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SMU Death Penalty

SMU Death Penalty - To most modern-day college football fans, the sanctions handed down to USC for the Reggie Bush scandal were the most significant in memory. But over 20 years ago, Southern Methodist University didn't just forfeit games or titles, they faced the "death penalty."

In 1987, the NCAA voted unanimously to cancel SMU's entire 1987 season, and allowed it to only play seven games -- none at home -- in 1988 as a result of an investigation that discovered in 1985 and 1986 the school had paid 13 players a total of $61,000 from a "slush fund" provided by a booster.

The saga will be featured in ESPN's 30 for 30 documentary "Pony Excess," titled after the infamous "Pony Express" backfield of Eric Dickerson and Craig James that led the team in the early 80s.

The school, which was tied heavily at the time to the powerful oil-heavy Dallas political and social structure, was already under tight scrutiny from the NCAA, placed under probation a number of times for recruiting violations. They were banned from bowl games in 1985 and 1986, but that's nothing compared to what was to come.

SMU Death Penalty

In 1986, a Dallas television station got a tip that David Stanley, an SMU linebacker in 1983 and 1984, was paid to sign with the school and receiving subsequent payments during his playing days. The NCAA picked up on the report and investigated the school and discovered that Dallas real estate developer Sherwood Blount Jr. had been supplying money used to pay the school's players, though other boosters were believed to have been involved. The payments were approved by the school.

After being discovered, SMU proposed a series of penalties and vowed to obey the rules, but still saw the NCAA committee vote to cancel the school's entire 1987 season. The "death penalty" actually allows the NCAA to cancel a program for two years; the only thing that spared SMU from that fate was its cooperation with the investigation.

SMU Death Penalty


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