For my ethics class, I have to write a paper about the 1980’s Southern Methodist University Mustangs football team receiving the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s death penalty, which caused SMU’s football league to not have a 1987 or 1988 football year. ESPN’s 30 by 30 movie called “Pony Excess” discusses all of SMU’s football scandal and what happened afterwards.
So here’s what happened. SMU was a decent team in the 1970’s but became remarkable, all of a sudden, in the early 1980’s. After beating the University of Texas one year, the NCAA decided to investigate the players and team to make sure that their new recruits were recruited ethically. The NCAA found that they were under-dealing a few illegal things to get football players so the NCAA put them on probation during the years of 1981 and 1982.
After 1982, when the team was at their best, their head coach, Ron Meyer, randomly decided to leave and coach for the New England Patriots. Some say he left because the NCAA was investigating, others say it’s because he wanted to take the opportunity. After he left, they hired a coach from Mississippi. The SMU boosters took it upon themselves to continue to do illegal dealings with recruitments and the new coach, Bobby Collins, just told them to do what they wanted while he “coached.”
After years of doing illegal recruiting, SMU got caught. In 1985, the NCAA came out with a new rule called the “death penalty.” Basically, it if a school was a repeat violator of illegal dealings, their program would be shut down completely.
In 1986, a disgruntled player came out to Channel 8, specifically Dale Hansen, about what exactly was happening. SMU paid him $25,000 to play there. With this information, the board and athletic director was questioned, and instead of fixing the situation, they basically dug their own grave.
Since these dealings happened while SMU was still on probation, they became a repeat violator leading to the NCAA giving them the death penalty. They went without a football program in the year 1987 and chose to not have another season in 1988 in order to create a new team.
This case, although more detailed than written above, is a prime example of how a lie can grow and soon ruin a company or even a football team. In PR, there are tons of opportunities for PR practitioners to do illegal dealings and tell lies. There are codes that try to get people to maintain ethical behaviors but the choice is really that persons. PR practitioners need to be careful of kickbacks. They are small, hidden but can come back and literally kick back in a negative way. Like the old mantra, what goes around, comes around.
To learn more, check out ESPN's 30 by 30 movie called "Pony Excess"