Top 10 Scandals in College Sports

Everyone wants to be a winner, whether it’s in their own endeavors or in those of their favorite teams, players and alma maters. Unfortunately, many have taken the pursuit of victory outside the boundaries of what is morally acceptable and ended up bringing themselves shame rather than the accolades and admiration they sought. College sports are no exception to this, and they have been rocked by scandals of all kinds, from cheating coaches to accusations of misconduct by players. Here are a few of the biggest scandals that caught media attention and in some cases, ill repute for their institutions.

  1. City College of New York Basketball Point-Shaving Scandal: This scandal goes back to the 1940′s and 50′s, when the City College of New York had a top-notch basketball team and the sport was thriving in the state as a whole. In fact, the school’s team won both the NCAA and NIT championships in 1950– something no other team has ever done to this date. The next year the team’s image was to take a turn for the worse, however. The arrest of several former players uncovered a larger mob-connected scheme that was fixing games for betting purposes. The players accepted payoffs from gamblers and in exchange their teams to wouldn’t cover the point spread. By the end of the 1951 investigation, 33 players were found to be involved, several teams, members of the mob and over 86 games were discovered to have been fixed. Not only were players arrested but also the team was banned from Madison Square Garden and the NCAA tournament was moved to New Jersey to avoid further scandals.
  2. Southern Methodist University Football Scandal:Before the scandal, SMU had a well respected football program with loads of wins, titles and players that went on to be big names from the 1930′s all the way up to the 1980′s. Of course, as a smaller school SMU was having a hard time keeping up this reputation of success when recruiting players, and couldn’t keep bringing in the best when up against bigger schools with more resources. Like many other schools that became embroiled in scandals, SMU decided to compromise its morals for increasing their chances of winning. The school began paying players signing bonuses if they would come to the school, a fact that came to light when former linebacker David Stanley revealed he had been paid to come to the school and to continue playing for the team. A subsequent investigation found a "slush fund" which was used to fund under-the-table payments to players from the 70′s until the mid-80′s. This resulted in the most severe penalty ever handed down from the NCAA, canceling the entire program for the next year.
  3. University of Minnesota Men’s Basketball Academic Cheating Scandal: This scandal happened more recently, coming to light in 1999. Clem Haskins was hired as the Gopher basketball coach in 1986 with the expectation that he would rebuild the program, torn apart by torn apart by sexual assault allegations later proven to be untrue. While the team did recover and prosper and were headed to an NCAA tournament, the success came at a hefty cost. The day before they were to compete in the tournament a large academic cheating scandal was exposed, with a former UM office manager, Jan Gangelhoff, writing over 400 term papers for athletes. The scandal involved not only 4 players who were suspended, but also coaches, professors and the school as a whole. As a result of the revelations, all awards and titles were stripped from the program between 1993 and 1998 and the team was put on probation for 4 years starting the 1999-2000 season, and lost 5 scholarships over the next three seasons.
  4. Arizona State University Point-Shaving Scandal: The ASU team in the early 90′s had one of the best college athletes in Stevin "Hedake" Smith. While Smith was a genius on the court, he didn’t have the same skills in money management and racked up a $10,000 debt to a local student bookie Benny Silman. In order to help pay off the debts, Smith and his teammate Issac Burton were to work together to fix games, each receiving a payout for each game they played. The scheme was exposed when Nevada casinos noticed suspicious betting patterns on ASU games and notified the authorities that arrested Silman and several ASU players. Silman received 46 months in prison and a hefty fine, and Smith got only a year and a small fine but ruined his promising basketball career and disgraced his team.
  5. University of Memphis Tigers SAT Scandal: In the 2007-08 year, Memphis’ basketball team won a record 38 games and were only a few games away from becoming national champions. Their season was to become memorable for a less happy reason, however. It came to light in the 2009 season that a player had paid another student to take his SAT after he had failed the ACT multiple times. This would him to get accepted to school and play as a freshman. While the player’s name hasn’t been disclosed, many think it was current Chicago Bull’s point guard Derrick Rose. Because of this scandal, all the wins for the Tigers for the 07-08 year were taken away, a punishment many deemed as far too harsh. And the team’s coach, John Calipari? This was the second time he had been embroiled in a scandal of this nature, leading to questions about his credibility as a college sports coach.
  6. University of Colorado Football Scandal: The scandals at this university just kept piling up. While struggling to be known as an academic institute when still widely considered a party school, the football team and their coach did little to help the school’s reputation. In 2004 it came to light that the school was using sex and drugs as a means to lure in potential players, with coach Gary Barnett providing escorts, strippers and all but condoning rape. And condone it they did as former female place-kicker Katie Hnida claimed she had been raped and sexually harassed by her teammates. Instead of staying neutral or supporting her, the coach went on to call her a "terrible" player and one who couldn’t win the respect of her teammates with her ability. Barnett was suspended but the scandal raged on as eight other women came forward to make rape allegations as well. while the suits against the team were ultimately dropped, citing the unwillingness of the women to go through the trial, the school has yet to shake the damage done to its reputation.
  7. St. Bonaventure University Basketball Scandal: This school, desperate to find players that could lead the team to victory was found in 2003 to have accepted a player with no academic qualifications other than a welding certificate. While the school is able to decide which academic credits they find acceptable, the NCAA found that in this case they crossed the line by allowing the player, Mike Gansey, to credit his vocational courses towards a sociology degree, even courses in which the student barely earned a passing grade. The board at the college demanded the president of the college resign following his own admission that he had violated university and NCAA rules to admit an ineligible basketball player to the institution. As a result of the rule breaking, the student was barred from the team and St. Bonaventure was banned from the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament. Sadly, Bill Swan, a university trustee was so criticized for and shaken by the scandal that he committed suicide.
  8. University of Georgia Basketball Scandal: At this school, the president withdrew the institution’s men’s basketball team from the Southeastern Conference and NCAA championships after university officials determined that three basketball players had received unearned high grades in courses taught by the head coach’s son, also a coach. Coach Jim Harrick was aware that his players were receiving academic help and the scandal cost both he and his son their jobs. His son had been helping at least three players by granting them credit hours even though they did not attend the class in basketball strategy he was teaching. This was not the first time the elder Harrick or his son had seen scandal, the older having been fired at UCLA for falsifying an expense report, and both seeing scandal at Rhode Island for cheating and other improprieties.
  9. Duke Lacrosse Rape Scandal: While this scandal had little to do with cheating, it’s included here just because it incurred so much media attention. In 2006, a student at North Carolina Central University who was working as an exotic dancer and escort accused three Duke University students and lacrosse players of raping her at a party. Because the accuser was African American and her alleged rapists white, the case blew up into a debate about whether or not it was a hate crime or a racially motivated assault. The players were suspended for several games, the coach forced to resign and the remainder of the 2006 season was canceled due to the media frenzy and the accusations. After DNA testing, however, it was discovered that none of the accused men were the alleged rapists, nor were any of the other players on the team. The men were ultimately declared innocent and the prosecutor in the case was disbarred for "dishonesty, fraud, deceit and misrepresentation" and found guilty of criminal contempt.
  10. Florida State Football "Free Shoes" Scandal: Coverage of the FSU football team should have been a shining moment for a team doing well in the season. Unfortunately, it exposed relationships with professional sports agents who were engaging in illegal actions with team members in order to recruit them. Compared to other scandals this one was particularly low key, with players getting all the free shoes and merchandise they wanted from a local Foot Locker store in return for their allegiance. Of course, it still came with a price as the NCAA gave the team one year of probation for the scandal, a mere slap on the wrist compared with the potentially damaging punishments they could have received.

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