Since the current NCAA enforcement mechanism was created in 1952 there have been some 618 teams penalized in a variety of sports. Things peaked in the 1980s when there were 89 sanctions handed down, including the death penalty given to the SMU football program in 1987. Since 2010, however, we have already seen 14 programs issued sanctions, the most recent being the formerly pristine football program at Penn State.
The following list gives a few details about the top 10 schools on the list of cheaters since 1952. Only 3 schools that currently play in FBS conferences have never had any athletic programs sanctioned by the NCAA. These schools are Northwestern, Boston College and Stanford. Boston College should perhaps receive and asterisk because of a point shaving scandal involving some it its basketball players that came occurred during the 1978-79 season. Stanford had its athletic programs scrutinized a few years ago when it was reported that a list of easy courses and professors had been passed around in the athletic department to help student-athletes sign up for courses where they could easily receive high grades.
1. Arizona State — Nine Major Infractions: The Sun Devils would be the biggest cheaters, but because they aren’t a consistent football powerhouse, their misdeeds have been mostly overlooked. Arizona State is primarily known for its baseball program, which has won five national championships and produced legends such as Reggie Jackson and fittingly, Barry Bonds. Last December, it was penalized for major secondary violations, resulting in three years of probation and a one-year ban from NCAA postseason.
2. SMU — Eight Major Infractions: Holding the unfortunate distinction of being just one of five programs in NCAA history to suffer the death penalty, SMU football is still the poster child for corruption in major college athletics. Its capital offense was maintaining a slush fund to pay players from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s, even when the program was already on probation — from 1974 to 1985, it was penalized on five separate occasions. Because SMU was under such intense scrutiny from the NCAA, the powers that be had little choice but to levy the harshest penalty. As a result, the entire 1987 season was canceled, SMU was forced to cancel the 1988 season, 55 scholarships were docked and the team was permitted to hire just five full-time assistant coaches instead of the regular nine.
3. Auburn — Seven Major Infractions: Auburn has had a difficult time playing by the rules over the years. Its most embarrassing incident occurred in 1991, when 60 Minutes aired recordings of head football coach Pat Dye arranging a loan for a player. The series of incriminating tapes were provided by former star defensive back Eric Ramsey and unveiled a player payment scheme involving the coaching staff and prominent booster “Corky” Frost. For its wrongdoing, Auburn received a two-year bowl ban, a one-year television and ban and lost 13 scholarships over a four-year period. Dye was replaced by Terry Bowden, who became the first Division 1 coach to go undefeated in his first season but had nothing to show for it.
4. Minnesota — Seven Major Infractions: During his 13-year stint as Minnesota’s head basketball coach, Clem Haskins oversaw runs to the Elite Eight, Final Four and NIT Championship. Today, however, only the Elite Eight appearance remains in the NCAA record books, as everything Haskins accomplished from 1993-1994 forward was vacated. Prior to the Golden Gophers’ appearance in the 1999 NCAA tournament, a former basketball office manager revealed that she had written more than 400 papers for numerous basketball players over several years. Haskins’ contract was bought out over the summer and he later admitted to paying her $3,000 for her work. As the NCAA investigation unfolded, he was accused of paying players, persuading professors to inflate players’ grades and ignoring sexual harassment concerns. The NCAA administered massive sanctions, notably docking five scholarships over three seasons and instituting recruiting limitations.
5. Oklahoma — Seven Major Infractions: Barry Switzer inherited a program on probation — it forfeited nine games from the 1972 season because of violations that resulted from the alteration of players’ transcripts — and left it on probation in 1988. The Sooners had garnered the reputation of being an outlaw program in the 1980s. During one rough patch, a shooting and rape occurred in an athletic dorm, a player attempted to selling drugs to undercover agent, and a player robbed Switzer’s home. The latter player probably didn’t receive personal checks from Switzer, scalped game tickets, free airline tickets, or a boatload of money from a bidding war during his recruitment. All of that happened, and it resulted in a two-year bowl ban, a one-year live television ban and recruiting restrictions. More recently, Oklahoma’s basketball program was penalized when former basketball coach Kelvin Sampson, the same guy who later crippled the Indiana basketball program due to unethical recruiting practices, made 550 illegal calls to 17 different recruits.
6. Texas A&M — Seven Major Infractions: The Southwest Conference is probably the most corrupt entity in the history of college sports. Texas A&M enjoyed quite a bit of success during the 1980s, winning three consecutive conference titles under Jackie Sherrill, who Joe Paterno once lumped with Barry Switzer when bemoaning that era of college football. Sherrill resigned in 1988 after the NCAA discovered that assistant coaches and boosters were providing improper benefits to recruits — one was given a sports car and another’s father was offered medical treatment. The Aggies were given two years of probation, banned from the postseason for one season and docked 10 scholarships. Additional violations by the basketball program in 1991 and the football program again in 1994 — a booster employed and overpaid nine players who didn’t really work — almost caused A&M to suffer the same fate as SMU.
7. Wichita State — Seven Major Infractions: Programs from smaller conferences are just as capable of skirting the rules as the big boys. Although Wichita State no longer has a football program, its baseball and basketball programs have flourished. The baseball program has been one of the most successful in recent history, winning the 1989 College World Series and finishing second in 1982, 1991, and 1993. The basketball program reached the Final Four in 1965, Elite Eight in 1981 and Sweet Sixteen in 2006. Of the program’s seven infractions, perhaps the most disheartening one occurred in 1982, not long after the team had reached the Elite Eight. Violations involving the promises of cash and airline tickets resulted in the stripping of two basketball scholarships over two seasons and the program’s ban from the NCAA tournament and NIT.
8. Wisconsin — Seven Major Infractions: Just months after its basketball program reached the Final Four in 2000, the Wisconsin athletic department was embroiled in controversy. Twenty-six football players were suspended prior to the season opener after the NCAA uncovered that members of the Badgers’ football and basketball teams were given special credit arrangements at a shoe store. A year later, Wisconsin began serving five years of probation, which included scholarship reductions in both football and basketball, for giving recruiting inducements and extra benefits and its overall failure to properly monitor its athletic program.
9. Florida State — Seven Major Infractions: Former rival coach Steve Spurrier once referred to FSU as Free Shoes University, a zinger derived from a 1993 scandal in which nine Florida State players went on an agent-funded shopping spree at Foot Locker. Six years later, also during a national championship run, all-American wide receiver Peter Warrick and Laverneus Coles were charged with felony grand theft for receiving $412.38-worth of clothes from a Dillard’s cashier — they only paid $21.40. Warrick was suspended for two games and Coles from thrown off the team. In 2009, Bobby Bowden was forced to vacate 12 victories because of an academic cheating scandal that also involved the men’s and women’s basketball, baseball, softball and men’s track and field programs — a 2007 men’s track national championship was vacated as well.
10. Memphis — Seven Major Infractions: The good feelings that accompanied Memphis State’s 1985 Final Four run diminished in the ensuing years as karma, tragedy and bad luck befell various member of the team and coaching staff. Head coach Dana Kirk was fired in 1986 after the NCAA uncovered recruiting violations and vacated the 1985 Final Four appearance. He later served a prison term for tax evasion, a crime he committed while he served as the head coach. Star center William Bedford was drafted sixth overall in the 1986 NBA draft, but his career was derailed by drug addiction, and he’s currently serving a 10-year prison sentence. Reserve guard Aaron Price was killed in a carjacking in 1998. Small forward Baskerville Holmes committed a murder-suicide in 1997. . All of that was forgotten in 2008, however, when John Calipari had the Tigers positioned to win the national title. That run was vacated by the NCAA in 2009, as Memphis was given three years of probation for Derrick Rose’s fraudulent SAT score and the $1,700 in free travel and lodging provided to his brother. Before penalties were levied, Calipar soon bolted to Kentucky, which has had 6 probations handed down and currently has its star recruit from its 2012 class under NCAA investigation.
Similar stories have appeared in several media outlets in the recent past. One such story can be found at http://www.ncaagridirongab.com/2011/03/09/10-most-corrupt-ncaa-athletic-programs/.