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The Early Lead
Posted at 12:34 PM ET, 08/19/2011

University of Miami football scandal: Should NCAA implement death penalty, make example of Hurricanes?


Will Miami’s football program survive or is the “death penalty” the only fitting punishment? (Jeffrey Boan - AP)

(Does Miami football deserve the NCAA’s death penalty? Cast your vote here.)

The details of the decade-long scandal involving the University of Miami’s football program are still trickling out, but from what we already know it’s evident this could be the most egregious, widespread and long-lasting disregard for NCAA rules and regulations ever.

From cash to parties, cars to hookers and just about everything in between, the scope of renegade booster Nevin Shapiro’s involvement with “The U” (as detailed in a Yahoo! Sports report) is a shocking revelation that cannot go ignored by a governing body that continues to fail to enforce policies it claims are in place to preserve the integrity of college athletics.

The term “death penalty” has been tossed about as the most logical punishment for Miami’s football program, but aside from historical references to Southern Methodist University’s quashed football team from the late 1980s, what does “death penalty” really entail?

According to the NCAA glossary, the “death penalty” is a phrase used by the media to describe the harshest penalties possible.

“It applies  only to repeat violators and can include eliminating the involved sport for at least one year, the elimination of athletics aid in that sport for two years and the school relinquishing its Association voting privileges for a four-year period. A school is a repeat violator if a second major violation occurs within five years of the start date of the penalty from the first case. The cases do not have to be in the same sport.”

The case for the “death penalty” in Coral Gables is a strong one, and it’s a side many in the world of sports media have already taken. According to Charles Robinson’s story, Shapiro had illegal contact with as many 73 current and former Miami football and basketball players including 25 NFL draft picks, several members of the football and basketball coaching staffs and school administrators.

Buzz Bissinger at The Daily Beast is calling for the Miami football program to be put to death for good, along with the immediate resignation of school president Donna Shalala and the banning of booster programs at all colleges and universities.

Now the obstacles:

• The death penalty can be applied to “repeat violators if a second major violation occurs within five years of a start date of a penalty from the first case.” The last time Miami was sanctioned by the NCAA was in 1995 when the Hurricanes lost scholarships and earned a postseason bowl ban for multiple violations.

• The ramifications of eliminating a program with Miami’s notoriety and success — the Hurricanes have five AP national championships — even for on a temporary basis, could be catastrophic for the program, the university, the Atlantic Coast Conference and beyond. Unlike SMU, Miami is a long-established national power with a place carved out among the sports traditional elite. As football analyst Craig James (who played for SMU in the 1980s) said on ESPN Radio’s “The Herd” on Wednesday: “It’s totally detrimental to the health of the school and, again, not fair based on the actions of the few who are responsible for the actions taking place.”

So, will the NCAA drop the hammer on Miami and kill the Hurricanes football program?

NCAA president Mark Emmert — speaking in generalities — told USA Today that the governing body of college athletics is still willing to use the “death penalty” if it’s deemed necessary.

“Clearly the impact of the so-called death penalty is really severe. You wouldn’t want to enter into it without a very solid reason for doing so.
“Having said that, if that’s an option that the (NCAA) Committee on Infractions believes is appropriate in any one case — it doesn’t matter which one it is — I’m not opposed to them using that. We need to have penalties that serve as effective deterrents so that people who are doing the calculation in their head (as to) whether or not the risks and rewards line up, recognize the price of being caught.”

Speaking specifically about Miami, Emmert said: “If the assertions are true, the alleged conduct at the University of Miami is an illustration of the need for serious and fundamental change in many critical aspects of college sports.”

In a summer replete with college football scandals and NCAA investigations — from Ohio State to Auburn to North Carolina to Oregon and beyond — will the Miami allegations finally spark change in a system that has long been broken? Is killing the Hurricanes the only way to deter other schools from following a similar path?

What’s your take?

Related coverage:

John Feinstein: Fixing college sports requires less talk, more action

Convicted Ponzi schemer Nevin Shapiro tells Yahoo! Sports he gave gifts to Miami athletes

Box Seats: Does Miami football deserve the NCAA’s “Death Penalty”?

By  |  12:34 PM ET, 08/19/2011

 
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