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The future of SMU football looks terribly bleak. By next fall, assuming most of the current players transfer, the team will consist of 15 freshmen, a handful of veterans and several dozen walk-ons. As a result. SMU may decide to pass up the '88 season entirely. "The [NCAA] penalties and restrictions raise the possibility that we might not be competing on even a limited basis soon." said Kliever.
The financial impact of the suspension is hard to pinpoint. If SMU's football program were free of all sanctions. it would turn a single-season profit of roughly $1.2 million, including TV and bowl revenue. But denied those revenues last year, the program barely broke even. Presumably that would have been the case with this year's team. However, the football team does draw sizable donations from boosters: Mustang Club donations accounted for 23% of SMU's athletic income last year. If those donations drop, the SMU athletic department, which operated some $1 million in the red last year, could find itself with a huge deficit—perhaps large enough to force cutbacks in minor sports.
SMU's suspension dealt another blow to the badly bruised Southwest Conference as well. The loss of one conference member may seem problem enough, but with SMU suspended. TCU on probation and Texas Tech. Texas. Houston and Texas A & M all under NCAA investigation, it is possible that in the near future six of nine SWC football programs will be serving NCAA penalties at the same time, leaving only Rice. Baylor and Arkansas to compete for the league's Cotton Bowl berth.
SMU's latest football violations have even endangered the school's accreditation and funding (less than SI million) from the United Methodist Church. which has sent two special review teams onto campus during the last year. The church, which owns SMU lock, stock and shoulder pads, has asked SMU to deal with a number of problems in areas ranging beyond athletics. It could decide to put SMU on public probation or even to remove it completely from the list of Methodist-affiliated universities. "Its continued listing depends on its response to the concerns we have." said Roy Shilling Jr.. president of the church's accreditation body. "The fool-ball violations are a matter of great embarrassment and regret to everybody."
The people most unfairly hurt by the sanctions were the players who weren't involved in any wrongdoing. Tackle David Bryan said. "I was shocked when I learned it [the paying of money] was still going on." Added Bryan sadly. "I never thought my days at SMU would end like this." Two others who said they were not involved in any improper payments. Walters and Stollenwerck. sat at a Dallas burger joint last Friday, pondering their future.
"I was going to pay my fraternity dues next week." said Walters. "Then I said, why do that? All of a sudden, poof!—I'm gone. I've disappeared."
Stollenwerck. the son of a prominent Dallas attorney, is a third-generation SMU quarterback. While he plans to transfer, he hopes to return to SMU someday to attend law school. "It's devastating to my dad." he said. "My family had such a long line here. My grandfather was the quarterback for the first SMU Southwest Conference championship team [in 1923]. I get the feeling it was started with him and it's ending with me."
Watters grew up on the poorer side of Dallas and claims to have a first-hand understanding of improper recruiting inducements. "Texas Tech coaches offered to sell my tickets to alumni at $100 apiece." he said, repeating charges he has made to NCAA investigators. "They offered to set up a job for a girl I was dating in high school, and a place for me to live. It looked awfully good, but not good enough to make me go out to Lubbock to play football." A Texas Tech spokesman declined to comment on Watters' charges.
Watters doesn't understand why some of his teammates gave in to their greed. "There were no team meetings or anything to tell one another to stay clean." he said. "It was pretty much taboo to even talk about things like that. But we all figured, no way is anybody going to be that foolish to lake money now."
And yet it happened. Only time will tell if last week's death penalty will help deter similar behavior in the future. "I feel personally that the alumni are the biggest villains." said Watters.