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The most significant college sports scandals

College sports are supposed to a display of unadulterated amateurism, a reminder of how sports are supposed to be fair and honest, and a played with love and passion, rather than money and fame.

Well, for the most part that is probably all true. But sometimes human err gets in the way, and players, coaches and schools, get busted for a variety of offenses that sometimes ruin the fate of an entire program for years to come.

And while some shady nonsense goes on at virtually every major school, there are a handful of cheaters, crooks and villains that stand out among the pack. The ones that make even the most hardcore fans take a step back and say, “What the hell?”

With that, we thought we’d share our picks for the top five worst college sports scandals of all time.


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5. Notre Dame Football (2012) — Bizarre, with a dash of sick-o, this is the most horrible hoax of all time. During the 2012 college football season, Irish linebacker and Heisman Trophy candidate, Manti Te’o, told media that his strong play could be attributed to the deaths of his grandmother and girlfriend, Lennay Kekua. In January 2013, it was revealed that Te’o’s supposed girlfriend, never really existed. Notre Dame defended Te’o, saying he was tricked by an acquaintance who lured him into an online relationship with a nonexistent woman, and the program knew of the hoax since Dec. 26. What’s worse, the shock of the 23-year-old Los Angeles marketing executive, whose picture was used to create the hoax.

4. USC Football (2005) — This case of a player receiving money from a program hurt much more then the player alone. Not only did Reggie Bush became the first player ever to be stripped of the Heisman trophy after it was reported that his parents received hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and gifts including a house in Malibu. But the Trojans were dealt a two-year postseason ban and the loss of 30 scholarships over three years. Worse, the USC football program is still feeling the effects. Seems pretty dumb, but that’s what puts it on our list.

3. Arizona State Basketball (1994) — This is a true tragedy of a collegiate star who threw it all away for a quick buck. Not since Pete Rose got busted for gambling has a scandal made as many headlines, as the ASU point-shaving scandal of 1994, which involved basketball players Stevin Smith and Isaac Burton. Orchestrated by student bookie Benny Silman and in supposed collaboration with the mob, Smith was paid $80,000 to affect the point spread of four games. Isaac also took part, getting nearly $5,000 per game in the two games he participated. However, Vegas sniffed out the scheme, and eventually the entire plan unraveled. Silman served almost four years in federal prison while Smith served one year and Burton two months. This is a classic example of how greed gets a person nowhere and why it makes our list.

2. Southern Methodist University Football (1986) — Known as Ponygate, the SMU football scandal left the Mustangs program in ruin. Spanning decades from the mid-1970s t hrough 1986, SMU made under the table payments to players in order to compete with larger schools when it came to recruiting the nation’s top players out of high school. In 1986, it all came to a head when linebacker David Stanley claimed that SMU athletic officials paid him $25,000 to sign with the team. A further investigation uncovered that 13 other players received $61,000 in payments from 1985-1986 from school officials. The NCAA handed SMU the most severe penalty handed down to a Division-I program ever, which included cancelling their entire 1987 season, and granting every SMU player a full release from the team in 1988. The Mustangs have never recovered, as least athletically, from this scandal

1. City College of New York Basketball (1951) — Probably the first really big scandal since the Black Sox era. In 1950, the best team in college basketball was City College of New York, which became the first and only team to win both the NCAA and NIT championships in the same year. But that’s where the stories of distinction end, and the shocking stories of mob ties and points shaving schemes begin. Initially, the plot involved seven different schools and affected the scores of 86 games between 1947 and 1950, while involving 33 players who accepted payoffs from gamblers and in return did not allow their teams to cover the point spread. Eventually City College of New York was banned from Madison Square Garden and the NCAA tournament championship game left the New York area for nearly 50 years, until 1996. That effect can still be felt at New York City college today, and as the saying goes —Cheaters never prosper.