In 1987 the National Collegiate Athletic Association (N.C.A.A.) placed its harshest football punishment in history on Southern Methodist University (S.M.U.). The repeat violator rule, also known as the “death penalty,” banned the college from playing football for all of the 1987 and only allowed to play seven games in its 1988 season. They used S.M.U. as an example of what could happen when a college excessively violates N.C.A.A. regulations. The death penalty was the last option for the university because they were already on probation for past major violations with N.C.A.A. ("SMU Football Gets," 1987, p. 1C). The only thing left of S.M.U. after receiving ‘death’ was pick up the pieces and they are still trying to put the sport back together after so many years.
To fully understand the 1987 “death penalty” and the Southern Methodist University football scandal, you have to start back in 1981. That year was the rise of the city of Dallas, Texas and the oil industry in the surrounding area. It became the melting pot for Texas alumni and many started to brag to each other about where they went and how their football team was there. Football was as important as the weather at that time in the south and the alumni’s decided that they would just “buy” players to play at their colleges to create a winning team. S.M.U. started paying players the most money to come to their college and their head coach Ron Meyer was the first to personally recruit the top players (Matula, 2010). One of the people Meyer personally recruited was Eric Dickerson, a running back and the most sought out player in Texas. Another was Craig James, a tailback, who was also high on the most wanted player list. The two would come together and later be called the “Pony Express” (Pomerantz, 1982, p. D4). When signing day was over the college had the best recruiting class in all of S.M.U. history (Matula, 2010). At the time in Texas, the Texas State Longhorns was the ultimate power in college football. They had been undefeated for years and were known for it. The day that S.M.U. and Texas played their game is an important event for many reasons; the game ended the forever long winning streak for the Texas Longhorns. It was also the start of S.M.U.’s launch in becoming the best football team for the upcoming years, and was the game that got the N.C.A.A. taking a closer look at S.M.U.’s football program (Matula, 2010). By the time the N.C.A.A. was done looking into S.M.U. they had found twenty nine violations to the N.C.A.A. constitution and bylaws. They were put on probation in 1981 and could not be on a televised air cast or participate in any bowl games. Meyers, knowing that this was just the start of the findings that the N.C.A.A. would uncover, left the S.M.U. football program to coach for the New England Patriots in 1982. Bobby Collins would become the new head coach for the Mustangs. When all the old coaches and boosters left and new ones came in there was more information coming out to the public and buying players became even more outrageous. Sherwood Blout, a wealth realtor and S.M.U. alumni, became a main booster and bought players heavily and brashly (Matula, 2010). In 1982 the Mustangs dominated college football. Even though they were on probation and not allowed to participate in the Cotton Bowl they still won the title from their conference. The papers awarded Penn State the National Championship even though S.M.U. was undefeated at the time so they dubbed themselves national champions. Little did they know that bringing news attention would put them right in the middle of a paper war between Dallas Times Herald and The Dallas Morning News. The papers started digging for dirt on the college to bring in more readers and it put S.M.U. in a difficult situation. Not only were they getting heat from the press but also the N.C.A.A. was breathing down their back from other colleges calling to have them investigated again. There...
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