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October 03, 2004

Scandalmongering Update: One Man’s Worst Ten List

BURIED SOMEWHERE IN THE FINE PRINT of the College Athletics Clips mission statement—which has been read by maybe a half dozen inquisitive souls—is some holier-than-thou verbiage about covering only the inspirational and lofty subjects in college athletics. And pointed comment is made about ceding coverage of scandals and scores to others.

We are pleased to report that we have largely held to our avowed mission statement.

Scores are infrequently mentioned, and only as background to some bigger theme.

Likewise, Clips has left scandalmongering to others. Reference to scandals has been made only to make points about ethics in college athletics and to warn readers to refrain from traveling down the wrong path as those who have preceded them.

Another part of Clips’ mission is to provide readers with a sense of the volume and frequency of college athletics stories being produced by hundreds of newspapers, websites and magazines.

For example, if several dozen newspapers run stories about the propensity of big strong football players to sleep with two pillows, then Clips will likely run an excerpt to inform readers that such coverage is taking place.

Further, if a columnist produces a particularly clever viewpoint of scandals—as does Mike Fish in his top ten list below—then we think that it would be a disservice to our readers to ignore it.

How’s that for spin, nuance and prevarication?

Mr. Fish cites the following as the worst over the past couple of decades:

1. Southwest Conference (mid-1980s): SMU was punished with the NCAA’s first "death penalty." Five other SWC schools got sanctions as well.

2. Baylor (2003): One player is accused of killing a former teammate. Coach Dave Bliss tries to capitalize on the situation. As ugly as they come.

3. St. Bonaventure (2003): The school’s president and basketball coach lost their jobs due to a scandal originating from granting eligibility to an unqualified player. Three months later, William Swan, chairman of the school's board of trustees, committed suicide, leaving a note that said, in part, that he had failed to prevent the scandal.

4. College Gambling (1990s): Gambling is the mortal sin in collegiate athletics. Examples:

• A Northwestern gambling scandal led to the convictions of 11 people, including football and basketball players.
• Two basketball players from Arizona State, including All-America guard Stevin ("Hedake") Smith, jailed for point shaving.
• Thirteen Boston College football players were suspended for gambling on football games.

5. Michigan (early 1990s): A Michigan booster paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to Chris Webber, who led the Wolverines to the NCAA championship game in 1992 and 1993.

6. Southeastern College of the Assemblies of God (early 1990s): At least 40 athletic departments got sanctions for their student-athletes taking fast, easy correspondence courses at SCAG.

7. Auburn-Alabama (1991-93): An Auburn player provided tapes of coach Pat Dye talking about cash and gifts. Later, former Alabama captain Gene Jelks came forward with incriminating tapes that brought NCAA scrutiny on Alabama.

8. Kentucky (1988): A package with $1000 in cash was sent to the father of basketball recruit Chris Mills. Coach Eddie Sutton and AD Cliff Hagan were fired.

9. Minnesota (late 1990s): An academic adviser was accused of pressuring professors to give passing grades to basketball players. The NCAA also found that a basketball office manager did schoolwork for the players with coach Clem Haskins' knowledge.

10. Memphis State (mid 1980s): Coach Dana Kirk served four months for tax evasion and obstruction of justice.

(this 287 word excerpt and 344 word list—with attendant commentary—has been distilled from a 973 word article posted on 9-29-04 on SI.com)