SI Vault
Robert Sullivan
March 09, 1987
Reacting to repeat offender SMU's latest transgressions, the NCAA has hit the recalcitrant Mustangs with a sentence that includes a one-year suspension of its football program
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March 09, 1987

Shame On You, Smu

Reacting to repeat offender SMU's latest transgressions, the NCAA has hit the recalcitrant Mustangs with a sentence that includes a one-year suspension of its football program

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Despite the ruling, several questions remained conspicuously unanswered. Because the Kliever-Berst investigative team promised immunity and confidentiality to those players, boosters and athletic department officials who provided information to them—"It was the only way we could get anybody to talk to us." said Kliever—no names could be released or blame ascribed. "You try to get the people involved to pay the price, but we didn't have any names." complained Infractions Committee member Thomas Niland Jr., the athletic director at Le Moyne College. "That bothers me."

Although the NCAA did not reveal any names, the Dallas Times Herald listed 10 former and 3 current players who it alleged received slush-fund money in 1985 and '86. Among those cited were McDade. running back Reggie Dupard of the Patriots and defensive back Rod Jones of Tampa Bay. Another was former SMU linebacker David Stanley, whose tale of booster payments prompted the NCAA to begin investigating SMU—yet again—last October and who went public with his allegations the following month (see box, page 22). McDade. Dupard and Jones all denied any involvement in the case.

Two other figures left under a cloud by the payment revelations were former head coach Bobby Collins and former athletic director Bob Hitch, both of whom resigned in December and have not yet been replaced. On Sunday The Dallas Morning News reported that sources told it that Hitch had had direct knowledge of slush-fund payoffs to SMU players as far back as 1981 and that he was involved in the decision to continue the payoffs even after the school received its 1985 probation sentence. Hitch, contacted Sunday by SI. refused comment. The Morning News also said Collins was not involved in payoffs but quoted one source as saying that the coach "was aware that something was going on but didn't know the players or the details " Collins had told Orlando Sentinel columnist Larry Guest "I guarantee you one thing:' I'm not a cheat."

As for the unnamed booster, the Dallas Times Herald, citing sources close to the SMU athletic department, identified him as Sherwood Blount Jr., a Dallas real estate developer and sports agent. Blount, who played linebacker at SMU from 1969 through 1971. is a flashy, self-made millionaire. He refused to discuss the issue with SI but warned the Times Herald: "Please make sure you're right, because I hold you personally liable if you print that. If you're wrong, we'll go to court and prove you wrong."

Henry Lee Parker, the SMU recruiting coordinator who also resigned in December, said he had no knowledge of Blount's role, adding. "If you believe he's the only person involved, somebody better go out and turn on the runway lights for Amelia Earhart."

The misplaced largesse of boosters has plagued SMU's football program for years. Directed under the NCAA's 1985 probation decision to take measures to put his house in order, then-university president L. Donald Shields ordered nine boosters. Blount among them, "disassociated" from the university's athletic programs. Nevertheless, booster payments to players of up to $725 a month continued to be made through last fall. "[The rule breakers] view the world differently, like the criminal element does." said SMU theology professor Leroy Howe president of the faculty senate which last December called for the abolishment of "quasi-professional athletics" at the school "The university has been consorting with both juvenile and adult delinquents They think the only thing wrong is getting caught."

To be sure, many SMU backers resented the NCAA's action. "My Lord, they killed the program." said ex-booster Jack Ryan, a Corpus Christi cattle rancher and one of those Shields singled out in 1985. "Why do they pick on one small school all the time?"

"The university uncovered all it could and didn't wait for the NCAA to do it, and for that we got hit as hard or harder than we could have if we hadn't helped.'' griped Ted Cox. former president of the Mustang Club, a booster group. "It's going to be 10 years before we're competitive again."

Across the nation, however, most athletic officials lauded the NCAA's decision. "If you don't get the clear, vivid picture now as to what's involved. I don't think you'll ever get it." said South Carolina athletic director Bob Marcum.

"We deserve everything that's being said and written about us because we were guilty of those accusations," Patriot and ex-SMU running back Craig James, who works in Blount's Dallas real-estate office in the off-season, told The Boston Globe.

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