Saturday, December 11, 2010

ESPN 30 for 30 (Pony Excess)

I am a pretty big fan of this series.  I will admit that I have not seen many of them but all of them I have been very well done.  If you want to read about how this idea was originated you can here: Bill Simmons Essay.  They do a nice job of taking stories that have not been shoved down our throat recently and making them relevant again.  The part that is intriguing is taking some of the greatest stories from the past and relating them to the present.  SMU's journey from Southwest Conference doormat to powerhouse to the death penalty got me thinking about the possible second edition of the death penalty.

While watching I couldn't help but think of the parallels between this story and what I think might happen at USC.  It is easy to forget that although USC was a once dominant program they were just a mediocre 31-29 in the five season leading up to the Pete Carroll era.  When Ron Meyer arrived in 1976 at SMU the Mustangs were on an eight year bowl drought.  They were routinely getting handled by their Southwest Conference rivals including Texas, Texas A&M, Houston and Arkansas.  Meyer arrived from UNLV and success quickly followed.  Although they did not make a bowl game until 1980, they were certainly successful and could not participate in bowl games because of probation.  They were getting the best players every year and just like that were on the national stage of collegiate football.  Sound familiar?

This is the part that really gets me.  Meyer abruptly left a 10-1 SMU team (no bowl game because of probation), with returning starters including Eric Dickerson and Craig James to bolt for the NFL and the New England Patriots.  It was well know that SMU would be a front-runner for the National Championship coming off probation.  Why would he leave for a 2-14 team????  Sound familiar?  Pete Carroll left a program where he was 83-19 to take over the Seattle Seahawks franchise that was a combined 9-23 over the previous two years.  Both men had it made.  They chose to leave for poor NFL situations.

The third and final parallel I will make between these situations is with the replacement coaches.  When Bobby Collins took over the SMU program coming from Southern Miss he simply wanted to coach football.  He knew of payments and incentives being made, he just chose to look the other way.  He figured they had been getting away with it and the players kept coming, why not continue?  He took over a team coming off a 10-1 record, returning Eric Dickerson and Craig James and went undefeated (including a tie to Arkansas) in his first season.  Needless to say it finally caught up with HIM, while Meyer was enjoying life in the NFL.  Enter Lane Kiffin at USC.  They are currently in a probation year.  This may seem like no big deal and USC will keep rolling as long as the sun keeps shining in Southern California.  Lets keep in mind this is the same Lane Kiffin that had numerous "secondary" recruiting violations at Tennessee.  Do I think he is the one of the most honest human beings in college football?  HELL NO.  Would he be willing to let benefits continue to USC players?  That is the million dollar question.

Here is where this gets interesting.  The NCAA Death Penalty reads "The rule stipulates that if a second major violation occurs at any institution within five years of being on probation in the same sport or another sport, that institution can be barred from competing in the sport involved in the second violation for either one or two seasons.  Remember USC is on probation this year.  Am I the only one that thinks it is very possible to think that by 2015 USC could have another major violation?  This could very well be the next SMU.  The problem I have is the punishment.  Did Ron Meyer get punished?  If you would call getting an NFL gig punishment, then yes.  Will Pete Carroll get punished? Only with the scenery change, which yes I consider a punishment.  Note: this is punishment until the Vikings hire Carroll as head coach and ship their operation to Los Angeles.

I guess the moral of the story is that if history does indeed repeat itself there may be more than smoke here.  It is simply too similar.  Just like SMU got hit in 1986 while programs like Texas, Texas A&M, and Baylor were doing the exact same thing, will USC be the next victim of the death penalty while undoubtedly other programs (cough, cough Auburn) are doing the exact same thing?  That remains to be seen.  I don't know if I could honestly say there are ANY truly honest programs being run in Division I football. 


  1. I sure would hope ISU is an honest program because I don't know what we would be giving the players any extra incentives for!

  2. I think the 30 for 30 series is great. I have really enjoyed the lesser known or forgotten stories that they have focused on. I would recommend watching Once Brothers if u ever see it on. There are similarities between U$C and SMU but I have a hard time seeing the death penalty being used on a major college football program (BCS conference team).