in the form of a full investigation and the ultimate hammer, known later as the Death Penalty.

The NCAA had no name for the kind of punishment needed as the allegations were so severe and so wide-spread that the sanctioning body wished to set a precedent so that no school would ever attempt to repeat such damning violations.

The punishment the NCAA finally decided on was what was dubbed “The Death Penalty” and it did exactly that—it killed SMU’s entire football program. They were forced to disband their entire operations for a period of two years, which sounds harmless enough—“Big deal, how is it any different than a two year probation or a two year bowl ban we see today?”

The difference is, all the “student athletes” (Love that oxymoron of a word as they are athletes first and student’s second evidenced by the majority of their GPA’s) not involved in the allegations are allowed to transfer to other schools as obviously with no team they deserve a chance to play out their scholarship once they catch on with a new school.

Additionally, as one might expect, the head coach and all of his assistants, if not fired would certainly resign in the hopes of finding another job. If Miami is indeed hit with the ultimate penalty, expect to see coach Al Golden do this since he wasn’t even there when the allegations if proven true, took place. After all, the man deserves a right to work.

Finally, when having no program, the school obviously loses scholarships, television revenue, and bowl game revenue as they literally have to start over from the ground up. All the high school recruits SMU would have brought in for the 1987 and 1988 seasons chose other schools as the documentary illustrated.

Now you can see how that would absolutely cripple a program.

“But why would you wish that on anyone?” you might ask.

Simple—it's the only way a school is going to learn. It's high time someone else took SMU’s torch of being the only school ever to hold this dishonor, and there is no more appropriate school than Miami. SMU needs a dance partner, having paid the price alone for far too long.

ESPNU yesterday in perhaps a bit for foreshadowing, chose to broadcast “The U” and “The Pony Exce$$” back-to-back. What are they hinting at?

“The U” documents the University of Miami’s rise from a gated “White school on a hill” in the 1960’s where football tickets were literally given away in Burger King bags in order to boost attendance, given the awful product on the field, to their infusion and inclusion of black athletes from nearby Miami communities of Overton Park and Liberty City where no coach prior to Howard Schnellenberger dared or even considered going to recruit players.

The new players brought swagger, fame, and success to the program almost immediately making Schnellenberger look like a prophetic genius. In an ironic twist of fate, the de-facto University of Miami football Godfather, announced his retirement earlier this year at the age of 77 from nearby Florida Atlantic University.

At the end of “The Pony Exce$$” I found myself sympathetic to SMU and pulling for them to succeed in upcoming years. After 23 years of not making a bowl, an approximate time Miami or any other school can expect to be irrelevant, the 2009 SMU Mustangs finally made it to the Hawai’I Bowl.

A small victory, but a victory nonetheless. It showed that it is possible to come all the way back and this past year not only did they make another bowl, but came within a game of winning Conference USA which would have given them an even better bowl with a larger payout.

I fully expect them to challenge for the Conference USA title each year that they stay in it. Basically, SMU can be a big fish in a small pond in Conference USA.

But why do you wish the Death Penalty on anyone?

If it still isn’t clear enough, I want the media fallout from when it’s announced that this is the ultimate fate. I want sportscasters and fans that were skeptical that this punishment, knowing what it does to a program, would ever be instituted again to have some explaining to do. I want the theater, I want the drama, I want the anguish it creates from on looking fans that sit stunned the NCAA actually had the guts to impose it again.

I want to see Al Golden’s press conference where he announces he’s taking a job somewhere else, if he’s as good a coach as they say, the cream will rise and he’ll be okay. Its unfortunate this possible sanction wasn’t discussed at the time of his hiring just this past December.

Next, I want to see the parade of assistant’s abandon ship along with 2012 and 2013 commitments, and what’s left of this year’s underclassmen as current Miami Hurricanes.

Finally, I want to see the 2012 NCAA ACC Conference standings knowing Miami still holds membership there, only they won’t be fielding a team for roughly two years and when they come back, it will be 2030 at the soonest before they are relevant again. Its going to humble them and they need it, plus its just entertaining tv.

Media runs wild with speculation

When ESPN’s Pat Forde first used the term “Death Penalty” late Tuesday night on SportsCenter, unprovoked by the interviewing host, I sensed it was a real possibility. The next morning as we started to learn more there was the phone interview from the center figure in all of this, Nevin Shapiro, who admitted in his own words “I can tell you what I think is coming—the Death Penalty.”

ESPN’s Mike Greenberg repeated his same sentiments that morning on his show “Mike and Mike” thinking as well it is coming. Finally, ESPN’s Mark May, a college football analyst admitted about a day later that while he did not think it was coming “because of the economy and the money involved....if there was ever a time for it, this is it.”

Keep in mind none of these people were baited into saying the words “Death Penalty” they chose to bring it up as only ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit, May’s college football colleague, was flat out asked to which he was hesitant to confirm he thought it was inevitable.

SportsCenter the next evening, August 17th led off their show with the caption “Death Penalty possible?” showing once again, their must be a pretty good case if the rumor keeps coming up.

If Emmert or the NCAA don’t impose the Death Penalty now, they can never threaten it again as they will never have a better case.

After all, what better way to create buzz around your sport than to cripple three of the biggest programs and allow smaller rival schools to emerge as conference power’s while they are down?

As for Miami, in a few years when they come back, they will be seen in a whole new light, as the school that cheated and got caught and is now working ever so hard to get back to respectability .

See you in 2030?


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