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SMU's "Death Penalty": What Price Did It Pay?

June Jones
June Jones

It's easy today to talk about what the national championship might be worth to LSU, but with Hawaii coach June Jones taking the SMU job on Monday, I want to talk about the cost that the death penalty had on that football program.

To refresh: SMU football was put on probation for three years in 1985, but after it was discovered in 1986 that players were being paid, the 1987 season was canceled and so many players transferred to another school in 1988, that they didn't play that year either. The school was also banned from bowl games in 1988 and 1989 and over a period of four years lost 55 scholarships.

From 1989 to 2007, the SMU football team's record has only had two winning seasons. I'm going to do some rough calculations here just for fun.

I'll say that the death penalty has cost SMU 10,000 fans per game for the past 19 years. Assuming 5.5 home games a year, that's 55,000 fans per season. Let's value each of those tickets at $15 each and that's $825,000 per season at the gate alone. Throw in a reasonable $1.50 concession per capita (not every fan is going to buy something) and we're up to $907,500 per year.

Factoring in inflation, sponsorship, advertising and other potential revenue, I'm saying SMU has lost at least $25 million over time from the death penalty. There's probably more here. Had the "Death Penalty" not occurred SMU might be in what today is the Big 12 Conference instead of Conference USA and the former of course rakes in much more money per year.

This is saying nothing of the cost of having a horrible football team has had on university morale and applications.

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