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Now, It Appears, SMU Will Avoid 'Death Penalty'

February 20, 1987|Associated Press

NEW YORK — Penalties proposed against Southern Methodist University's football program by the National Collegiate Athletic Assn.'s enforcement staff stop short of the first use of the maximum, two-year "death penalty" shutdown, the school's faculty representative said Thursday.

While the NCAA's infractions committee is not bound by the recommendation and still could impose the maximum penalty on its own, SMU professor Lonnie Kliever said the staff's proposal at a hearing last weekend was the same as the school's.

"We cooperated and were not adversarial," Kliever said. "We discussed and disclosed the infractions that put us at risk with the enforcement people. And we went into the hearing with the staff and the institution agreeing on violations and proposed penalties. Neither the institution nor the enforcement staff went in asking for the death penalty."

Kliever would not say what penalties the school and the enforcement staff proposed.

Under legislation adopted in June 1985, the NCAA may suspend repeat offenders for up to two years, prohibiting competition, recruiting, coaching or scholarships during that period. SMU, the most penalized school in NCAA history, was already under sanction when the current charges surfaced and thus became the first to be subject to the most extreme punishment.

David Berst, director of enforcement for the NCAA, would not discuss the case or what penalties the NCAA had asked for.

Frank Remington, professor of law at the University of Wisconsin and chairman of the infractions committee, said last week that lesser penalties were an option of his committee.

"The legislation calls for the imposition of a major penalty, the loss of contests, subject to exceptions authorized by the committee in unique situations. It is called the death penalty, but it says the prohibition of 'some or all' contests. We could cancel as few as one game. It is an oversimplification to call it the death penalty.

"Its purpose is the desire of membership to have substantial penalties. We are bound by what the membership tells us."

Kliever said SMU had no indication that its presentation at the hearing "blunted the committee's sensitivity to the nature of the infractions," but he said the university believes there were mitigating circumstances that would justify a lesser penalty.

"Those circumstances reach to the character and cooperation of the university in identifying and dealing with the infractions," Kliever said. "We conducted the investigation with the cooperation and assistance of the NCAA, rather than vice versa. We shared and participated in the investigation."

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