The 20 Most Devastating Sports Scandals in History

Kelsey GivensAnalyst IIJune 19, 2011

The 20 Most Devastating Sports Scandals in History

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    Like celebrities and politicians, sports teams and players, too, face huge scandals that saturate the media and turn their worlds upside down.

    Unlike the scandals of celebrities and politicians, however, the results of these scandals affect far more than the organizations involved—they affect the countless fans that support and love the teams going through the scandals.

    From brawls to rule violations, from bribery to sexscapades, some scandals are so huge that they will be remembered by the sports world forever.

    Here is a list of 20 of the most devastating sports scandals in history.

No. 20: City College of New York Players Fix Games

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    In the 1940s and '50s, players from the City College of New York, as well as several other neighboring schools, were caught in a major game-fixing scandal.

    The players were being bribed to fix the outcomes of the games so that the bookies backing them could make money by placing bets on all of the games.

No. 19: Marty McSorley Uses Unnecessary Force with Donald Brashear

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    In 2000, when Marty McSorley was playing for the Boston Bruins, he slashed Vancouver Canucks player Donald Brashear in the head with only three seconds left in the game.

    While hits and fights happen all the time in hockey, this hit was intentional and so hard that it knocked Brashear down, giving him a very serious concussion and reportedly causing him to forget even getting hit in the head.

    McSorley was later charged for assault with a weapon and received probation for the incident. It's not often that something that happens during a game actually becomes a crime.

No. 18: The Brett Favre Scandal

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    DETROIT, MI - JANUARY 02:  Brett Favre #4 of the Minnesota Vikings talks at a post game press conference after a 13-20 loss to the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on January 2, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Oh, who could forget the infamous Brett Favre scandal from last fall?

    This "upstanding" longtime player was caught sending dirty texts to a woman who worked with the Jets, a team he formerly played for, and he was only fined $50,000 for his failure to cooperate with the NFL's investigation.

No. 17: The Little League Scandal

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    393788 03: Danny Almonte of the Rolando Paulino All-Stars Bronx Little League baseball team is presented with a key to the city by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani during a ceremony honoring the team August 28, 2001 in New York City. The team, which finished third
    Mario Tama/Getty Images

    In 2001, a star pitcher from the Bronx by the name of Danny Almonte led his team to success in the Little League World Series, earning it third place overall in the series.

    He had an insanely fast pitch and threw the first perfect game in the Little League World Series since the 1950s.

    It came out several weeks later, however, that Almonte was actually two years too old to be playing Little League baseball.

No. 16: University of Minnesota Basketball Fraud

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    29 Mar 1997:  Coach Clem Haskins of the Minnesota Golden Gophers argues with an official during an NCAA Final Four game against the Kentucky Wildcats at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis, Indiana. Kentucky won the game 78 - 69. Mandatory Credit: Brian Bahr  /A
    Brian Bahr/Getty Images

    In the 1990s, the head coach of the University of Minnesota basketball team, Clem Haskins, was caught in a massive fraud scandal.

    It was found out later that he instructed his staff to give money to the players and help them pass classes by writing papers for them or bribing teachers to give them better grades than they actually earned.

    The university was forced to return much of the money it earned from appearances during that time and some of the titles it earned in basketball during that time as well.

No. 15: Qatar Buys World Cup 2022

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    JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JULY 11:  The World Cup presented on the pitch ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City Stadium on July 11, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa.  (Photo by Clive Ros
    Clive Rose/Getty Images

    This is one of the most recent scandals to hit the world of sports.

    It has been alleged that Qatar has bought the rights to host the FIFA World Cup in 2022, which is against the organization's rules on how teams bid for the hosting position.

    If this is the case, then the organization could see a great deal of turnover soon if it chooses to investigate and remove those involved with the scandal.

No. 14: The Barry Bonds Steroid Scandal

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    SAN FRANCISCO, CA - APRIL 12:  Former Major League Baseball player Barry Bonds arrives at federal court on April 12, 2011 in San Francisco, California.  The jury is deliberating for the third day in the Barry Bonds perjury trial where the former baseball
    Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

    While no one was really surprised, when this scandal broke it affected how many people saw his performance as one of the greatest baseball players of all time.

    There's no denying Bonds was a great baseball player, but after being indicted for charges of perjury in 2007 in the baseball steroids case, his game was tarnished since it seems much of his greatness may have come from illegally using steroids to improve his body and game.

No. 13: "The Decision"

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    MIAMI, FL - JUNE 12:  (L-R) LeBron James #6 and Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat answer questions from the media at a post game news conference after the Dallas Mavericks won 105-95 in Game Six of the 2011 NBA Finals at American Airlines Arena on June 12,
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Never in the history of the NBA has there been more speculation and hype over where a basketball player will "take his talents" than last summer's obsession with LeBron James.

    James' scandalous decision to move to Miami caused an entire city to despise him and ended up still denying him a championship, which is one of the reasons why he said he moved to Miami in the first place.

    Some basketball experts believe the decision has started a new era where superstars get together and make "super teams" and leave small-market teams in potential financial ruin.

No. 12: The Pete Rose Scandal

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    CINCINNATI - SEPTEMBER 11:  Pete Rose takes part in the ceremony celebrating the 25th anniversary of his breaking the career hit record of 4,192 on September 11, 2010 at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, Ohio. Rose was honored before the start of th
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Pete Rose is both a former player and manager in the MLB.

    He was officially banned from the MLB in 1989 after strong accusations against him that said he had placed bets on baseball games, including his own team's games. Rose denied the accusations until 2004, when he finally came clean and admitted to placing bets on games.

No. 11: Reggie Bush Gives Back Heisman

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    GRAPEVINE, TX - FEBRUARY 03:  NFL Player Reggie Bush of the New Orleans Saints attends the Coke Zero black carpet at the EA SPORTS Madden Bowl XVII at The Glass Cactus on February 3, 2011 in Grapevine, Texas.  (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for Madde
    Joe Scarnici/Getty Images

    In the long history of the Heisman, it has only had to be returned once.

    That moment came in 2010, when former award-winner Reggie Bush, under a great deal of pressure, gave back his trophy after it came out that he received improper benefits while playing for USC in 2005.

No. 10: The Bill Belichick Videotaping Scandal

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    ORCHARD PARK, NY - DECEMBER 26:  Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots looks on in a match against the Buffalo Bills  at Ralph Wilson Stadium on December 26, 2010 in Orchard Park, New York. New England won 34-3.  (Photo by Rick Stewart/Get
    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    In 2007, Patriots coach Bill Belichick and his team were found guilty of videotaping their opposition during a game to learn the other team's hand signals and plays.

    This was strictly against NFL rules, and Belichick was fined $500,000 by the organization, while his team was fined an additional $250,000 for the infraction.

No. 9: The Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan Scandal

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    During the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Tonya Harding helped cover up an attack on her opponent, Nancy Kerrigan, that was orchestrated by her ex-husband and bodyguard.

    The two men hired another man to break Kerrigan's leg after a practice session so she would no longer be able to compete in the competition. While Harding wasn't expressly involved in hiring this man to injure her opponent, she did later admit to helping cover up the incident.

No. 8: Tim Donaghy Scandal

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 18:  Head coach Paul Silas of the Cleveland Cavaliers confers with official Tim Donaghy #21 during an NBA game against the Charlotte Bobcats on November 18, 2004 at the Charlotte Coliseum in Charlotte, North Carolina.  The Cavalie
    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    In 2007, Tim Donaghy retired from NBA officiating after allegations arose that he had placed bets on games he was officiating and tried to control the point spread of the games.

    He was placed under investigation by the FBI and was later fined a great deal of money, then sentenced to 15 months in jail for his gambling.

No. 7: Kentucky Basketball Program's Death Sentence

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    It's very rare for the NCAA to ever deal out the death penalty to any athletic program, but that's just what happened in the early 1950, when it was found out that several of the players had taken bribes to shave points and keep games close.

    The entire athletic program was banned from competing for the 1952-53 season.

No. 6: Tattoo-Gate

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    COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 30:  Head Coach Jim Tressel speaks to the media during a press conference before the start of Spring practices at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center at The Ohio State University on March 30, 2011 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/
    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    This is one scandal on the list that is still in the process of unfolding.

    It was found out earlier this year that five players on the Ohio State football team were guilty of selling memorabilia to a local Columbus tattoo artist in exchange for free tattoos. It was also found out just a few short months ago that coach Jim Tressel knew about the infractions and failed to report them in an attempt to protect his players.

No. 5: Booster Causes Trouble for University of Michigan

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    Out of control boosters seem to cause problems at universities big and small. That was just what happened at the University of Michigan during the late 1990s and early 2000s.

    Longtime booster Ed Martin was caught loaning money to current players and recruits.

    This was a huge scandal that ended up costing the program hundreds of games and several championships. It also put the program on probation for two years.

    More importantly for some, because of this scandal there is no official record that the "Fab Five" ever existed.

No. 4: OSU Coach Woody Hayes Punches Player

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    This was a dark day for the Ohio State football program.

    In the 1978 Gator Bowl, then-coach Woody Hayes lost his temper when a player from Clemson intercepted the ball and ran it out of bounds near the Buckeyes sideline. The coach's temper flared, and he punched the Clemson player in the throat and ended up punching one of his own players who tried to break up the fight.

    Needless to say, Hayes was fired from his coaching position for his actions.

    Buckeye nation was devastated at the loss of one of the greatest coaches its football program had ever seen. Even to this day, Buckeyes fans tend to overlook this one scandalous incident and only remember fondly the good Hayes did for the program.

No. 3: The SMU Death Penalty

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    DALLAS - SEPTEMBER 24:  A general view of play between the TCU Horned Frogs and the SMU Mustangs at Gerald J. Ford Stadium on September 24, 2010 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Like it was said earlier in this slideshow, the NCAA rarely ever deals out the death penalty to any institution.

    But it did in 1987, when NCAA officials found SMU's football program in violation of the rules by paying its student athletes from a "slush fund." They found out that the coaches and staff were lying about it.

    The team lost a great deal of scholarships for the program and was banned from playing any games that season, as well as any home games in 1988.

No. 2: The Baylor Basketball Scandal

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    17 Mar 1996:  Head coach Dave Bliss of New Mexico shouts instructions from the sidelines but the Lobos couldn''t  fend off Georgetown as the Hoyas beat the Lobos 73-62 in the second round game of the NCAA East Regionals at the Richmond Coliseum in Richmon
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    This is definitely one of the biggest scandals on this list.

    After the 2002-03 basketball season at Baylor, it was found that coach Dave Bliss tried to cover up a great deal of wrongdoing by his players, including illegal drug and alcohol use, and the murder of Patrick Dennehy took place on his watch as well.

    Bliss was basically banned from coaching again the NCAA until 2015, unless any institution can prove why it shouldn't be punished for hiring him.

No. 1: The 1919 "Black Sox" Incident

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    This scandal, most commonly known as the "Black Sox" scandal, flipped the world of baseball upside down.

    Eight players from the Chicago White Sox were given lifetime bans from baseball for intentionally throwing games in the 1919 World Series for money from professional gamblers.

    Not only did this greatly affect the outcome of the series, it also shocked the American public, especially the fans, making this one of the most devastating scandals in baseball and in the world of sports.