Betteridge's Law of Headlines tells us that whenever a headline ends with a question mark, the answer is "no." But laws are meant to be broken, as the Mustangs' athletic department has shown time and again over the years. The answer is "yes."
Before I get into my argument, I'd like to point out that I sympathize with Mustang fans who favor suing the NCAA into oblivion (not that anything would come of it, but I like the thought) and think it's an organization that's corrupt to the core. Of course it is. The NCAA vacillates between laughably incompetent and actively evil. But SMU made the choice to play by the NCAA's rules, so it's stuck with them.
Anyway: as you surely know by now, former McDonald's All-American Keith Frazier signed up for an online course to ensure his eligibility. An administrative assistant used his login information to complete all the work for him, leading to a Level I violation. (Frazier says he had no knowledge of this. I'm skeptical.)
And that was only half of it. Former men's golf coach Josh Gregory eventually admitted to impermissibly contacting recruits in an attempt to raise the stature of the program, and he provided improper benefits (in the form of free golf gear) to recruits. Also, Gregory originally lied to NCAA investigators. Remember: it's never the crime, it's the cover-up. Basketball got Level I violations, but golf got Level I with an aggravation specification for the lying.
So after all that, Larry Brown is out for nine games and has a two-year show-cause penalty (which won't matter because he's already employed by SMU, so they don't need to show cause to hire him); Josh Gregory got a five-year show-cause penalty; the school's former compliance director got a two-year show-cause penalty; the basketball team won't play in the postseason; the golf team won't play in the postseason, and both teams face three years of scholarship reductions.
Of course, if anywhere should know better, it's Southern Methodist. The Mustangs are the single most penalized team in Division I, having been found responsible for major infractions ten times: 2015 (men's basketball and men's golf); 2011 (men's basketball); 2000 (football);1987 (football); 1985 (football); 1981 (football); 1976 (football); 1974 (football and men's basketball); 1965 (football) and 1958 (football). And, as readers of this blog surely know, 1987 remains the only time the NCAA has levied the death penalty against a football program.
What more does it take for Southern Methodist to keep its house in order? We can talk until we're blue in the face about whether they were unfairly singled out in 1987, but the fact remains that David Stanley's family was mailed checks from the recruiting office rather than given cash by a bag man. Say what you will about how everyone was cheating in the SWC in the 1980s, at least everyone else wasn't that careless (and that careless when already on probation, to boot).
Take the past four years in men's basketball as an example. In 2011, SMU was penalized for improper contacts with recruits during the first years of Matt Doherty's tenure. They faced two years of sanctions, lasting through the 2012-13 season.
While the team was still on probation, Doherty was let go for his lackluster record. Whom did the Mustangs hire? Larry Brown. The same Larry Brown whose Final Four appearance with UCLA was vacated and whose Kansas team faced major sanctions the second he left to coach the Spurs. I get that John Calipari was working elsewhere at the time and Jerry Tarkanian had retired, but if you want to bring rules-abiding leadership to your troubled athletic department while on probation, Brown's the third-worst choice.
It leaves me wondering: has SMU learned an institutional lesson? Once every six-and-a-half years or so since the late 1950s, their teams have faced major sanctions. (That average gets smaller when you consider it on a per-program basis: since 1958, a program gets major sanctions every 5.8 years.)
Thousands of Mustang student-athletes since Eisenhower was president have never competed without at least one of the school's teams operating under sanctions. I think it's clear that the answer is no. No, SMU hasn't learned. And while the NCAA quite correctly has limits on how far back it looks when considering a lack of institutional control, I think the school's history makes it clear that it will never learn unless drastic measures are taken.
I don't claim to be a wizard about NCAA bylaws, so I'm sure my proposal would violate most of them. But consider: The football program was given the death penalty in 1987. What was the next SMU team to get slapped with major violations? The football team, in 2000. They never learn.
They didn't learn from probation.
They didn't learn from scholarship reductions.
They didn't learn from TV blackouts.
They didn't learn from postseason bans.
They didn't learn when the NCAA nuked the football program from space and turned it into a shell of its former self. They never learn.
So if deterrence isn't working, we move on to retribution. If I were the NCAA, I'd give the whole athletic department the death penalty. Of course, any current student-athlete would be free to transfer without restriction and eligible to compete immediately, so long as that student-athlete is otherwise in good standing; and any student-athlete who wishes to stay should have his or her athletic scholarship (if any) honored until graduation.
It's about punishing the school as an institution, not the athletes. This is an athletic department that went rogue in the early days of NCAA enforcement and never looked back. It's time to shut it down, wait ten years, and start all over again.
For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.
Editor's Note: thechuck_2112 is the Miami RedHawks manager at our sister blog, Hustle Belt. The opinions expressed here are his own.