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The NCAA announced yesterday that they have been investigating the University of Miami for the past five months because of the the program’s relationship with Nevin Shapiro, who is now serving time for fraud. And because of the seriousness of the allegations, some have started wondering aloud if the Hurricanes will become the second football program to ever suffer the fate of the NCAA’s most severe penalty, The Death Penalty.The “Death Penalty” is just a name given by the media to the NCAA’s repeat violator rule. That rule states that a school is a repeat violator “if a second major violation occurs within five years of the start date of the penalty from the first case. The cases do not have to be in the same sport…It can include eliminating the involved sport for at least one year, [and] the elimination of athletics aid in that sport for two years.”
There is no doubt, the NCAA has the power to eliminate the Miami Hurricanes football program for one year, and it has wielded this power before with Southern Methodist University, giving the Mustangs the Death Penalty for the 1987 season*.
But even if the infractions committed by The U are deemed a serious nature and a repeat violation, will the NCAA drop the guillotine on the program?
Back in 2002, John Lombardi, President of the University of Florida at the time spoke about the lessons the NCAA learned from the SMU debacle. “SMU taught the committee that the death penalty is too much like the nuclear bomb,” said Lombardi. “It’s like what happened after we dropped the bomb in World War II. The results were so catastrophic that now we’ll do anything to avoid dropping another one.”
It is hard to believe that the NCAA’s feelings on the matter have changed much in the past decade. And then consider that most of the players and coaches involved are no longer with the program.
There are plenty of ways the NCAA can come down on the Miami Hurricanes football program with sound and fury. Just don’t expect that iron fist to be a death blow.
* SMU did not field a football team in 1988 either, but that was at their own discretion after the NCAA would not allow the school to play any home games in 1988.