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5 Schools That Couldn’t Avoid the Dreaded ‘Death Penalty’

Penn State got hit with severe sanctions by the NCAA on Monday morning, including a $60 million fine, a four-year football postseason ban and a vacation of all wins dating back to 1998.

Penn State must also reduce its total scholarships each year for that four-year period. But the school has survived the biggest punishment that the NCAA could have handed it: the death penalty.

In accordance with the NCAA’s ruling, Penn State won’t be suspended from competition. Still, the school faces an uphill battle to earn its reputation back after revelations that beloved coach Joe Paterno helped cover up decades of child abuse — on Sunday, the school removed Paterno’s statue outside Beaver Stadium. Here’s a look back at the five colleges who did suffer from the death penalty, and what they did to earn their exclusions:

KENTUCKY – 1952

Kentucky Basketball
University of Kentucky

The Wildcats were a force to be reckoned with even back then, but that success came to a halt in 1951 when the NCAA got wind of a point shaving scandal. Several players were arrested for taking bribes from gamblers for an NIT games during the 1948-49 season. That year, the team won its second straight NCAA title. An investigation revealed that the school had committed several rule violations, including giving illegal spending money. They were suspended for a year, though unofficially, since the NCAA hadn’t established its power to assign the death penalty at that point. The year it returned to play, the team put up a 25–0 record.

SOUTHWESTERN LOUISIANA – 1973

Basketball
Thinkstock

Southwestern Louisiana’s basketball program got hit hard after it recruited players improperly, among other infractions. The head coach gave players money and other gifts — like lending his car — and gave money to prospective players as well. The school also allowed ineligible players to compete. Most egregious and troubling was a report that an assistant coach forged the signature of a high school principal on a player’s transcript. They got banned from the 1973-74 and 1974-75 seasons as a result.

SOUTHERN METHODIST UNIVERSITY – 1987

It’s probably the most notorious cheating scandal that the NCAA ever had to tackle. Boosters paid SMU football players for years without anyone knowing. The school had been sanctioned multiples times before receiving the death penalty, and it didn’t pose a deterrent because the scandal ran so deep that there was a large fear that everything would unravel. The only thing that the NCAA could do was shut down the program entirely. SMU returned in 1987, but it chose to take the following year off to rebuild, recover, and recruit. Their next bowl game wasn’t until 2009.

MOREHOUSE COLLEGE – 2004

Morehouse
Erik S. Lesser, Getty Images

 

Small schools are under the same scrutiny as Morehouse College found out when the Atlanta school met the wrath of the NCAA due to violations by its men’s soccer program. They had signed professionals, resulting in a multiple-season ban on competition and a record-tying five years’ probation. The school actually agreed with the committee’s assessment and took the penalty in stride. “We all have discussed it and feel like it’s a just decision,” athletics director Andre Pattillo said. “It gives us a chance to do some things to make sure that, when we bring the program back, everything is going to be in order.”

MACMURRAY COLLEGE – 2005

The men’s tennis team at MacMurray College in Jacksonville, IL, became the first Division III program to get such a severe sanction. They got a two-year ban for giving financial assistance to 10 foreign-born players. They weren’t permitted to give any scholarships at all, according to NCAA rules for Div. III schools. The violations were self-reported, and the college put a stop to the season when it discovered the violations. The coach reportedly called the rules a “joke” when he got wind of the decision.

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