Nuclear Explosion

Is a Miami death penalty the NCAA’s only option?

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Roughly 16 years after SMU was hit with the infamous “death penalty” that crippled their football program for nearly a quarter of a century, then-Florida president John Lombardi said that the NCAA would do anything it could going forward to avoid sentencing another school to a similar fate.

“SMU taught the committee that the death penalty is too much like the nuclear bomb,” Lombardi said in 2002. “It’s like what happened after we dropped the [atomic] bomb in World War II. The results were so catastrophic that now we’ll do anything to avoid dropping another one.”

A decade later, thanks to an explosive exposé by Yahoo! sports, the nuclear option appears to be back on the table, and it could force the NCAA to play the football version of Harry Truman once again.

The level of malfeasance alleged in the investigative piece by convicted felon Nevin Shapiro is truly staggering and is only rivaled in recent times by the infamous SMU scandal, when the Mustangs were Pony Express’d back to the football dark ages in the mid-eighties.  Shapiro, who once had a players lounge named in his honor at the Coral Gables school, alleges he gave impermissible benefits that by his estimation totaled in the millions and millions of dollars to more than five dozen Hurricane football players — including a dozen current ones — over an eight-year period beginning in 2001.

Cash, prostitutes, jewelry, clothing, electronics, yachts, mansions, strip club junkets and, in one instance, an abortion.  You name it, Shapiro alleges he provided it for many, many a Hurricane player.

Perhaps most damning is the Yahoo! report claims four former football assistants as well as three football support staff members had direct knowledge of or participated in the violating of multiple NCAA rules, including sending high school recruits to Shapiro’s multi-million dollar mansion or accompanying Shapiro and recruits to strip clubs.  Shapiro’s physical confrontation with UM’s head of compliance in the press box of a 2007 game wrought a background check by the university, which revealed he was the co-owner of a sports representation agency.  Still, the university did nothing.

Juxtapose those Miami allegations against the SMU case two-and-a-half-decades ago and, more recently, USC.

Already banned from bowl games in 1985 and 1986 as well as any television appearances for the latter year due to recruiting violations committed by boosters and at least one assistant, SMU was found in 1986 by the NCAA to have created a slush fund — which paid football players upwards of $700 a month — that was controlled by a booster and sanctioned by officials from the athletic department all the way through the school’s Board of Governors.  For that, the NCAA canceled the Mustangs 1987 season — the school canceled the 1988 season as well due to lack of players — banned the school from bowl games and television appearances through the 1989 season, as well as stripping them of nearly 60 football scholarships over a four-year period.

At first blush, the situation in Miami appears to be the work of a lone rogue booster who inexplicably flew underneath the school’s radar — allegedly — for eight years.  SMU’s case was an organized, systematic pay-for-play scandal involving multiple layers of individuals both inside the athletic department and out, even bleeding into the political arena.

Is that enough of a difference to keep the NCAA from pressing the nuclear button and leveling The U football program?

If it’s looked at through a prism of blacks and whites, the allegations leveled against Miami are the worst to hit major college football since SMU in the mid-eighties and would appear to deserve something that approaches the same level of sanctions.  As the NCAA has shown since slapping near-historic sanctions on USC, though, the NCAA seems to work with varying shades of gray that only they can see.  And comprehend.

To illustrate that very point, the Trojans were stripped of 30 scholarships over a three-year period and banned from appearing in bowl games for two after the NCAA found one player — Reggie Bush — and/or his family had received in the neighborhood of $300,000 from two would-be sports marketers/felons while he was a running back at the school.  One USC assistant — not four as alleged in the Yahoo! Miami piece, or multiple members of the institution as found in the SMU case — and one two-minute phone conversation led to the sanctions that have set the Trojans football program back at least a couple of years if not more.

After handing the Trojans some of the stiffest sanctions since SMU was obliterated from the football map, Paul Dee, chair of the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions, said the following when it comes to a school’s responsibility for dealing with outside influences on student-athletes:

“The real issue here is if you have high‑profile players, your enforcement staff has to monitor those students at a higher level. It’s extraordinarily important that the people that are likely to be receiving these kinds of interactions from people outside the institution are also those same people who are going to provide a reward somewhere down the road. So high‑profile players demand high‑profile compliance.”

Dee was the athletic director at the University of Miami during the time Shapiro was allegedly lavishing his student-athletes with gifts, cash and services.

Regardless of whether it’s too much like the nuclear bomb, and the catastrophic results Lombardi referred to be damned, the NCAA needs to drop another one on the Miami football program if they have any real desire to truly change the culture as they’ve openly professed in recent months.  What would that entail when it comes to the ‘Canes?  Miami’s situation — if the allegations are proven, it should be noted — would seem to fall somewhere between SMU and USC, but leaning decidedly toward the former side in terms of severity.

Leaning enough to warrant sanctions similar to what SMU received?  Certainly this trumps Bush’s financial masterpiece, setting the bar for sanctions to come in somewhere well above what USC received.  If that involves something close to the death penalty, so be it; at some point, there have to be significant repercussions for programs that don’t demand high-profile compliance for high-profile players.

One way or the other, though, the NCAA needs to take their hands out from under their backsides and show that what they’re spewing publicly aren’t merely words lacking any kind of meaningful action behind them.  One SMU is too many.  Two of them calls for a significant change to the structure of collegiate athletics.

And a sweeping change to the hypocrisy that Dee’s involvement on both sides fully displays.

Temple trustees vote to pursue new on-campus football stadium

Students, such as Casey Dougherty, rally outside a meeting of Temple University's Finance Committee on Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, in Philadelphia. Temple University is pumping the brakes on plans to study building a $100 million football stadium on its north Philadelphia campus. (Charles Fox/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)  PHIX OUT; TV OUT; MAGS OUT; NEWARK OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT
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With a loud protest taking place just outside, Temple’s board of trustees voted unanimously in favor of pursuing a new football stadium for the Owls program. A study to review potential stadium options could cost the school up to, but not exceeding, $1 million.

The latest plans for a new football stadium would have a proposed 35,000-seat stadium costing up to $126 million placed on Temple’s campus, thus eliminating the need to rent out space in Lincoln Financial Field. Temple’s football program has called The Linc home since the doors opened in 2003. Temple has not played its home games on its campus since leaving Temple Stadium in 1977, at which point it moved its home games to Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia’s sports complex. The vote to pursue a new stadium today is a giant step forward for Temple and the football program and perhaps a long time coming, but it is not one without its share of controversy.

The talks of a new football stadium at Temple have gone on for years, but are now finally seeming to take some steps forward despite a vocal objection from many around Temple’s campus and the Philadelphia community. Protests and demonstrations were planned as the board reviewed the next steps in a new stadium, which is still not a certainty for the university at this point. Among those voicing their opinions on Monday afternoon were students, Philadelphia citizens and more concerned about what a stadium dropped in the middle of North Philadelphia might mean for the community. Given the lackluster impact and results seen at similar campuses, there is legitimate reason for some concern at Temple, which is just now experiencing a new high in football success.

This is just one step out of many that needs to happen in order for Temple to construct a new football stadium. Approval from the city to build such a facility would have to be given, and that is no guarantee.

Ex-Oregon Duck QB landing at Towson

Quarterback Morgan Mahalak hands off to running back Lane Roseberry during the University of Oregon opening day of college football spring practice at the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex in Eugene, Ore. Tuesday, March 31, 2015. (AP Photo/The Register-Guard, Brian Davies)
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Former Oregon quarterback Morgan Mahalak is heading to the FCS for a chance to compete for a starting job. Mahalak will join the Towson Tigers of the Colonial Athletic Association, where he will be eligible to play immediately starting this fall.

“We are happy that we have secured a commitment from such a talented young quarterback,” said Towson head coach Rob Ambrose in a released statement.  “Morgan brings a tremendous amount of potential and secures great competition at the quarterback position.”

Mahalak was released from his scholarship at Oregon in January, at his request. The former four-star recruit should be a nice addition for the Towson program. Mahalak had a tough time finding playing time in Eugene during his two seasons with the Ducks while Marcus Mariota was winning a Heisman Trophy and Vernon Adams was transferring to take the starting job for Oregon. Mahalak served on Orgeon’s scout team last season. With Oregon once again going the FCS transfer QB route this season with Dakota Prukop, it appeared unlikely Mahalak was going to get a chance once again.

Illinois adds Central Michigan to future schedule

Kent State running back Myles Washington (26) loses his helmet after being tackled by Illinois defensive back Chris James (12), defensive back Dillan Cazley (25) and defensive back Cedric Doxy (26) during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015, in Champaign, Ill. Illinois won the game 52-3. (AP Photo/ Stephen Haas)
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For those planning ahead, Illinois has added a future game against Central Michigan to the 2022 football schedule. The Illini will reportedly host the Chippewas on September 24, 2022 in a one-game scheduling agreement. Illinois will pay Central Michigan $1.5 million for the game. The two schools have never faced each other on the football field, so this could very well end up being the first meeting barring any potential postseason matchups.

Big Ten teams are required to schedule at least one power conference opponent each year as part of its non-conference scheduling commitment. Central Michigan does not satisfy that commitment, but the Illini are already covered that season with a home game against Virginia. Illinois is scheduled to host Virginia from the ACC on September 10, 2022 in the second of a two-year home-and-home series. Virginia will host Illinois on September 11, 2021. Illinois has its power conference non-scheduling commitment fulfilled from 2021 through 2026, but will have to do some schedule tweaking if it is to satisfy the commitment before 2021. The Big Ten also already granted exemption status for some games due to schedules being booked years in advance. Illinois has their non-conference slate booked for 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2020 and has just one vacancy to fill in 2019.

Central Michigan has also added a future series against FAU. FAU will host Central Michigan on September 21, 2019 and Central Michigan will serve as host to the Owls on September 18, 2021.

Helmet sticker to the always schedule-aware FBSchedules.com.

Chad Morris building SMU with Texas recruits

SMU head coach Chad Morris, center, takes field with his team for warm ups before an NCAA college football game against Baylor, Friday, Sept. 4, 2015, in Dallas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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The rebuilding of SMU is a project that is no easy task. As Chad Morris gets ready for his second season on the job, he continues to do what he can to build a foundation based on Texas recruits. For the second straight season, SMU assembled a recruiting class consisting of only Texas recruits.

I’m extremely proud of that,” Morris said last week, per The Dallas Morning News. “You’ll hear a lot of talk about us being Texas tough.

“The toughest thing was trying to create the momentum that we had a year ago, especially coming off a season that wasn’t up to our standards. The majority of our kids were committed to us before the season ever started.

SMU is the only FBS program to land a recruiting class consisting of just players from the state of Texas over the past two recruiting classes. The state of Texas has always been a large and competitive recruiting state, and SMU is certainly facing some stiff competition left and right between traditional heavyweights like Texas and Texas A&M, emerging powers in Baylor and TCU and rising conference rival Houston in addition to other programs from the Big 12 and SEC and beyond making visits into the Lone Star state.

If restoring pride in the SMU program is going to succeed, installing a strong Texas connection is a smart way to go for Morris and the Mustangs.

“It was important for us to do that, to build that continuity, build that relationship with these guys,” Morris said. “The majority of them had big-time offers, so we were battling all the way up to the final hour.”