In 1987 college football would never be the same. Southern Methodist University located in Dallas Texas, was handed down one of the biggest punishments in sports history. The Mustangs already on probation for recruiting violations, were found guilty of paying 13 players $61,000 from a booster slush fund. Not only did the coaching staff allow this to happen, the athletic director and members of the department knew about the fund. The NCAA didn't hesitate and used the scandal to make an example to other teams that there is zero tolerance for these actions. SMU gated off the field and was given the death penalty: shutting down the program for the whole 1988 season. The program lost 55 scholarships over a four-year span. From '88-2007 the Mustangs struggled, only being able to tally up one winning season in 20 years.
Scandals like this have been seen over the years in college athletics. You can date back to 1999 Minnesota's basketball program, when the team tutor wrote 400 papers for at least 20 players. We can fast-forward to 2011 when big time University of Miami booster Nevin Shapiro provided football and basketball players with money, entertainment, and even an abortion. Today the NCAA faces another huge scandal involving the University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill, which can possibly make it a non-accredited institution.
The Tar Heels have possibly attempted the biggest academic fraud in collegiate history, involving more than 3,100 students over 18 years. What is more disturbing is nearly 47% of those students are student-athletes. Academic counselors for UNC's athletics knowingly put borderline athletes into Afro-American studies to maintain player's eligibility. From football to women's basketball, players were provided with recycled papers and undeserving grades to continue competing. The university, academic department, and athletics made a mockery of the NCAA, at the time where the industry's enforcement has been lukewarm.
In 2012 the Committee of Infractions gave the Tar Heel's football program a slap on the hand, when they banned the program from bowl games for one year. However this did not stem from today's allegations, instead it evolved from players taking benefits from an agent that had ties with an assistant coach. The decision that the NCAA will make can either reinforce faith in their punishment system or continue to let these scandals pass by. This scandal in particular bypasses others, especially USC's back in 2004.
The University of Southern California faced detrimental penalties when Reggie Bush and family were found guilty of taking improper benefits. The Trojan's running back accepted over $300,000 in expenses including a used house, from two sport agents. USC paid the ultimate price, having their Orange Bowl victory for the BCS championship and victories in 2005 erased. They were banned from postseason play for two years and 30 scholarships over three years were taken from them. The most electrifying athlete in college football also became the first player in Heisman Trophy history to return the award. From there the Trojans lost big time recruits and games, rebuilding over the years to get back to their winning ways. We can only wait for the NCAA's verdict on the Tar Heels' scandal for so long without thinking: "How harsh will their punishment be?" They can either give North Carolina sanctions that can possibly lead to the death penalty or they will give them another slap on the wrist unlike the Trojans.