The 25 Biggest Scandals in NCAA History
Cheating has been a part of collegiate sports from nearly the creation of the NCAA in the early part of the 20th century.
Point Shaving scandals, athletes and/or their parents getting paid and coaches, administrators and schools that act as if the rules do not apply to them.
Reggie Bush giving back his 2005 Heisman Trophy, the Pitino extortion trial and Virginia's Lacrosse tragedy are just the latest examples of scandals in the news.
What are the worst college scandals of all-time?
That could depend on your perspective.
25) Woody Hayes- Ohio State/1978 Gator Bowl
In front of a National Television audience in the Gator Bowl, he was upset that Clemson’s Charlie Bauman intercepted a pass. The interception sealed a 17-15 Tiger win. Hayes lost his job shortly after that.
24) Todd Bozeman California
Bozeman took over at California under controversial circumstances. Bozeman was accused of undermining Cal Head Coach Lou Campenelli.
Although he was cleared of any wrong doing by the National Association of Basketball Coaches, he took over mid-season in 1993 replacing Campenelli.
Later, it was revealed that Bozeman paid the parents of Cal player Jelani Gardner $30,000 in travel expenses to come watch their son play.
After Gardner’s playing time dwindled, they turned Bozeman in to the NCAA.
Bozeman also faced allegations of sexual harassment.
He was eventually fired by the Bears and slapped with an eight year show-cause penalty. That meant he could not be hired by another NCAA institution without the governing body’s permission for those eight years.
He finally landed on his feet at Morgan State after the ban expired and has led those Bears to the last two NCAA Tournaments.
23) Rick Pitino
Pitino’s case is bizarre.
Although it had nothing to do with the University of Louisville, his extortion trial against the wife of Louisville equipment manager Tim Sypher sought money from Pitino after having an affair with him in a restaurant bathroom.
Karen Dunagin Sypher was found guilty of lying to federal agents and extortion on August 6th, 2010, she faces a maximum of 26 years in prison.
22) Southwestern Louisiana (Lafayette) Basketball
In the 1960’s the Louisiana legislature did not grant scholarship money to African-American players.
Upset with this, local boosters raised money to assist African-American players that wanted to play at Southwest Louisiana. It is against NCAA rules for outside “interests” to directly provide money for scholarships.
SWLA was then put on probation for the rules violations.
With the NCAA microscope already on them, this uncovered other violations.
Academic fraud, recruiting violations and improper financial assistance were all uncovered. SWLA admitted five players with GPA that did not qualify them to play college basketball.
The worst violation involved an assistant coach forging the signature of a high school principal on a recruit’s transcript. The NCAA responded by banning the Rajun Cajuns from competing on the hardwood from Fall 1973 through the 1975 NCAA Tournament.
21) University of Miami-Pell Grant Scandal
During the 1980’s and early 1990’s, it was all about the U. The University of Miami won four national championships with three different coaches between 1983 and 1991.
They became one of the most polarizing programs in college football.
In 1994 allegations of a Pell Grant scandal came out.
Former UM academic advisor Tony Russell admitted to helping more than 80 student athletes, including 57 football players to falsify Pell Grant and receive kickbacks in return.
The scandal dated back to 1989 and involved more than $220,000.
The scandal also revealed other allegations. The school had been involved in over $400,000 worth of payments to football players and the NCAA concluded that the Hurricanes failed to completely implement their drug test policy.
Miami’s probation included the loss of 31 scholarships. Their low point came when they finished 5-6 during the 1997 season.
20) Ohio State Football/Maurice Clarett
After using Clarett to help them get the BCS National Championship in 2002, he was dismissed from the team in September 2003.
Ohio State Athletic Director Andy Geiger said that Clarett took thousands of dollars in benefits and mislead investigators.
A teaching assistant at OSU accused a professor of preferential treatment.
He also filed a false theft report to the police alleging he had more than $10,000 worth of clothes, electronic equipment, CD’s and cash taken from a car he borrowed from a local dealership.
Clarett’s situation seems eerily similar to former USC running back Reggie Bush who helped the Trojans to National Championships in 2004 and 2005.
19) Illinois-Iowa Recruiting Scandal
When Bruce Pearl was an assistant at the University of Iowa, he recorded a conversation between himself and future Illinois all-time leading scorer Deon Thomas.
Thomas admitted to Pearl on tape that he had received money and a Chevy Blazer from then Illini assistant Jimmy Collins for agreeing to attend Illinois.
No wrong doing was ever proven at Illinois in relation to Pearl’s allegations. The investigation did uncover other violations. The NCAA slapped Illinois with a one-year postseason ban after saying they failed to have institutional control from other violations that were uncovered.
Collins and Pearl coached against each other for four years at Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Illinois-Chicago. They never shook hands after a game.
Collins commented that he would not shake with a snake.
18) Georgia Basketball
Like many other coaches, Jim Harrick had been implicated of wrong doing at more than one of his head coaching stops.
He turned around programs at Pepperdine, UCLA and Rhode Island before making his way to Athens.
Harrick’s son, Jim Harrick Jr., an assistant to his father in Athens taught a class on the strategy of basketball.
It later surfaced that his players were given high grades and credit for the class even though they did not attend the class.
Both Harricks lost their jobs.
17) Memphis SAT Scandal
If Memphis had made their free throws at the end of the 2008 National Championship game, they would have won the school’s first (and only) national championship.
The NCAA is probably quietly happy they did not.
No school has ever been stripped of a National Championship and only a few have had to vacate a national runner-up.
It came to light that a unidentified player paid someone to take the SAT for him after he failed to earn a qualifying score. It has been widely speculated that the player is former point guard Derek Rose.
The allegations did not come to light until the following season.
Rose left for the NBA and John Calipari moved on to Kentucky.
This was second time Calipari left a school before allegations had come out about his program.
16) Reggie Bush, USC and The Vacated Heisman Trophy
Paying players and their families and setting them up with preferential jobs is nothing new in college athletics.
Having to give back your Heisman Trophy as a result of that fallout sets a preceedent.
Bush’s parents alledgly received hundreds of thousands of dollards in cash and gifts including a house in Malibu rent free.
The fallout for USC was significant.
The Trojans were slapped with a two year postseason ban and the loss of 30 scholarships over three years. Bush surrended his 2005 Heisman trophy and the school also sent back its replica.
USC took down all references to Bush.
Coach Pete Carroll left for the Seattle Seahawks and avoided the challenge of rebuilding USC.
15) Kentucky Basketball 1980’s
The University of Kentucky’s second big scandal involved air freight, players and their parents, coaches and college entrance exams.
The NCAA initially began their investigation after it learned that Kentucky assistant coach Dwane Casey sent $1,000 to eventual Kentucky signee Chris Mills.
Mills played one season at Kentucky before the NCAA learned of the payoff. Mills was banned from playing for Kentucky beyond the 1988 season as a result of the fallout.
In the same season, it was also learned that Kentucky player Eric Manual cheated during the SAT.
He would later be banned from playing at any NCAA member school on any lever.
14) Arizona State Point Shaving Scandal
In 1994, Arizona State campus bookie Benny Silman approched Sun Devil players Steven Smith and Isaac Burton about shaving points.
Smith was paid $20,000 per game for a total of $80,000 and Burton was compensated $4,300 for two games.
Burton and Smith both served jail time and Silman served 46 months in prison.
13) Northwestern Point Shaving
The Northwestern point shaving scandal of 1994 spanned both football and basketball.
It preceded the most memorable season in Northwestern Football history.
Northwestern is one of the best schools in the country academically. At the time of the indictments, they had seen minimal success athletically.
Football starters Dion Lee and Dewey Williams and starting running back Dennis Lundy were accused in separate incidents of bookmaking and point shaving.
12) Boston College Point Shaving
During the 1978-78 basketball season, Boston College was the latest team scandalized by a point shaving scheme involving the New York mob.
It would not be discovered until a year later.
BC basketball players Rick Kuhn, Jim Sweeney and Joe Streater all conspired to shave points from selected Eagles games.
BC’s star at the time, Ernie Cobb joined the scheme for the last five games. Only six of the nine games selected to shave point succeeded.
Kuhn was the only player that served prison time.
11) Kentucky 1950’s Point Shaving
No school has had more attention put on their scandals that the University of Kentucky. As part of a widespread point shaving scandal that rocked college basketball in the 1950’s, Kentucky would cancel the 1952-53 season.
All of UK athletic teams were banned from post-season play for the 52-53 school year.
Four former Wildcat players were implicated in the scandal. Included were NBA players Alex Groza and Ralph Beard and All-America center Bill Spivey.
Although indicated but never convicted, Groza and Beard were banned from the NBA for life by commissioner Maurice Podoloff.
10) Michigan Basketball-Ed Martin-
Michigan basketball was one of the country’s best programs from the mid 1980’s to mid 1990’s.
In 1996 allegations began to surface that Wolverine booster Ed Martin had loaned a total of $616,000 to Michigan players Chris Webber, Louis Bullock, Robert Traylor and Maurice Taylor.
The investigation into the UM basketball team began when recruit and eventual Michigan State legend Mateen Cleaves was being recruited.
The subsequent fallout from the scandal cost Michigan numerous post-season appearances and awards and milestones earned by the aforementioned players.
Coach Steve Fisher who had led UM to three national championship games and the 1989 national championship lost his job.
9) Minnesota Academic Fraud 1999
At the outset of the 1999 NCAA Tournament information was leaked that the University of Minnesota Men’s basketball team had committed major academic fraud over a period of a few years.
Former UM academic adviser Jan Gangelhoff admitted to doing extensive work for the players. She admitted to writing over 400 papers for at least 20 players over many years.
The Golden Gophers eventually forfeited postseason wins between 1993 and 1998 including the school’s only Final Four appearance in 1997.
Haskins lost his job because of the scandal and received a seven year show cause penalty.
He never returned to coaching. He admitted to paying Gangelhoff $3,000 to assist the players.
8) Colorado Football
The 2004 scandal surrounding the football team was the perfect definition of “The Lack of Institutional” control was defined by the NCAA.
The Buffaloes were accused of providing recruits with strippers, escorts and sex and drugs. Many also said the school nearly condoned rape as well.
Head Coach Gary Barnett was suspended in the off-season for his part in the scandal.
Former CU kicker Katie Knida said she was raped and sexually harassed by teammates. Eight more women came forward to accuse CU players.
The charges against the Buffaloes were eventually dropped, but the damage was done.
Barnett was fired a year later and former Boise State coach Dan Hawkins was hired. The Buffaloes haven’t recovered, they are 17-30 in the Hawkins era.
7) St. Bonaventure Basketball
Controversy surrounded St. Bonaventure basketball player Jamil Terell was “admitted” to St. Bonaventure in March of 2002.
Terrell earned a welding certificate from Coastal Georgia Community College. Despite being warned by officials from CGCC and the fact that a certificate is not an associates degree, Terrell was still admitted at St. Bonaventure.
The fallout from the scandal was significant.
President Robert Wickenheiser resigned, board president Bill Swan later committed suicide and the Bonnies were stripped of six wins by the Atlantic Ten conference and banned from post season play in March of 2003.
Although he was exonerated of any wrong doing, Van Breda Kolff felt the fall out of the scandal. After being fired from St. Bonnie, VBK did not get another head coaching job for five years. He coached the Nashville entry in the ABA four two season before they folded.
St. Bonaventure has not had a winning season since.
6) Duke Lacrosse
In 2006, Duke’s Lacrosse team made national headlines after an exotic dancer accused three men’s lacrosse players with rape.
The alleged rape occurred at a house rented by two of the team’s captains.
Durham county Attorney General Mike Nifong was later disbarred because of his aggressiveness in over prosecuting the case.
On April 11, 2007, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper dropped the case against Reade Seligman, Collin Finnerty and David Evans.
Nifong and the accuser Crystal Gail Mangum both suffered fallout from the case. In addition to his disbarment, Nifong also served one day in jail.
He was the first prosecutor in the history of North Carolina to be disbarred due to actions in a case. Cooper said Nifong used “dishonesty, fraud, deceit and misrepresentation” during his prosecution of the case.
Mangum would have more legal troubles after the case including being arrested for attempted murder.
Duke the number one ranked team in the country at the time of the accusations. The university cancelled the season in light of the allegations and coach Mike Pressler resigned after 16 seasons.
5) Tulane Point Shaving 1980’s
Ned Fowler arrived at Tulane in 1981 after the Green Wave suffered through five straight losing seasons.
He immediately turned the Green Wave around with a 19-9 record in his first season in the Big Easy.
Four years later after leading to Tulane to a 70-45 record, the program was dropped after allegations of point shaving arose.
The case involved former player John “Hot Rod” Willams.
Even though Willams was aquitted on all five counts, Tulane president Eamonn Kelly decided to drop the Tulane basketball program because NCAA violations emerged during the investigation.
The program would not be reinstated until the 1989-90 season.
4) 1950’s College Basketball Point Shaving
College Basketball was just beginning to become popular in the early 1950’s. College Basketball Doubleheaders at Madison Square Garden had been held regularly since 1934.
The City College of New York (CCNY) was the best team in college basketball in 1950.
They won both the NIT and NCAA championships. A year later it was reveled that seven players from CCNY had conspired to shave points.
It eventually came out that seven schools in all were in involved the scheme that impacted 86 games.
The scandal decimated college basketball in New York.
Most of the schools never recovered. CCNY and NYU are both Division III now and Long Island University and Manhattan are lower lever Division I.
Only St. John’s remains in the upper echelon of college basketball.
3) SMU Football
The Mustangs are the only NCAA Football team to receive the dreaded death penalty. The Pony Express was one of the most successful ground games in all of college football during the 1980’s.
SMU was on probation five times between 1975 and 1984.
Their total of being placed on probation seven times was the most in NCAA history. At the time the death penalty was imposed, SMU was serving a three year probation.
As part of the probation that preceded the death penalty, SMU was unable to participate in bowl games in 1985-86 or have their games televised live in ‘86.
The most startling revelation that came out during the SMU football scandal was that former Texas Governor (current at the time) Bill Clements approved of the slush fund that was used to pay players.
SMU received the death penalty for the 1987 season, they decided to sit out the 1988 season before restoring football as a varsity sport in 1990.
Last season was the first time they were invited to a bowl since 1985.
Former Hawai’i coach June Jones led the Mustangs to a 45-10 victory in the Hawai’i Bowl.
2) Virginia Lacrosse
The love affair between Virginia Lacrosse players Yardley Love and George Huguely took a violent and deadly turn on May 3, 2010.
Love was found unresponsive in her apartment on that fateful morning. Huguely waived his Miranda rights and described what happened to police in detail.
His trial is scheduled to begin October 7.
1) Baylor Basketball: Dotson Murders Dennehy
The murder of Patrick Dennehy by teammate Carlton Dotson transcended the sports pages and SportsCenter.
This case made national news more than just sports. The morning news programs all covered the case.
Dotson admitted to killing Dennehy nearly two years after the crime was committed.
The case was made harder by the fact that Dennehy was originally missing for about two weeks before Dotson was arrested for the crime in June of 2003. Dennehy’s badly decomposed body wasn’t found until the July 25, 2003.
Baylor coach Dave Bliss was punished with a 10-year show-cause penalty.
He won’t be eligible to be hired by another NCAA institution without that school showing why they are hiring him.