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College Sports, Education

A Look at the NCAA Death Penalty

FoxSports.com’s AJ Perez released an August 2, 2011, article, “Could death penalty give NCAA new life?”, which explored the NCAA’s last use of the death penalty (SMU) and whether it is time for the organization to use it as a deterrent in today’s world of college sports.

The “death penalty” is an application of NCAA repeat-violator legislation. A repeat-violator is an NCAA member institution in which “the Committee on Infractions finds that a major violation has occurred within five years of the starting date of a major penalty”. [NCAA Bylaw] NCAA Bylaw provides:

“A repeat violator shall be subject to enhanced major violation penalties and any or all of the following additional penalties:

(a) The prohibition of some or all outside competition in the sport involved in the latest major violation for a prescribed period as deemed appropriate by the Committee on Infractions and the prohibition of all coaching staff members in that sport from involvement directly or indirectly in any coaching activities at the institution during that period;

(b) The elimination of all initial grants-in-aid and all recruiting activities in the sport involved in the latest major violation in question for a prescribed period;

(c) The requirement that all institutional staff members serving on the Board of Directors, Leadership Council, Legislative Council or other cabinets or committees of the Association resign those positions, it being understood that all institutional representatives shall be ineligible to serve on any NCAA committee for a prescribed period; and

(d) The requirement that the institution relinquish its voting privilege in the Association for a prescribed period.”

NCAA Bylaw is the “death penalty” provision. The NCAA-imposed death penalty under Bylaw (or its predecessor rule) occurred in several cases, including:

  • University of Kentucky basketball program (1952-53 season).
  • University of Southwestern Louisiana (now the University of Louisiana at Lafayette) basketball program (1973-74 and 1974-75 seasons).
  • Southern Methodist University football program (1987 season).




About Michael L. Buckner, Esquire

An attorney who provides clients with internal investigation, civil litigation, estate planning and compliance services.



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