Whether you’re a football fan or not, which would be really confusing if you’re not a fan since you’re reading this article about….well, football. Regardless if you are or not, just about everyone knows about the “Reggie Bush Scandal.” For the few of you out there that have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m talking about one of the most exciting players to ever play collegiate football accepting bribes and gifts, a direct NCAA violation, during his time playing running back at USC.
From 2003-2005, Reggie Bush registered 6,541all purpose yards, 42 touchdowns, 4 of which came off kick off and punt returns, he led the Trojans to a National Championship, and won the most prestigious award in all of college football, the Heisman Trophy….Oh, he also threw for a touchdown; it seemed as if there was nothing the guy couldn’t do. However, if you walk the halls of USC today, you wouldn’t see any of the legacy Bush left behind anywhere. This is all because of reports that surfaced in 2006 of Bush allegedly accepting bribes and gifts, a violation of NCAA policies, leading to the legacy that Bush left in LA being tainted forever, as far as NCAA personnel is concerned.
The NCAA came down hard on Bush’s alma mater as a result of the scandal. The university was given 4 years of probation and forced to vacate its last two wins of the ’04 season, all victories accounted for in the 2005 season, including their 2005 National Championship win, and being banned from bowl games following the 2010 and 2011 seasons. On July 20, 2010, USC president announced that the school would remove all memorabilia displayed in Bush’s honor from its facilities. Late in 2010, Bush made NCAA Football history for all the wrong reasons, when he became the first player in the history of the Heisman Trophy to forfeit the award.
Fast forward 5 years from the start of the “Bush Scandal” and you’ll find the same thing happening, just look to the other side of the map. However, this isn’t just a one player scandal, but an 8-year scandal involving over 70 athletes from the University of Miami. Though this might come as a shock for the average fan Miami isn’t a stranger to this kind of controversy. Just rewind to the “glory days” for the Canes and ask rapper from 2 Live Crew, Luther Campbell, about his “pay for play” reward system, in which he would reward players with money for big hits and big plays; though the Hurricanes were never punished for the infraction . This time isn’t much different, as convicted felon and former Miami booster Nevin Shapiro claims to have given around 2 million dollars in illegal benefits to at least 72 current or former Hurricane athletes. If these allegations prove to be true, Shapiro would have violated at least 4 major NCAA bylaws.
Many of you are probably asking, who is this Shapiro guy? And why is he making allegations like these? As for a little background on the New York native, he previously served 6 years in Canadian prisons for business fraud and was accused of stealing $6 million. The man who was a former booster for the University of Miami football program, Shapiro is currently imprisoned for orchestrating a $930 million Ponzi Scheme, and is set to serve 20 years. So why is this guy trying to single handedly destroy a whole football program? Maybe it’s because he’s bored in prison and has nothing better to do. Well, that’s what former Hurricane cornerback Antrel Rolle thinks anyways.
So what does the NCAA do next? Do they just let it slide like they did in the later part of the 20th century? Do they revoke all of Miami’s victories of the last 8 years and ban the program from competing in bowl games like they did to USC? Might they throw the ultimate dagger and give the football program the “Death Penalty,” and suspend them from play for a whole season? Let’s dig a little deeper to try and find a good answer to all these questions.
Let’s go over all the possible scenarios that could occur. Do they just let it slide like they did before? Honestly, after the Bush Scandal, the Ohio State controversy, and the allegations put on 2010 Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton, I don’t think this is possible. If they do that, that’s just a clear message to every other collegiate program saying that it’s okay for this to happen – not exactly the message the NCAA wants to send.
Now let’s talk about the “Death Penalty,” which has only been used once before in collegiate football. The SMU Mustangs were investigated for violating many NCAA rules and regulations, the most serious being “under the table” payments to players from the mid-70’s thru 1986. After the investigation proved to be successful, the schools 1987 football season was canceled. Though only a one year penalty, SMU decided not to field a team the following season due to the severity of the penalty. Giving SMU that harsh of a penalty came close to destroying Mustang football, and was a leading factor that led to the collapse of the Southwest Conference. After the “Death Penalty”, SMU only had 1 winning season over the next 2 decades and failed to reach a bowl game until 2009.
Now, you never know what’s going to happen, because of the power that the NCAA has and how this could be the perfect chance to make an example of one of the most storied football programs in the nation. Honestly, I don’t think the NCAA will give the Hurricanes the “Death Penalty”, quite frankly, because of the severe backlash that it would cause. Not only that, but the last time they handed down this penalty, it destroyed not only a football program, but it led to the collapse of a conference, and reduced the grossing of one of the most popular cities in the nation, Dallas. So to sum it all up, I think the NCAA lacks the back bone to chose to take this route, because of the rich history of the football program in Coral Gables.
Now on to option 3 – vacate some of their wins over the time period and suspend them from bowl games. That sounds very reasonable, and agreeable upon fans of college football. I mean, yeah, of course you’ll get the fans that think it’s too harsh, and you’ll also get fans that think it’s not hard enough, insert Gator and Seminole fans, but in the end, the vast majority will be satisfied with this outcome. But when you really think about it, what would they really be taking away from Miami? Let’s say they vacate all victories attained since 2002, and the two Big East Conference Championships the Canes won; there’s no major championships being vacated like with USC. The thing that I believe would really hurt more than anything would be banning the football program from one or even multiple bowl games, and the loss of scholarships. For a team that was once a National Powerhouse, the Hurricanes haven’t had as much success over the last decade. With a team that is on the rise, the loss of scholarships and bowl appearances would cut deep in South Beach.
However yet to be proven, most every analyst believe Shapiro’s allegations to be true. Now, don’t expect anything to happen this year, as the NCAA still needs time to investigate the matter at hand. I wouldn’t expect any kind of penalty to be handed down until at least the end of the 2011-12 campaign. The only question now is weather or not the NCAA hands down punishments to any of the players reportedly involved in the scandal during this year. That again, would be very surprising to me if they chose that route because of the lack of evidence at this time. But then again, like anything else in life, things can change, and you never know what the NCAA could do. I mean, who can honestly say they saw a scandal of this magnitude coming?