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How Long Does The Death Penalty Last? Ask SMU.

The Death Penalty. A threat that is so rare and so frightening that it sends shivers down fans’ minds every time their team is being investigated. But for something that is so feared, it has only happened a handful of times. So is something that is so uncommon really something that should be worried about? Ask SMU.

A quick backstory is required to show how serious the Death Penalty is in modern sports. Both Kentucky (1952-53) and Southwestern Lousiana (1972) were hit with the Death Penalty before Southern Methodist. SMU’s punishment was the first under the “repeat offender” rule. In 1987, while on probation, the NCAA found that SMU has continued to commit violations and found it necessary to give them the Death Penalty. SMU’s scandal included paying players money, cars, and anything else they might need. It was one of the dirtiest scandals to ever hit collegiate sports. If something could have been illegal in the eyes of the NCAA, the Mustangs were probably doing it.

After SMU was hit with probation in 1985, the school did not immediately stop paying players. According to Time, they phased out payments. SMU continued to pay the players that were already there until they were gone. If you have seen the 30 For 30 on SMU, you know what happened next. A former player came forward and recounted how players were still being paid for their services. Long story short, the NCAA found the information to be true and slammed the door on SMU. The Death Penalty was given to the Mustangs’ Football Program in 1987.

So what effect did the Death Penalty have on SMU’s Program and the school as a whole? After the 1987 game was canceled, all home games in 1988 were as well. No games were on TV for several years, dozens of lost scholarships, recruiting was essentially shut down. It may seem like a program is only out for a year, but the Death Penalty can ruin a program for decades. SMU was a national contender in the 1980s, pumping out NFL Prospects and competing against the top schools in Texas.  After probation hit in 1985, the Mustangs did not return to a bowl game until 2009 and struggled to bring any talent into their program. SMU was completely irrelevant for almost three decades and is just now beginning to see some form of consistency in their program.

The Death Penalty completely changes everything. The school. The players. The coaches. The town. If Louisville were to be hit with the Death Penalty, it would set a precedent for the effect afterward. Dallas was not dependent on SMU sports. The ripples of the Death Penalty would be felt for decades in Louisville. There would be much more of an economic impact (hotels, downtown, restaurants) than there was at SMU as well as emotional. The program is more influential on the town and campus than SMU. The effect the Death Penalty on Louisville would be groundbreaking and would tear down an institution that has been at the center of the city.

Louisville has already lost several big recruits in less than 24 hours after Tom Jurich and Rick Pitino were dismissed. If the NCAA drops the hammer, Louisville would lose top recruits for years. The Death Penalty is meant to punish those that don’t heed the warnings of the NCAA. Louisville may or may not be deserving, but you don’t have to look past the last thirty years to see that the Death Penalty is a punishment that affects a program for a lot longer than one season.

Article written by Trey Huntsman

The KSR Baseball guy. Follow me on Twitter @TreyHuntsmanSEC.

27 Comments for How Long Does The Death Penalty Last? Ask SMU.



  1. StuckinLville
    7:04 pm September 29, 2017 Permalink

    Prostitutes then paying before the other crap is even settled should get the death penalty.



  2. Mathlete
    7:05 pm September 29, 2017 Permalink

    At least in basketball, two or three decent recruiting classes can rebuild your team. Granted a lot of Louisville’s best recruiting classes were as dirty as they come (hookers, cash, etc), but it’s not as if they have nothing to build on



    • syrin23
      11:23 pm September 29, 2017 Permalink

      Exactly. You can turn a basketball program around in 1-2 years with a few great recruits. Football takes forever and even that might not work.



  3. John Henry
    7:34 pm September 29, 2017 Permalink

    If Louisville does not get the death penalty then somebody owes SMU an apology and reparations for the money they lost. As far as the city of Louisville economy where does it say in the NCAA rule book a University gets a pass if hotels and restaurants in the community will lose money because of the probation and or death penalty?



    • AdamN
      8:33 pm September 29, 2017 Permalink

      I don’t think the point of the article is to say that UL shouldn’t get the death penalty because of the potential financial impact on the city. I don’t think the point of the article is to generate sympathy for Louisville. I didn’t write it, so I can’t be 100% certain, but it just doesn’t seem like that is the intended message. This seems to only be a discussion of just how bad/impactful the death penalty really is.



    • Luether
      9:26 pm September 29, 2017 Permalink

      If the NCAA only wrist slapped North Carolina, I don’t see Louisville getting the death penalty.

      Even without it, it will likely take years for Louisville to return to relevance in basketball…



    • skyfall
      6:39 pm September 30, 2017 Permalink

      I was a freshman at SMU in 1989. Our first year back in football after the death penalty. Aikman’s rookie year with the Cowboys too. While the death penalty was extremely severe, it was well deserved. SMU took cheating to a new level and the excuse of “everyone else does it” was irrelevant. Does this sound familiar Louisville? Fortunately SMU had an identity outside athletics. We cleaned house, learned from the past and moved on. In business school we studied the whole matter as a business case and those lessons remain with me to this day. Dallas was large enough to overcome SMU’s shame and SMU was smart enough to learn from its shame. Louisville isn’t Dallas and UofL isn’t SMU.



  4. BBN in H-Town
    7:55 pm September 29, 2017 Permalink

    You think the YUM Center fiasco is bad now? I don’t believe people understand the inevitable consequences if Louisville receives the death penalty …



    • Luether
      9:27 pm September 29, 2017 Permalink

      The Yum Center fiasco will be worse no matter what happens…



    • mcp157
      10:15 pm September 29, 2017 Permalink

      The only way the Yum Center will ever be in the black is if Louisville gets a NBA team. Period. Please no talk about how this town won’t support a team. It would, but it would mean the end of U of Hell’s dominance in this town and their fan’s are the ones always negative about that idea.



    • indbybirthcatbychoice
      11:26 pm September 29, 2017 Permalink

      The only way Louisville gets an NBA team is if UL becomes totally irrelevant.



  5. kentuckyrld
    8:25 pm September 29, 2017 Permalink

    If for no other reason Louisville deserves the death penalty just because they are Louisville. No other reason is needed.



  6. A_Blue_Wildcat
    8:46 pm September 29, 2017 Permalink

    What people forget about SMU and the death penalty is that SMU was completely irrelevant before they started paying players, so while the death penalty obviously caused massive damage it more so just really brought them back to where they were before and gave them incentive to never pay players again.



  7. Bluegrass79
    8:48 pm September 29, 2017 Permalink

    No way Mitch McConnell will let Loserville burn. He will make a call. Grease a few palms for probation Mitch’!



  8. yoshukai
    9:02 pm September 29, 2017 Permalink

    The city of Louisville DESPERATELY needs to lure an NBA team to the YUM center . Only thing to keep it from going under .



  9. University-6
    9:38 pm September 29, 2017 Permalink

    Have fun Cards fans. Hope you enjoy cheering on UL’s ping pong team for the next 10 years.



  10. 4everUKblue
    9:50 pm September 29, 2017 Permalink

    It would seem UNC is going to totally get away without any punishment whatsoever! Somebody at Chapel Hill has some sore lips.



  11. [email protected]
    11:56 pm September 29, 2017 Permalink

    It’s not right punishing ONE or MORE Universities…& NOT PUNISHING ALL!!!
    That just isn’t the RIGHT THING TO DO!!
    They need to be punished accordingly to their “gloom & doom” choices they made!!



  12. Reuben Cuban
    6:28 am September 30, 2017 Permalink

    While arguably earned, and extremely well deserved, uavel will not receive the Death Penalty (DP). Next, Pitino and Jurich have not been fired in the true sense of the term. The hiring of Padget as ‘interim coach’ is a calculated and temporary move designed to mitigate the possibility of the DP.



  13. UKfanforlife
    9:05 am September 30, 2017 Permalink

    You can’t compare football to basketball.

    Basketball can be turned around with a single stellar recruiting class.

    Football programs have to be built with three to four very talented classes in a row and hope that the head coach still has his job after year four, when they still haven’t reached a bowl game.



  14. BTownUKFan
    9:46 am September 30, 2017 Permalink

    To say Kentucky got hit with the death penalty in 1952 is misleading because the NCAA did not institute an official “Death Penalty” punishment until 1985.



  15. Trevor
    9:50 am September 30, 2017 Permalink

    You guys don’t know me but I post occasionally. For the ones that do notice my posts you know that I am a manager at a large Ford Dealer in the heart of Louisville. I was at Paul Miller but I met my fiance and moved here 5 years ago.

    I am also a hardcore UK fan and proud member of BBN.

    With that say, I can see how this Louisville situation ripples way past basketball. My fiance is the Manager at Mussel and Burger Bar downtown (a couple of blocks from Yum). So I can see how much of a major impact his situation and the death penalty in general will have on the Louisville economy.

    You guys are right though, you can build a basketball program back up much quicker than a football program. So I don’t see Louisville being down as long as SMU. But the Death Penalty (which I feel is seriously on the table) will be huge for them.



    • Trevor
      10:09 am September 30, 2017 Permalink

      That third paragraph should say *With that SAID* and **Major impact of THIS situation* LOL!!!



  16. ukkatzfan
    9:55 am September 30, 2017 Permalink

    I will not miss the rivalry of basketball. I will not miss them in any way shape or form. NCAA and the state of Ky can put locks on the doors of the school and I would be happy. My dislike for U-6 and coach-2 could not be lower.



  17. runningunnin.454
    11:24 am September 30, 2017 Permalink

    UL won’t get DP; SMU got it due to CONTINUED disregard for NCAA rules while on probation…oh wait.
    UNC won’t get anything from NCAA except a card…”We love you almost as much as Duke”.



  18. patrickn9023
    11:54 am September 30, 2017 Permalink

    Just require, in addition to the the removal of all wins, the removal of all parties involved, from the AD down, which is something that wasn’t implemented in the first scandal. This would, in theory, remove the cheating culture at UofL, which is the whole point right?



  19. UKfanman01
    4:03 pm September 30, 2017 Permalink

    Just the simple fact that it was Pitino himself doing it while appealing a scandal should automatically call for the death penalty. With that being said I hope that’s not the case. I’d love to see all scholarships stripped (no pun intended) for 4 years, no post season for 4 years, and only the UK UofLol game televised. I’d sure miss UK beating them for a few years