Another decade, another SMU investigation. Like clockwork, SMU is once again on probation. This time, however, it’s the basketball program. During the 1970’s and 1980’s SMU’s football program was handed the death penalty for improper benefits. ESPN did a 30 for 30 on the “Pony Excess” a few years ago, and it’s probably one of the better ones out there. During that time, SMU was enjoying a dynasty of sorts in college football. Since the death penalty was handed down in 1987, the football program has enjoyed all of one winning season.
Now the penalty against the basketball program is nowhere near as harsh as it was on the football team. But the Mustangs have been banned from postseason play. No NCAA tournament and potentially no AAC conference tournament. They also lose nine scholarships over the next three years. Larry Brown has managed to get a couple of great recruits to commit to SMU the last two years in Emmanuel Mudiay(who didn’t play a game for SMU, instead opting to play overseas, but he still commited) and Shake Milton. This team is a veteran team and might see some huge roster changes over the next two years so they could use all the help they could get. Larry Brown is also suspended from coaching 30% of the games this years for lack of control and failing to report violations. But the violations are made worse because of the promise that this team had coming into the year.
The thing that kills me is that SMU was expected to be a very good basketball team this year. I even had them ranked at number 24 in my preseason top 25 poll. This is a team that might have been able to win the AAC, or at least come close with competition from UConn and potentially Memphis and Cincinnati. This could have been everyone’s massive sleeper team heading into March Madness. They bring back almost everyone and were essentially screwed by the refs in the NCAA tournament. But SMU had to know this was coming.
Larry Brown is a great coach. He doesn’t abide by the rules much but he still can get the best out of his players. This is the third school that he has coached at that has been sanctioned by the NCAA. At University of Kansas, his team was sanctioned for recruiting violations after their 1988 national championship. To this day they are the only team that has not been able to defend their title due to NCAA violations. At UCLA, the NCAA found two of his players on his Final Four team to be academically ineligible, thus vacating the Final Four appearance. Wherever Larry Brown has coached, he has been a great coach, no doubts about it. He is in the National Basketball Hall of Fame and has over 1,000 wins as a coach. But wherever he has coached trouble has followed. He has feuded with many NBA players and franchises, most notably Allen Iverson when he coached the Philadelphia 76ers and the Detroit Pistons. He has never committed to one team or program ever in his life, and it wouldn’t shock me to see him leave SMU after this violation.
SMU has started to build a good program recently. They were shockingly left out of the tournament in 2014, made it in 2015 and were supposed to be a very good squad this year. But after these sanctions, which include postseason bans, loss of scholarships and Larry Brown being suspended from coaching for 30% of the teams games, it could be the end of the line.