Wednesday Lunch Talk - Before the Death Penalty: The Integration of Academics, Athletics and Fundraising at SMU

Wednesday, September 28, 2016
Noon - 12:50 pm
Genrich-Rusling Room, 215 LeChase

In our talk, we will explore the antecedents of Southern Methodist University's infamous football scandal. During the 1980s, the university's football program was investigated and sanctioned for massive violations of NCAA rules, including paying players. The NCAA leveled the so-called "death penalty," which cancelled SMU's entire 1987 football season, which decimated its football program for two decades. To date, SMU's sanctions remain one of the harshest punishments in the history of college athletics.

Despite extensive media exposure at the time, and now even thirty years later, scholars in higher education have yet to explore the scandal in any detail. Although journalists have written extensively about the scandal, especially the university's scheme for paying players, they overlook the antecedents of the scandal. Moreover, media accounts oversimplify explanations for SMU's cheating of the rules - corrupt business leaders, politicians, coaches and administrators, and greedy players.

We advance a different thesis. After conducting extensive analyses of archival records at SMU, we have concluded that the football program's fateful path to the death penalty stemmed from a complex set of institutional factors. In particular, SMU's president during the 1970s, Dr. James Zumberge, deliberately conceived a strategy for enhancing the university's academic quality by reviving the university's football program in hopes of increasing fundraising. The significance of our findings rests in revealing President Zumberge's concerted entrepreneurial efforts and engagement with the university's athletic department.

Presented by Nathan Harris, Instructor in Educational Leadership at the Warner School of Education, and Stephon Hamell, Doctoral student in Higher Education and Assistant Director for College Programs, the David T. Kearns Center for Leadership and Diversity in Arts, Sciences and Engineering.

A light lunch will be served. Food will be available at 11:45 am. Program starts promptly at noon.

Tags: athletics, Nathan Harris, Stephon Hamell, Warner Wednesday Talk