Groza, Beard and Barnstable pleaded guilty to taking $1,500 in bribes in return for shaving points in a 1949 National Invitation Tournament game against Loyola-Chicago. The Wildcats were favored by 10 points going into that game, but lost 67-56. At that time, teams were allowed to participate in both the NCAA and NIT tournaments. Kentucky responded by barring Spivey from playing in the 1952-53 season. It was to no avail, as the Southeastern Conference barred Kentucky from conference play that season.
Shortly thereafter, an NCAA investigation revealed that players were being paid to play, and that head coach Adolph Rupp knew about this and did nothing. As a result, the NCAA placed Kentucky's entire athletic program on probation for the 1952-53 school year. Also, NCAA executive director Walter Byers pressured the NCAA's basketball-playing members into not scheduling Kentucky—effectively canceling the Wildcats' season. The Wildcats were reduced to using brand-new Memorial Coliseum for intrasquad games.
In November 1951, NBA President Maurice Podoloff barred all the players involved in the scandal from the league for life, including Groza and Beard. Groza and Beard had been the stars of the Indianapolis Olympians, a charter member of the NBA, and the ban directly led to the Olympians' folding at the end of the 1952-53 season.
However, in 1986, SMU faced allegations that players were still being paid. An investigation found that 21 players received approximately $61,000 in cash payments, with the assistance of athletic department staff members, from a slush fund provided by a booster. Payments ranged from $50 to $725 per month, and started only a month after SMU went on its original probation. Also, SMU officials lied to NCAA officials about when the payments stopped. While the school had assured the NCAA that players were no longer being paid, the school's board of governors, led by chairman Bill Clements, decided that the school had to honor previous commitments made to the players. However, under a secret plan adopted by the board, the school would phase out the slush once all players that were still being paid had graduated.
As a result:
The infractions committee cited the need to "eliminate a program that was built on a legacy of wrongdoing, deceit and rule violations" as a factor in what is still the harshest penalty ever meted out to any major collegiate program. It also cited SMU's past history of violations and the "great competitive advantage" the Mustangs had gained as a result of cheating. However, it praised SMU for cooperating fully with the investigation, as well as its stated intent to run a clean program. Had SMU not fully cooperated, it would have had its football program shut down until 1989, and would have lost its right to vote at NCAA conventions until 1990.
All recruits and players were allowed to transfer without losing eligibility, and most did. On April 11, 1987; SMU announced its football team would stay shuttered for 1988 as well, citing the near-certainty that it wouldn't have enough experienced players left to field a competitive team. Their concerns proved valid, as new coach Forrest Gregg was left with a severely undersized and underweight roster comprised mostly of freshmen.
Afterwards, players were reluctant to attend a school with a history of such major recruiting violations. In addition, the loss of 55 scholarships meant that it would be 1992 before the Mustangs were able to field a team with a full complement of scholarship players; it would be another year before it fielded a team comprised entirely of players unaffected by the scandal.
Since 1989 SMU has only defeated 2 ranked teams, has only 1 winning season, and is 58-153-3. The death penalty decimated the Southwest Conference's reputation and finances, contributing to the collapse of the entire conference in 1996. One of the most memorable quotes about the death penalty came from former University of Florida President John Lombardi, now president of the Louisiana State University System: "SMU taught the committee that the death penalty is too much like the nuclear bomb. It's like what happened after we dropped the (atom) bomb in World War II. The results were so catastrophic that now we'll do anything to avoid dropping another one.”
However, UK did little to reform itself until scandal erupted over two Kentucky players in 1989. First, Eric Manuel was accused of cheating on his college entrance exams. Second, an Emery Worldwide package sent to the guardian of Chris Mills burst open in transit, revealing $1000 in cash. The NCAA slapped Kentucky with three years' probation, including banishment from the 1990 and 1991 NCAA Tournaments. The NCAA also stripped Kentucky of its two wins in the 1988 NCAA tournament, and took the unprecedented step of banning Manuel from playing for any NCAA member school.
Due to the nature of the violations and the previous 1988 sanctions, the NCAA Committee on Infractions nearly imposed the "death penalty" on Kentucky, but decided against it after the school cooperated fully with the investigation. UK president David Roselle forced head coach Eddie Sutton and athletic director Cliff Hagan to resign, replacing them with Rick Pitino and C. M. Newton respectively. He implemented policies to bring the school's athletic department under tighter university control.
Since the SMU case, the closest that the NCAA has come to imposing the "death penalty" against a football program was against the University of Alabama in 2002. The most severe violation involved boosters paying players (most notably Albert Means) to come to Alabama. Alabama was eligible for the "death penalty" because of a 1999 case in which men's basketball assistant coach Tyrone Beaman tried to convince boosters to help him start a slush fund for recruits. The boosters immediately contacted the athletics department, Beaman was fired and the incident was self-reported to the NCAA. Infractions committee chairman Thomas Yeager said that the committee seriously considered giving Alabama the "death penalty." He called the violations "some of the worst, most serious that have ever occurred" in NCAA history and claimed that the Crimson Tide were "absolutely staring down the barrel of a gun." It finally settled on five years' probation, a two-year bowl ban and the loss of 21 scholarships over three years. Yeager strongly hinted that if the Tide committed another major violation during the five-year period, it was very likely that it would get the death penalty.
During the 2003 Baylor University basketball scandal, the NCAA infractions committee found that the Bears under Dave Bliss had engaged in violations as serious as those SMU had engaged in two decades earlier. Baylor was eligible for the "death penalty" in this case since the tennis program had been hit with probation in 2000. However, the committee decided not to issue the death penalty because Baylor took swift corrective action once the allegations came to light (in contrast to SMU, whose administrators knew about the wrongdoing and did nothing). Ultimately, the Baylor program only received what amounted to a half-season death penalty for 2005-06. They were barred from playing any non-conference games; they could still compete against their Big 12 Conference opponents, and they did, going 4-12 and losing in the first round of the Big 12 tournament to finish 4-13 for the year.