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The U of Miami Football Scandal: Will the NCAA Do the Unthinkable and Strip TV Rights?

While it threw a tough sentence at USC, college sports’ governing body has been reluctant to target the bread and butter of university athletic programs, lucrative television appearances

The University of Miami's football program stands accused of some of the worst malfeasance in the long, dark history of college sports. If the allegations prove even halfway true, will the National Collegiate Athletic Association actually hit the school where it hurts — by taking away its TV revenue?

That's the question being asked in the wake of yet another grounding-shaking report by Yahoo Sports investigative wiz Charles Robinson — published this week — which uncovered extensive ethical and moral lapses over several years within the University of Miami football program.

How bad is it? Bad.

According to Robinson's report, a now-imprisoned Miami booster gave millions of dollars to no less than 76 Miami football players — some of it to subsidize strip-bar journeys, prostitute services and subsequent abortions.

If the Yahoo report is verified by an NCAA investigative committee, the wrong-doing would certainly dwarf the infractions recently committed by, say, the University of Southern California.

USC's football program had the book thrown at it last year, losing 30 scholarships over three years plus appearances in two bowls, all stemming from the fact that one player took a house from a sports agents. (Notably, the former Miami athletic director whose tenure coincided with the period of the accusations, headed the NCAA infractions committee that handed down USC's sentence.)

One thing USC didn't lose: its lucrative TV rights.

As the New York Times' Pete Thamel pointed out in a front-page story Sunday, the NCAA is currently mulling several other less serious scandals, notably ones occurring at Ohio State and North Carolina

But while the NCAA might punish many these universities in the form of scholarship restrictions and post-season bans, there has been no discussion about taking away their TV money.

Also read: Report: Pac-10 Strikes $3B Deal With Fox and ESPN

Major athletic conferences make a fortune off their broadcast pacts — the Pacific 12 Conference's $3 billion deal with ESPN and Fox being one example. Yet, taking some of that cash away is not a standard sanction — or even an occasional one.

In discussing this most recent scandal, some media members have raised the possibility of the so-called "Death Penalty — that is, making Miami ineligable to participate in football for several seasons.

It did just that to multiple offender Southern Methodist University more than 25 years ago, sending the school's football program into a competitive stone age it has yet to truly return. 

But despite the severity of Miami's accusations, the possibility of the Death Penalty or a TV ban seems unlikely to many pundits, including this one.

One key reason: such sanctions would hurt not just Miami, but its brethren in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Forbidding a team from appearing on national television would reduce the amount of money the entire conference receives. 

There's also pressure from the TV networks, which provide billions of dollars in broadcast money to NCAA constituents — do they and their advertisers really want to see one of the most widely followed programs in college football disappear from the airwaves?

Yet isn’t the point of a punishment to punish the offender(s)?

It’s not like these other schools are squeaky-clean. As the extensive list of recent scandals makes clear, college football is a pretty corrupt sport.

The media is to blame as well since the conferences and the networks wash one another’s hands.

And that is the main reason these major violators like Miami or Ohio State will always appear on a TV set near you — everyone is making too much money.

That money is being passed around to everyone but the players, which is why there has been talk of paying them too. Sure, that will cure the overarching cultural problem.

Again, why not make everyone bleed a little bit? Sacrificing some profit to try and correct a failed system has to be worth it.

Instead, it seems everyone, from professors to journalists to fans have tacitly and begrudgingly accepted that greed always wins.