SI Vault
Edited by Craig Neff And Robert Sullivan
December 01, 1986
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December 01, 1986


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Something remarkable happened at SMU last week. An angry faculty finally quit looking the other way while the Mustangs' recidivist football program made a mockery of the university's reputation. Rent-free apartments, cash payments—they had heard this kind of thing before. So, fed up at long last, more than 200 of the school's senior faculty members signed a petition that pleaded for the "immediate, unconditional and permanent abolition of quasi-professional athletics" at SMU. They wanted a return to true amateur sports—an unprecedented, even heretical demand in the football-mad Southwest Conference.

"It was almost a heroic act," said David Hausman, associate professor of philosophy. "We have been saying 'enough is enough' to ourselves, but we haven't said it out loud." Said Virgil Howard, a theology professor, "Anything short of abolishing the football program is probably not going to get the job done." Similar sentiments were expressed in letters to The Dallas Morning News: "If SMU is allowed to continue its dishonest, corrupt football program...then it is obvious that the players are not the only ones who can be bought." One professor said he would like to see SMU's football program patterned after that of, gulp, Rice.

Such extreme reactions were warranted. Collectively the Southwest Conference football programs have been the most investigated, penalized and corrupt in the country, and SMU's has been the worst offender of all. In August 1985, after a 29-month investigation that documented 36 violations, the NCAA placed the program on three years' probation, the sixth time the school has been so punished. In 11 of the last 15 years SMU has been found guilty of NCAA rules infractions. The biggest punishment could be forthcoming: The NCAA may move to shut down the football program for two years by invoking the "death penalty." This measure, voted in by member schools last year, stipulates that any institution found guilty of major rule infractions twice within a five-year period can be barred from competition in the second sport cited. A new set of allegations against SMU could, if proved, qualify SMU for such capital punishment. These charges, which have been big news in Dallas for two weeks, concern a rent-free apartment allegedly provided to Mustang tight end Albert Reese by an SMU booster, and money said to have been paid to former linebacker David Stanley by one former and one present SMU athletic official (SCORECARD, Nov. 24).

In a stunning 40-minute report by Dallas's WFAA-TV, SMU recruiting coordinator Henry Lee Parker was shown an envelope that, according to Stanley, had contained one of the $350 monthly cash payments he said were sent to his mother from September 1983 through December 1985. The envelope bore the handwritten initials HLP in the top left corner.

"That is mine," Parker said on camera upon first examining the envelope. Then he said, "No, this is printed.... I don't write that way."

The TV station produced a handwriting analyst who said that she believed the writing on the envelope was Parker's. Then Stanley and his mother were shown taking and passing polygraph examinations. Former SMU academic advisor Teresa Hawthorne said on the show that SMU athletic director Bob Hitch had told her Stanley was "a bought player."

Parker could not be reached by SI for comment. In interviews with SI, Hitch would not respond directly to any specific allegations, saying he would reserve comment until an impending NCAA investigation is completed.

As for Reese, who was suspended for SMU's season-ending game last Saturday against Arkansas: He says he will prove to the NCAA that his apartment deal was legitimate. "I'm paying rent," he says.

Last week SMU's president, L. Donald Shields, promised an internal investigation of the latest charges. Then he announced he was taking early retirement because of a health condition exacerbated, at least in part, by the athletic department's difficulties. Meanwhile, the SMU Board of Governors was to meet this week to consider the faculty's demand for drastic action.

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