Is Texas Southern the most lawless college sports program since Southern Methodist? (Not counting Penn State, which took the notion of "lack of institutional control" to a completely different moral level with its harboring of pedophile coach Jerry Sandusky.)
When it comes to old-fashioned college athletics cheating—overbearing boosters, academic corner-cutting, coaches who are in on it—the NCAA's investigation against Texas Southern "could be of unprecedented scope, totaling 129 student-athletes in 13 sports," wrote David Barron of the Houston Chronicle .
As Chris Duncan of the Associated Press reported:
The basketball team, currently coached by former Indiana coach Mike Davis, was banned from the 2012-13 postseason and the football team in both 2013 and 2014.
Other penalties include five years of probation, scholarship limitations in football and basketball, and the vacating of all team records from 2006-10 in all sports, as well as the 2010-11 records for football and women's soccer. In 2010, Texas Southern won its first Southwestern Athletic Conference football championship since 1968.
Texas Southern football coach Johnnie Cole had already been fired by the school in April of 2011, while basketball coach Tony Harvey resigned at the end of the 2011-2012 season. And the school's softball and men's and women's tennis teams had already been sanctioned in 2008 (the two tennis teams no longer exist).
Some of the specific violations included using a booster for football recruiting with the knowledge of the coaching staff, playing athletes who were not actually making academic progress, and exceeding annual scholarship limits.
In a particularly original twist, the basketball team was accused of stashing two of its players on the football team and granting them scholarships, though they did not actually play football.
The basketball team also failed to comply with an academic performance penalty it was supposed to be serving during the 2009-2010 season, one of several symptoms that the program had a chronic problem.
The NCAA termed Texas Southern a "double repeat violator," which, if we're translating the organization's bureacratese correctly, means this is the third time they've been hit with major infractions. Specifically, the NCAA explained in its press release :
Texas Southern either has been on probation or had violations occurring on campus, or both, for 16 of the past 20 years. At various times during the earlier probation periods the university reported to the committee it was taking certain remedial actions when it actually was not, which was of particular concern to the committee.
However, the infractions committee stopped short of the "death penalty" because it felt that the school's current administration was committed to reform. ''There has been a different level of attention and activity among the university's current leadership,'' said Greg Sankey, an SEC official who serves on the NCAA infractions committee.
John Infante of The Bylaw Blog figures that the Tigers got off light.
"A multi-year postseason ban in basketball would not have been unwarranted, given the steps taken to evade the APR [academic progress rate] penalties," he wrote. "And under the NCAA’s new penalty matrix, which come into effect next year, the Texas Southern football team could have been looking at a 25-50% scholarship reduction, rather than the 5% reduction they received.
At ESPN. com Eamonn Brennan admitted that his first reaction was the NCAA overreacted—while continuing to cut the brand-name schools more slack.
"Whether fair or not, that is the NCAA's historic reputation -- that it lets the big boys skate while punishing small schools in a strongman's show of force," Brennan wrote.He continued:
Now we're punishing a SWAC school? Come on!
That is the initial reflex. But then you actually take a minute to read about Texas Southern's case , and the way the tiny D-1 entity has pretty much willfully broken every NCAA rule under the sun for the past two decades, and you feel less inclined to rage against the mean ol' NCAA.
Of course, the term "double repeat violator" made comparisons to Animal House 's "double secret probation" inevitable. Brennan wrote:
Basically, Texas Southern is Delta Tau Chi , and the NCAA is Dean Wormer. No matter what the Committee on Infractions does -- probation, scholarship losses, more probation, more scholarship losses, public censure, postseason bans, show-cause orders, the works -- Texas Southern just does not seem to care.
As the Houston Chronicle 's Barron reported, both coaches defended themselves from the report's findings, using almost the same language.
"I did my job the right way, and I never lied about anything." Harvey said.
"I came in to turn the football program around and do it the right way, and I did that," Cole said.
They both received three-year "show cause" orders, making them effectively unemployable in college sports during that period, as they are banned from all recruiting, and any school attempting to hire them would be subject to NCAA scrutiny.