Mystery Team #1
The clues: I was forever known for being one good coach away from being a powerhouse. But just as soon as that savior in a visor finally arrived, I wasn't allowed to go to a bowl game. The previous year, my head coach resigned midseason amid accusations of illegally paying players and assistant coaches. It was later learned both he and the head hoops coach used their respective expense accounts as their personal ATM cards. It gets better: a handful of players, the starting quarterback included, were soon suspended for betting on games. The NCAA had little choice but to drop the hammer, given that just a couple years earlier under a totally different coaching regime, I was found guilty of over 100 violations. What team am I?
The answer: The 1990 Florida Gators are to college football what Carl Perkins is to rock 'n roll: Their influence is evident to experts, but their recognition comparably small. The lack of fanfare can be blamed on being banned from postseason play by the NCAA. Coach Galen Hall stepped down in 1989 even before it was learned both he and basketball counterpart Norm Sloan spent a combined $41,000 of their school's money on personal items. His replacement did a lot more than clean up the mess. Steve Spurrier led his first Florida team to a 9-2 record and a No. 13 final ranking. No Gators team had ever beaten Alabama, Auburn and LSU in the same season. His pass-first offense would soon take the stodgy SEC into a modern era that remains today.
Mystery Team #2
The clues: Taped conversations handed over to authorities as evidence. Stashes of cash hidden in a billboard. Is this an episode of The Sopranos? After spending years being overshadowed by my in-state rival, I enjoyed a nice little run in the '80s. Life is good when you make regular New Year's trips to New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl. The problems began around the time one of my starting defensive backs, some guy named Eric Ramsey, began soliciting coaches for money and loans. Did he really have to tape the whole thing? Like getting paid just wasn't good enough for him. He turned out to be one of several players who were handed bonuses for good games. The resulting penalties saw me handed a two-year bowl ban. Too bad, because I went 11-0 during the first year of that term! Do you know who I am?
The answer: Auburn took pride in the fact in its aggie school roots, playing on natural grass while so many of its SEC rivals installed Astroturf. If only the Tigers took the same approach to running a clean program. A year after Pat Dye resigned and the NCAA came down like Cornelius Bennett on a helpless Tiger ball carrier, Auburn ran the table in 1993 and finished as Division I's lone unbeaten/united team. Of course nobody saw it over the airwaves live. NCAA sanctions banned the Tigers from television.
Mystery Team #3
The clues: I'm no longer considered an outlaw program, but some of my best years came under a coach with an ingrained belief that different laws apply to different sets of people. Give the guy a break: his dad was a bootlegger. The son became head coach in 1973 while I began a two-year bowl ban. Apparently forging a star recruit's high school transcript isn't legal. I blamed the high school. The school superintendent blamed me. My conference said it was my fault and put me on probation. Even with a legit transcript, the kid would have actually been eligible to play under new NCAA rules taking effect that year. No big deal. No sooner did I come off probation did I win a national championship. You think I actually learned some kind of lesson? Yeah right! I mean, do you know who I am?
The answer: Oklahoma actually doctored the transcripts of two players, including star quarterback recruit Kerry Jackson, prior to the 1972 season. The Sooners forfeited a handful of games Jackson played in that year while head coach Chuck Fairbanks resigned amid a cloud of wrongdoing. The NCAA, which previously declared players ineligible for low class rank, declared a 2.0 grade point average to be the dividing line. Like Barry Switzer had any regrets. His first season as head coach of the Sooners ended with no losses and a tie, while his 1974 club ran the table with an unblemished record.
Mystery Team #4
The clues: You'll have to guess between the Southwest Conference teams put on probation in the mid to late-'80s, which is kind of like looking into which East German swimmer was on steroids. I was the seventh SWC side hit with sanctions, but one of my guys actually won the Heisman Trophy. The fact that he did is amazing, considering none of our games were on TV. I had to gain attention others ways, so I ran up the score – a lot. I was compared to a wheelchair thief after putting up 95 points on poor SMU, which fielded a team for the first time in three years after its own – you guessed it – probation. The NCAA limited us to 15 scholarships that year. You can imagine we were pretty depleted by the time those guys were seniors, when SMU had the last laugh and beat me by almost four touchdowns.
The answer: The Mustangs were just one of several opponents who were bludgeoned in 1989 by Andre Ware and the Houston Cougars. They hung 60 or more points on five foes. Ware threw 11 touchdowns in one game on his way to winning the Heisman. Houston was banned from bowls and live TV after two former players claimed they received $38,000 between them. An ensuing NCAA investigation found more than 250 infractions. The Cougars went 9-2 in 1989 and 10-1 the year after, but NCAA penalties soon took their toll and opponents began taking revenge.
Mystery Team #5
The clues: A coach builds a dynasty at a West Coast program and bolts for the NFL so he doesn't feel the effects of NCAA sanctions? It's been done before, Pete Carroll. I was always rumored to have shady goings-on behind the scenes, and that was before I got busted when one of my assistant coaches illegally sold tickets to games. That was just one of the major violations. My school president at the time called the penalties – which included a two-year postseason ban – as "vindictive and discriminatory." Can't blame him for feeling entitled, considering he had just SMU, which was about to suffer because of its own lawbreaking football program The head coach in question stuck on for a year while the sanctions were in effect. He promised his freshman recruits that year that he'd stay at the school long enough to see them graduate. Yeah, right. His replacement actually won a Rose Bowl, but it became very clear that I was no longer the same old bully.
The answer: Like in 1982, USC comes to Stanford Stadium on Saturday on probation and ineligible for the postseason. John Robinson had already won a national championship and finished No. 2 in the final polls twice, but things weren't the same for a long time in Troy following his departure. His final team finished 8-3, including victories over Notre Dame and Oklahoma – in addition to a three-touchdown stomping of Stanford. Here's expecting a different result for the Cardinal.
Are you fully subscribed to The Bootleg? If not, then you are missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our award-winning website. Sign up today for the biggest and best in Stanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com (sign-up)!