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Is the ‘Death Penalty’ a Viable Option in UNC Case?

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University of Maryland president Wallace Loh. Photo: AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

The NCAA handed down the death penalty to Southern Methodist University (SMU) in 1987. Keep in mind that the NCAA came to the decision to handle the harshest cheaters with the death penalty due to repeated cheating offenses, as SMU had previously had penalties applied to the program prior to the death penalty being imposed. This writer is not going to rehash the death penalty decision, but it was said by many at the time that the death penalty would never be imposed again by the NCAA.

The term “death penalty” for a major college program has emerged and is part of a conversation again today. According to AthleticBusiness.com writer Andrew Carter, Maryland President Wallace Loh stated during a meeting last week that he would think “that the NCAA investigation into UNC-Chapel Hill would ultimately lead to the NCAA levying the so-called “death penalty.”

The context of how President Loh made the statement is as follows, during a meeting of the University of Maryland Senate, an identified member of the Maryland faculty asked Loh “how he could be certain that the university is ‘protected from the corrupting influence of athletics.’”

Loh responded “As president I sit over a number of dormant volcanoes,” Loh said. “One of them is an athletic scandal. It blows up, it blows up the university, its reputation, it blows up the president.

“For the things that happened in North Carolina, it’s abysmal. I would think that this would lead to the implementation of the death penalty by the NCAA. But I’m not in charge of that.”

North Carolina men’s basketball coach Roy Williams. Photo: By U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class David Danals, via Wikimedia Commons

His response is clearly an indication that he is calling for the most severe sanctions that the NCAA can pass down against the University of North Carolina (UNC), the death penalty.

The case of UNC is different than SMU’s, but one can say that years of investigation by the NCAA into the violations and the severity of the violations by UNC does not mean that university and college presidents are not without their own opinions as to the sanctions that should be considered and the death penalty is the nuclear final option.

The question remains will other university and college presidents speak out and offer their opinions by also putting the death penalty on the table as a viable option as a sanction for UNC.

By Fred J. Cromartie, Ed.D.

Dr. Fred J. Cromartie is the Director of Doctoral Studies at the United States Sports Academy, and can be reached at cromarti@ussa.edu.

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