OT - Pony Excess, Welcoming back those who took money, and players as victims

Submitted by gobluesasquatch on December 12th, 2010 at 12:59 AM

After the Heisman presentation, I thought I'd check out Pony Excess, because I remember the announcement by the NCAA placing SMU under the Repeat Violations punishment, otherwise known as the Death Penalty. I remember when the SWC was a good football conference. And I remember when Houston rolled up 95 points against a hapless SMU squad in their first year back. 

Despite ESPN's best efforts to make some of the people look like innocent victims, I had very little sympathy for anyone involved, perhaps maybe the kids at SMU who stuck with the program during the suspended seasons (those who didn't get paid) and those joined after the program restarted. (Still think it was absolutely classless what Houston did to them in 89 - but hey, they got there sanctions a few years later). 

What surprised me was SMU's decision to recently begin to welcome back all their former players, particularly those from the era of widespread paying of players. Despite the NCAA exposing the reality that the school knew what was going on, the show did it's best to try and make it seem like the only villains were the boosters. Yet a large number of players took money, and continued to take money after the first and second sanctions!

Eric Dickerson wouldn't go on record as to what SMU had to do that got him to sign (though an assistant coach claimed they paid off the gold trans am), and yet here was the university openly contacting him and inviting him back years later! It seemed as if the past was just forgotten, and athletes, many of whom admitted they were getting paid were now suddenly back as a part of the family. Worse yet, many of them seemed upset that they'd been kept a way from the program for so long. There seemed to be no remorse for what they'd done. In some cases only frustration that other schools weren't penalized the same way. 

I don't feel sorry for the student athletes who KNEW the rules (and they know the rules) and took money, went to SMU and continued to take money even as the school was put on probation.

As it applies to Michigan, it reminded me that those implicated with Ed Martin should remain away from the progam. I'm glad that Webber, Taylor, Traylor and Bullock are not part of the program. They knew what they were doing, they did it anyway, and in Webber's case, he's never admitted he broke the rules and what he did was wrong (at least in the eyes of the NCAA). There are consequences and I'm glad Michigan continues to exhibit some consistency here.

Curious to see what others thought who watched Pony Excess. 



December 12th, 2010 at 1:56 AM ^

sucks that we paid such a high price for C-Webb's indiscretions but the powers that be probably should have seen it coming, what with all the brand new Jeep Grand Cherokees parked in front (or in some instances, the sidewalk) in the diag.  

Kids are stupid and they don't always think about the consequences.  I hope we can get the entire fab five back in the fold one day.

Bando Calrissian

December 12th, 2010 at 2:05 AM ^

The Albom book came out in, what, '93?  Reading the thing is like a connect-the-dots NCAA violations report.  It's all there.  What's amazing to me is that it took until the Cleaves crash for this stuff to get anyone's attention.  And even more amazing that kids were still taking money AFTER the investigation began.


December 12th, 2010 at 5:56 AM ^

You can't be serious. When the chickens came home to roost in 2002, Albom was widely slammed for not making any of it a part of that book. All of it's there?! Almost NONE of it is there.

Ed Martin is mentioned a grand total of one time in the book, in the prologue, and Albom doesn't even tell us who he is. He is just in a litany of rattled off names that was at Webber's draft party.

Bando Calrissian

December 12th, 2010 at 8:36 AM ^

Might want to read it again.  Because Martin is mentioned at several points in the book, including paying for Steve Fisher's father's wake, lengthy descriptions about him liking to show up at homes with cakes, having a friendship with Webber and Jalen, etc. etc.  He's not an inconspicuous figure in the least.

And it's not just Albom's books, either.  Martin was profiled in a Freep article in 1985 trying to give cash, liquor, and cakes to Terry Mills.  Which Mills then returned.  In 1985!  And the NCAA wasn't digging around until 1996?

Bando Calrissian

December 12th, 2010 at 2:58 PM ^

Mitch Albom, "Fab Five," pages 44-45:

"One friend, a slickly dressed former autoworker named Ed Martin--known by some as "that Gambler who kept a wad of bills stuffed inside his sock"--would attach himself to kids like Chris and Jalen, call himself their "godfather," and provide little favors to help entice them to Southwestern High School.  Martin was big on baked goods, and often delivered cakes and pastries to the homes of good young ballplayers.  He had them there in his car and he would pop open the trunk and open a fresh cake right there, in the parking lot of some gym, sharing pieces with parents of star recruits, talking about why they should attend Southwestern."

Cake story.  1993.  Not the late '90s.  

Who's out of their element?  


December 12th, 2010 at 1:36 PM ^

Bando, I think you're misunderstanding things here.  For many years, Martin was a booster at Southwestern High.  He paid 8th-graders to come to Southwestern and play for his friend, Perry Watson.  (That's what is mentioned in Albom's book.)  Usually, he was successful, but Terry Mills balked at the idea of moving from Romulus to Detroit and returned the gifts.  He had nothing to do with U-M at this time.  In fact, we didn't sign anyone from Southwestern for years.  Jalen Rose was the first to come here in like 15 years, despite the fact that Southwestern was a perennial powerhouse.

Where we got in trouble was when Fisher hired Watson in 1991, and allowed Watson's buddies - specifically Martin - to become hangers-on.  Eventually, Watson himself realized that Martin needed to be shunned, but Fisher continued to give him free tickets and access to his players.  (This part does not get mentioned in the book at all.)  And so he became a booster for Fisher's program. 

Bando Calrissian

December 12th, 2010 at 3:08 PM ^

Not disagreeing in principle, but it's a bit of a distortion of facts to say that Martin just waltzed into Ann Arbor in 1991 with Perry Watson.  The NCAA found that he had a relationship with the Webber family as early as 1988, and had been giving them money before Chris came to Michigan.   Martin was a well known figure to Bill Frieder (and Steve Fisher) in the '80s as well.  

Even though Antoine Joubert was the last Southwestern player to go to Michigan until Webber, there was a relationship between Martin and the Michigan coaching staff.  He was already a hanger-on before Watson came to Ann Arbor (which was a specifically calculated move on Fisher's part in order to help with Jalen and Webber's recruitment) because he was the kind of guy who wanted to be around stars.  There are tons of guys in the basketball world.  Look at Worldwide Wes.  Ed Martin just happened to be a sleazebag who was important enough in the lives of big-time basketball recruits in Detroit that you had to curry favor to him to get to them.


December 12th, 2010 at 2:31 AM ^

I would argue that there are no consequences for the kids.

Bush, Weber, and anyone else are not the ones who have to deal with it.  Once they graduate they can plead the fifth till the cows come home, while the university gets bitch slapped  by the NCAA.

What's the motivation to turn the money down? The off chance you might get caught?

And even if you do get caught, you can pretty much just say "my bad" and the fanbase/media will forget in 3 months.


December 12th, 2010 at 2:34 AM ^

sucks that we paid such a high price for C-Webb's indiscretions

The people who paid the highest price for Webber's indiscretions were the completely innocent players on the 2002-03 team. They missed out on a postseason bid because of the sanctions resulting from his actions. Webber took money knowing that if he were ever caught, it would be others who suffered the most for his actions. As such, I have no sympathy for him and I hope that the University never lets him come back.


December 12th, 2010 at 2:32 AM ^

this to be a funny considering it air after the heisman presentation. But i'd have to say it is very fitting though. Also didnt appreciate the shot at Michigan when they mentioned Michigan practice violation at the end of the piece.

Hail, Great win a MSU today or better known as Miserable Screw Ups!


December 12th, 2010 at 2:55 AM ^

If you're young and poor but tremendously gifted at football, and somebody offers you lots of money to play at a college which is pretty much like any other college, I don't see how you didn't take the money.

I view that as a better alternative to the Miami players profiled in "The U" who were jacking car stereos for cash.  I think college football players should be paid at least some sort of stipend beyond tution/room/board for making their schools millions of dollars in profit.


December 12th, 2010 at 3:16 AM ^

As a former collegiate athlete, I definitely understand the thought behind paying the players an additional stipend, which they do receive for meals when they travel. Some will eat dirt cheap so they can pocket the money for other stuff.

They can have jobs, but really, most don't have the time, whether they are in revenue generating or non-revenue generating sports. 

But what I don't hear is any solutions to offer pay for football and basketball players. Who determines the pay - the NCAA or the schools? Do you set it so that the smallest athletic budgets at D1 FBS can afford it? What will stop larger schools from still paying athletes more?

Do you pay starters and non-starters the same? Scholarship and walk on players the same? Lets face it, Michigan wasn't making a ton of money off Jimmy King and Ray Jackson jerseys. It was the number 4 we all wanted. so would Chris Webber get more? Who determines that. 

The problem with paying the athletes is this, there are still some athletes who really generate the money, and others who don't. Or, you could make the argument that each year, fans will buy a Michigan jersey, the athletic department and marketing arms just select a jersey number corresponding to the most popular player(s). So does Cam Newton make Auburn, or does Auburn make Cam Newton? Keep in mind, Auburn has been a top notch SEC school longer than his cheat of a father has been alive. If Cam Newton puts up the same numbers at Kentucky, or better yet, at another alabama school, like UAB, does he win the Heisman (of course not). 


December 12th, 2010 at 4:15 AM ^

But not others. Fun sliding scale of morals you have there.
<br>So, do you pay all the players, or only the good ones? Does Denard make as much as our kickers? Are they making the same amount of money for the school? And if it's equal pay, does the stipend go to women field hockey players too? Because Title IX is going to come a calling. At that point, I assume men's soccer players and everyone else gets a cut. Maybe enough to pay for their own scholarships (oh, wait...). Because if not, I'm hoping you're ready to pony up for $200 tickets or more per game. Because someone has to pay for all this.


December 12th, 2010 at 8:08 AM ^

It came across like SMU was too wreckless and didn't have the system in place to cheat in a discreet organized way compared to their competitors.  If you look at the records, the late 80s and early 90s were largely down years for those SWC conference schools.

Pretty likely that the badness went more underground and these schools were working on reemerging either scaled down (Houston, TCU) or possibly cleaner (Texas, Texas A & M).    The right rats didn't get caught and the theories behind punishment for these wrongs is very flawed.  A lot of you are making good points.

On the other hand, it seems like if this did serve to scare these other schools straight and create a fairer more balanced environment for every school, it was more positive than negative.


December 12th, 2010 at 9:57 AM ^

How could they treat Craig James the way he truly deseved to be treated when he is one of their on-air personalities?  He was one of the top recruits in a program that paid everyone, but he comes off as lily-white and innocent.  No wonder his son has such a sense of entitlement. 

As it stands now, ESPN basically helped James get Mike Leach fired, and then wants us to believe that the second-biggest recruit at SMU was pretty much the only person on the team who never took any money.  What a crock.

Getting away from James, I did notice one thing.  The freep jihad was nothing compared to what happened at SMU.  Another way to look at it is that the freep tried just as hard as all of the reporters in Dallas did to bury Michigan, but there was nothing there to find except practice and making kids run laps for not going to class. 

Either way, I wish the press in EL or Columbus was like that.


December 12th, 2010 at 12:51 PM ^

Have to completely agree with you on James - he came off as way too innocent.

I think the freep guys saw themselves as  on a similar type of journalistic crusade but were chasing air.  Someone should do an investigative story on the them and their irresponsible behavior.  The Dallas press was actually pretty restrained until it was obvious the whole thing was way, way over the top


December 12th, 2010 at 11:50 AM ^

What I didn't like about the documentary was the opinion of the 'death penalty' and how it should never have been administered. I disagree strongly. Dropping that showed the powers that be in NCAA football that there are incredible prices to pay for undiscrete, rampant cheating. Will any school cheat as brazenly as SMU again? Probably not. 


December 12th, 2010 at 12:50 PM ^

The death penalty was administered as a message to schools everywhere--we're not afraid to completely end your program. And they did, essentially, for 25 years. The punishment wasn't just for SMU, it was for Texas and TAMU and the other schools that were cheating. For a modern example, a lot of people think that the sanctions on USC were too severe. I argue that the sanctions, though severe, were a message sent to the country--don't mess with the NCAA.

Another example: the death penalty is like the atom bomb. We only used it twice, but the fear of it and its reprecussions defined history for decades.


December 12th, 2010 at 1:50 PM ^

The death penalty was justified.  They didn't mention it, but SMU actually went on probation a total of six times altogether over the years.  Even after all that, they were engaging in cheating of the highest order, with the university president involved.  What was the NCAA supposed to do?  The only real objection you can raise is that there were other programs that should have gotten it, too.

I disagree with the film's implication that the death penalty was the main reason why SMU was terrible for 20 years afterwards.  First, SMU wasn't a historical power.  Their history was full of ups and downs, and the ups usually involved NCAA scandals.  Second, the breakup of the SWC was a killer for them.  They went from being in the equivalent of a BCS conference to being in the WAC, and then Conference USA. 

What would be interesting is to see what would happen to a true historical power in a major conference (Alabama?  Oklahoma?) if it got the death penalty.  How long would it take to rebound?  Probably a lot less time. 


December 12th, 2010 at 1:12 PM ^

I guess the point should have been made during the show that this was happening at other schools, and when you are a relatively no-name school with decent academics in the heart of Texas, you probably do have to brazenly break the rules to stay competitive.  In no way am I condoning what happened, but SMU was not the only school paying players back then, though obviously they were the most corrupt.  I thought the SMU players largely came across as myopic jerks who didn't understand that even if other people were doing it, you were caught and you need to accept the punishment.  In 20 years when they do one about 2010 Auburn, I'm sure I'll feel the same way about a busted-down Cam Newton bitching about people taking his Heisman.


December 12th, 2010 at 2:02 PM ^

Necessary Roughness.

I thought that Scott Bakula would appear and Kathy Ireland would be kicing extra points.

But my favorite line came from a player looking back on the 89 team when he said: "We weren't that big... but we were slow."  I cracked up.


December 12th, 2010 at 5:22 PM ^

Why was smu the only program to get the death penalty?  It should have been done long before to other schools, the ncaa knows it, everyone knows it.....    btw, I still look at the smu death penalty as a warning to usc and the sec!

Check out Usc's crap...long before reggie bush btw



 I had a link that can no longer be found on espn that brought out how he 12 sec schools led the ncaa with 42 major violations and many of the schools multiple over many yrs...and this went back to 10 right before alabama got nailed again!  So yea....it's funny how espn signs a major tv deal with the sec and suddenly this disappears......


December 12th, 2010 at 11:47 PM ^

Great doc. However, the MI reference at the end in between USC clips was BS. The 97 clip with Lloyd had no place in there.

Also, did anyone else catch the mistake? Near the end when they were showing SMU going to play at ND, they showed a clip of cheerleaders. However, they weren't ND cheerleaders, they were Michigan cheerleaders. Tell me if I'm wrong, but I'm sure about it.