The Top 20 Scandals in College Football History
College football is a breeding ground for scandals.
First off, the people involved are in the public eye. I mean, if a scandal happens in an empty room, does it really happen at all?
College football has qualities beyond being in the public eye that propel it almost to the very top of the scandal scale.
It is a multi-billion dollar business, and the main people involved in creating its value are broke 18 to 22-year-olds that by rule cannot be paid.
Wondering or lamenting about scandals in college football is tantamount to people in the middle ages wondering why they have been stricken by the plague as they are surrounded by feces.
I know this is a dark analogy, and college football has done a lot of good for a lot of people, but it also has brought out the worst in people.
In ranking the most scandalicious areas of society today, I am putting politics first and college football second.
Here are 20 reasons why it is a solid second.
No. 20: Controversy Blooms
Jeremy Bloom was a sick punt returner for the Colorado Buffaloes. He shredded through punt coverage teams with breathtaking double McTwisty 180s and Inverted Back-Flip tip grabs.
Wait, I think I am getting his sports tangled. The NCAA would not approve, and they did not approve.
Jeremy Bloom was told by the NCAA that he could no longer put his dynamic return game on display on the college football field after he accepted endorsement money from a ski equipment company.
It was clearly a legitimate sponsorship for skiing, and not tied to the University of Colorado football program. Bloom had been on the US National Ski Team since the age of 15.
The NCAA did not care.
He appealed the decision, but to no avail. He was never allowed to play collegiate football again.
He went on to dominate freestyle skiing and he has spent time as the No. 1 ranked freestyle skier on the planet.
He was drafted by the Eagles, and spent some time as a Steeler, but he has never had any action in an NFL game.
No. 19: Dexter Man-What-Does-That-Say-Ley
The NCAA tries to ensure that all of its student athletes are getting a legitimate education.
They do not always succeed. This may have never been more apparent than in the case of Dexter Manley.
Manley was brave enough to reveal to the world that he not only got into Oklahoma State, but made it through four years of college courses while being functionally illiterate.
Some players get snagged for cheating on their SATs, and then some like Dexter Manley skate by without ever learning how to read.
No. 18: Houston, We Have a Problem
Author's Note: My editors would not allow me to creatively use his last name in this slide title.
Houston Nutt had a very memorable career with the Arkansas Razorbacks. Sure, he was a fine coach there, but that is not what is memorable.
What is memorable is that Mr. Nutt used his company phone—and in this case his company is a state-run college—to send over 1,000 text messages to a local news reporter.
These text messages conveniently surfaced as the university began to tire of his many antics—including his handling of QB Mitch Mustain, and Nutt's search to land a higher profile job.
Nutt denied that the text messages were of a personal nature. In a statement Nutt said, "...words of condolence and support regarding the loss of my mother-in-law after her battle with cancer, and information relating to her close friend who was diagnosed with cancer."
Hmm...and this says you weren't developing a personal relationship with her on a state-funded phone how?
Apparently, this went over better with Mrs. Nutt than the university.
She issued a statement backing him, and the university fired him.
No. 17: Slick Rick Knows How To Pick
Rick Neuheisel was the king of little scandals. Over the course of his career, he had been slapped on the wrist for committing several minor violations.
As long as he was winning, his employers didn't seem to care. Then, as his results at the University of Washington began to taper off, the Huskies began to seek a way to distance themselves from him.
The final straw for the university was likely when Neuheisel lied to them about interviewing for the San Francisco 49ers head coaching job.
They did not fire him directly after that, however, but they did after they found out Nueheisel was participating (and winning) in college basketball bracket tournaments.
The NCAA also got wind of this and found he violated rules on gambling, but they did not sanction him.
This gets even more scandalicious as Neuheisel then flipped the script on his two "attackers."
Neuheisel showed in court that the University of Washington had sent out a memo to their staff that the exact kind of gambling Rick had been involved in was acceptable.
The NCAA had also violated its own rules when it questioned him about the gambling.
He sued the University of Washington and the NCAA for wrongful termination, and ended up receiving $4.5 million in a settlement.
They sure showed him.
No. 16: Men Down: The Army's Honor Code
Army used to be an outstanding football program.
Army finished the 1950 season 8-1. Its only loss was to Navy.
The 1951 season was a far different story. In the spring of 1951, it was discovered that 37 of Army's football players had been in violation of the Army's honor code. All of them were dismissed.
Understandably, they struggled and went on to a 2-7 record the following season.
No. 15: Woody Don't Play That
Woody Hayes was a hands-on coach who did not like to lose.
I know this because when Charlie Bauman intercepted Ohio State quarterback Art Schlicter, Hayes punched Bauman in the throat.
Going further along with his intense hatred for losing, Woody refused to resign after the incident. I am guessing the conversation went something like this:
"So I attacked a player? He shouldn't have done that! What's the big deal? I swear, you suits just need to stay out of my way and let me coach football."
They fired him.
No. 14: 5-1 Odds This Slide Is about Art Schlicter
Speaking of Art Schlicter:
He was not at all upset about his coach decking Bauman. Schlicter took a bet on 25-1 odds that Woody would assault the opposition.
Okay, that's not true. Well, at least we don't know that it's true, but it could be.
Art liked to gamble, and he was clearly gambling at Ohio State. Nobody seemed to care though. In fact, there were even reports that he would go to the horse track with his head coach, Earle Bruce.
No one seemed to think it would be a problem for a college kid with very limited access to revenue streams, yet with a potential influence on a limitless revenue stream, to be gambling.
The NFL thought it was a big enough problem that he was suspended his rookie year for having over $400,000 in gambling debts.
Sometimes the system loses sight of the fact it is trying to turn young men into adults and not just football players. This is one of those instances.
No. 13: Holy Toledo, That's a Close Shave
Point shaving is far more common in college basketball than football. But that allegedly did not stop a couple of high rollers and a handful of players from attempting it during the 2005 season for the University of Toledo football team.
As the result of an FBI investigation, eight men were indicted for shaving points involving Toledo athletics—three football players, three basketball players and two high-rolling gamblers.
Toledo's former running back, Adam Cuomo, admitted that he initiated the contact with many athletes and the gamblers.
According to reports, two football players have admitted to taking part in the point-shaving scheme. Charges against the third player, Scooter McDougle, have been dropped.
Shaving points in a football game is much easier said than done.
Cuomo admitted that he tried to convince a player to shave points for Toledo's bowl game following the 2005 season by committing penalties.
Toledo beat UTEP 45-13 in that bowl game.
No. 12: Hay Wood You Mind Not Being Our Coach?
Mike Haywood was the head coach of the Pitt Panthers for almost three weeks.
Then he was arrested on felony charges of domestic violence.
Haywood was arrested on a Friday afternoon after a woman with whom Haywood has a child told authorities he grabbed her by the arm and neck and pushed her as she tried to leave the home.
He was in jail overnight, released on bail on Saturday and fired hours later.
Police said the woman "had marks on her neck, arms and back."
Haywood told the press regarding the situation that, "It isn't fair. The truth will eventually come out."
Pitt is not waiting and decided to move on.
That has to be the shortest coaching tenure in NCAA football history right?
No. 11: I Am Totally a Stony Brook Alum, Bro
George O'Leary had one fine lookin' resume, and that allowed him to be head coach of prestigious Notre Dame for five whole days.
Then it was discovered that that fine lookin' resume was more a testament to creativity than actual achievements.
O'Leary claimed to have received a masters degree at N.Y.U—Stony Brook.
The problem with that is the college does not exist! And Notre Dame still hired him.
How does a college not know when a person completely makes up another college?
Get this, that wasn't even the first discrepancy noticed. The first thing caught was that he lied about being a three-year letterman at the University of New Hampshire.
When this was caught, he assured Notre Dame everything else was cool, and they believed him. Then they found out about the whole made up university and masters degree thing.
Did he not think they'd catch that? I guess it was worth a shot. They hadn't noticed yet.
Surely these are the only two coaches who have been fired before coaching a game, right?
No. 10: Roll Tide
Nope! And don't call me Shirley.
Mike Price taught us all that when you have a contract you are happy with, you sign it!
Price managed to make it through spring practice as head coach of Alabama, but that was it, and he did so only in principle, because he had not signed his contract.
Then accounts began to circulate of Mike Price's behavior during a golf tournament in Florida.
Price had reportedly been visiting a strip club and fraternizing with some of the employees away from the establishment.
Sports Illustrated published this story that was full of details that led up to Mike Price paying for sex and exclaiming "Roll Tide" during the transaction.
This (the intercourse) was a claim Price, a married man, vehemently denied. It was the basis for a $20 million suit against Sports Illustrated for defamation of character.
They ended up settling out of court for an undisclosed sum.
By this time the damage had long been done at Alabama, and all they had to do was rescind the contract offer.
No. 9: Everyone Deserves a Second Chance
If the state of Nebraska had its own money, Dr. Tom Osborne would be on the $5 bill.
Osborne was so popular and respected that after he stepped down as head coach of Nebraska, he was elected by a landslide to the House of Representatives.
After his stint in the House, Osborne ran for Governor of Nebraska and lost by a narrow three percent margin to the incumbent.
The only thing tainting Osborne's coaching legacy is Lawrence Phillips.
Phillips was largely regarded as the best running back in the nation in 1995.
Then Phillips assaulted his girlfriend by dragging her downstairs by her hair, and bashing her head against a mailbox.
Osborne suspended Phillips, but chose to reinstate him before the season's end.
Osborne told the Associated Press, after deciding to reinstate Phillips:
"Some people feel like we didn't do anything to him. But I imagine by suspending him, I took several million dollars away from Lawrence Phillips. He's paid a price."
Many people felt outraged that Phillips would be allowed to play, and the ensuing results of Phillips' life would lead to suggest that the decision did him no favors.
Of course, the results also suggest that Phillips was a young man that likely could not be saved from his anger.
Osborne did make Phillips seek counseling as a condition of his return.
No. 8: Deep in the Bush
Remember that classic 2005 USC Trojan team? You know the one that played that epic championship game against Vince Young and the Texas Longhorns, and propelled Reggie Bush to the Heisman Trophy?
Well, hold onto those memories, because Big Brother has erased any record of them.
An investigation into Reggie Bush's stay at USC uncovered enough information that the NCAA was convinced that Reggie and his family received over $100,000 in benefits from marketing agents.
The investigation went on for four years. By the time the NCAA got around to assessing blame for the crimes committed those involved were long gone.
It did result in Reggie giving back his Heisman, but in terms of the punishment placed on USC it falls almost entirely onto people who were not there.
Pete Carroll bolted for the NFL just as the punishment was about to be levied, and USC soon hired a new athletic director.
Of course, it was also an entirely new crop of students that the NCAA was telling would not be eligible to play in a bowl game for two years.
However, the coach on board facing the brunt of the punishment is Lane Kiffin, and it's easy to argue he had it coming...
No. 7: Volunteering in the Wrong Lane
...Because Lane Kiffin's tenure at Tennessee is the scandal that keeps on giving.
Reports surfaced this past January that while at Tennessee Kiffin had a downtown apartment, which was funded by boosters.
It earned the nickname the "Rendezvous Place." This is allegedly where the posted picture is from.
And yes, that is either Lane Kiffin and Mike Tomlin chatting up some co-eds or two men that look like dead ringers for Kiffin and Tomlin chatting up some co-eds.
So, that's all well and good, but—again allegedly—one night following a game, a bar in Tennessee allowed Kiffin and some co-eds to utilize their facility while they chatted it up.
Kiffin, after some drinks, drove off with two of the co-eds and crashed the car. Kiffin was then allegedly picked up by a neighbor and the girls were left at the scene. That is allegedly a total dick move.
A Lexus dealership confirmed the car that they had leased to Kiffin had been involved in a wreck.
This is just the latest development in the scandal that was Kiffin's tenure at Tennessee. It also contained numerous NCAA rule violations, a famous false accusation against Florida and a sanctimonious ending.
It was such a messy tenure that I wish I had had an overhead projector to fully present it all.
No. 6: Should He Stay or Should He Go
During the 2002 season, no two freshmen appeared more pro ready than Ohio State's Maurice Clarett and USC's Mike Williams.
They were men among boys on the field. Due to a rule stating players must be three years removed from high school to be eligible for the NFL draft, neither were able to take their talents to the next level.
In 2003 Maurice Clarett was suspended and then dismissed from Ohio State after he was charged with falsifying a police report and then pleaded guilty to a lesser charge. There were also accusations of Clarett accepting funds from a family friend.
Clarett petitioned the NFL to be allowed to enter the draft early. A judge then ruled that he would be allowed to do so.
Mike Williams decided to take advantage of this ruling and he declared for the NFL draft after his 2003 season.
The decision to allow the players into the draft was appealed and then overturned.
By this time Mike Williams had already hired an agent, and the NCAA would not allow him back into school.
Mike Williams petitioned the NCAA for reinstatement and he was denied.
While Clarett was clearly on the wrong track to begin with, this is a case of the system furthering along that downward spiral rather than helping stop it.
Both players were severely and negatively affected by their year away from football, and both men just now appear to be getting their lives back on track.
Clarett re-enrolled in school and spent the season in the UFL. Mike Williams put himself in the best shape of his NFL career, and had a breakout 2010 season with the Seattle Seahawks.
No. 5: This Is Your Brain on Drugs
In 1988 Sports Illustrated let the world in on what had been transpiring behind the scenes of the South Carolina football program.
The story began with former USC defensive lineman, Tommy Chaikin, recounting how he had come close to suicide, and at one point sat with a loaded gun against his chin the day before a game.
He contends that the emotional problems stemmed from his use of steroids—steroids that he claimed half of the Gamecocks team were using.
The coaches not only knew about this, but they were also giving them to the players. A federal grand jury indicted four coaches for distributing the illegal performance enhancers.
Three of the coaches plead guilty to lesser charges—the fourth was acquitted.
No. 4: Albert Means To Be Paid
Albert Means was allegedly one of the highest paid recruits in the country for the year 2000.
His high school coach, Lynn Lang, admitted to taking $150,000 from a booster of the University of Alabama for Means signing with the university. Lynn Lang also admitted that $60,000 of that went to Means himself.
When Means was later contacted by a newspaper about taking money, he responded, "Is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable? I don't know."
Lang also said that he arranged for another student to take Means' ACT test, because Means had failed to pass it in 15 tries.
As a result of the violations that occurred surrounding the recruiting of Means, Alabama received a two-year bowl ban and was docked 21 scholarships.
The University of Kentucky, which was found by the NCAA to have attempted to try and lure Means with a little extra cash, received a one-year bowl ban.
Means ended up playing for the University of Memphis and finished his senior season as second team All-Conference USA. He has also since gotten his Masters Degree—I am pretty sure it is not in botany.
As for the booster that paid for Means, Logan Young, he was indicted by the FBI and later found dead in his home. The death was initially treated as a murder, but authorities ruled it an accident two days later.
As I am sure you can imagine, many people still do not feel that death was accidental.
No. 3: The Barnett Years
Gary Barnett didn't rely on money for a recruiting edge. Instead he relied on good ol' sex, drugs and rock and roll.
To be fair to Barnett, he did not create Colorado's scandalous ways, he just brought them to a head.
Barnett's tenure at Colorado is a study in scandal. There are allegations of slush funds, wild parties for recruits involving alcohol and drugs and many accusations of sexual assault involving players and even an assistant coach.
There are allegations that they would arrange for strippers to attend recruiting parties. Phone records also show that an escort service was called on a phone issued to one of the recruiting aids.
The most notable scandal may be in Barnett's handling of female kicker, Katie Hnida. Hnida gave a very detailed account of the abuses she suffered while a member of the University of Colorado football team.
For his part, Barnett certainly came across less than sympathetic as he released statements like, "None of the players wanted her on the team. Basically we were doing her a favor."
Barnett was suspended for his comments surrounding Hnida's allegations.
He was not fired until he lost too many games.
No. 2: Dead Team Walking
SMU may have had a higher payroll than some NFL teams in the early '80s.
The school had become synonymous with treading over the mythical NCAA recruiting line. Between 1974 and 1985 they were put on probation five times.
Then in 1986 they were hit with the big one.
SMU seemingly was punished so many times by the NCAA that they just stopped caring. So when the NCAA caught wind that they were still paying recruits while being on probation, they sentenced SMU to what has come to be known as the death penalty.
SMU's own faculty had grown so tired of the transgressions and what they called "quasi-professional athletics" that they submitted a petition that called for a ban on all athletic scholarships.
The NCAA found that between 1985 and 1986 SMU paid 13 players a total of $68,000, and the payments started a month after their latest probation. The payments were made from a slush fund from monies provided by at least one booster.
SMU did not play football for two years after the death penalty, and it has only been to one bowl game since.
No. 1: The Tragedy
There is no bigger scandal in the history of college football than the one that claimed the life of Declan Sullivan and surround the events leading up to that point.
It is an outrage that Brian Kelly is not facing criminal charges, let alone still coaching.
Sullivan was filming Notre Dame practice from atop a platform on an extended hydraulic lift—wind gusts were reaching over 50 mph.
It was conditions very similar to ones that caused Notre Dame to practice indoors the day before, and not all that dissimilar from ones during a tornado just a few days prior.
It reached a point of danger that prompted Sullivan to tweet, "Holy (bleep) holy (bleep) holy (bleep) this is terrifying."
The lift toppled over in the wind and Sullivan did not survive the fall.
Notre Dame released a statement saying we "failed to keep the young man safe."
In my mind, this goes way beyond keeping someone safe—they put him in a life threatening position.
Allowing someone to work in those kind of conditions is neglectful manslaughter. It shows no less a lack of judgment than an intoxicated person getting behind the wheel of a car that eventually kills someone.
When that happens people face jail time, and so should Brian Kelly. Instead he continues to oversee the lives of young men as the head coach of Notre Dame.