JM Rieger, Columnist

“Nothing short of abysmal.” That was the language used by the NCAA to describe the Southern Methodist University (SMU) football program when they handed down the “death penalty” to the school in February 1987. This is the harshest penalty the NCAA can administer to an athletic program, which bans a school from competing in a sport for an entire year.

Since then, the NCAA has yet to hand down the death penalty to another Division I athletic program, but that trend may end soon.

Recent scandals around college football at powerhouses such as the Ohio State University, the University of Miami (Fl.), Louisiana State University (LSU), the University of Southern California and the University of North Carolina have made this one of the worst stretches, at least from a publicity standpoint, in college football history.

Improper benefits and various other violations have seemingly become the standard in college football, and the increased media attention has turned college football into a pseudo-professional league. The creation of mega-conferences and the desire to win at any cost has shifted the focus of college football away from the student-athlete and the academic side of collegiate athletes.

Instead, it seems as if many schools are only focused on two things: the scoreboard and the Benjamins.

Nowhere is this more evident than at Miami (FL.), where numerous current and former Hurricane football players have been implemented in an investigation involving a convicted ponzi schemer, Nevin Shapiro, who allegedly provided cash payments, prostitutes, abortions and gifts to 72 different players.

In addition, there have been reports that various athletic and university personnel may have been complicit all along, which begs the question of where the priorities of these coaches and university administrators lie. Clearly, the overwhelming majority of these people had no idea that any of these violations were occurring, but even if one university official had an iota of knowledge that any of the violations at any of these major schools were taking place, those schools need to reevaluate their athletic departments.

Too much influence is placed nowadays on winning and on winning at any cost, and it hurts not only the athletes and the athletic programs, but also the game of college football.

Many Miami University students are often frustrated that the RedHawks have yet to win a national title in any sport, and that many of our major sports such as football and basketball have struggled in the past and in some cases continue to struggle. But these students also ignore some of the underlying factors behind these struggles.

Almost every powerhouse college football program spends millions upon millions of dollars on their head coach, while at the same time failing to spend even a million dollars on the president of the university. In many cases, these head coaches make as much as seven times what the university president makes. It makes you wonder where the priorities of these schools lie.

Meanwhile, Miami does not even spend half a million on either President Hodge or on Head Football Coach Don Treadwell. At the same time, Miami consistently has one of the highest overall GPAs and graduation rates of any athletic program in the country.

Is another “death penalty” needed to send a message to these schools about where they should be placing their priorities? Maybe, but what is for sure is that Miami will continue to be the model for how an athletic program should be run, and this alone should be enough to bolster student support and pride in Miami athletics.