Double Death Penalty


Sean Stopperich, who helped bring down the SMU program, ended up at Temple with BA.

Both SMU and Temple have something in common in that both school’s received the Death Penalty for their football program.

SMU had the formal one, the first “modern” death penalty—the NCAA’s power to suspend a program for a year—while Temple had a self-imposed one based on years of neglect.

You decide which was worse, but sitting through an 0-11 season and a 20-game losing streak which I did as a Temple fan in the Bobby Wallace Era was pretty bad.


Temple never paid players $1,000 a month and with free cars—like SMU boosters did in the 1980s—but some of the 1980 Temple teams probably could have given the pay-for-play guys a pretty good game. The late Sean Stopperich, whose family was relocated from Pennsylvania, reneged on a scholarship with Pitt and signed with SMU and his story was featured on ESPN’s 30 for 30 expose on the SMU Death Penalty.

Ironically, Stopperich ended up at Temple, where he played a few games before a shoulder injury ended his career. He was part owner of a gym in the Pittsburgh area when he died in 1995.

In those days, under Bruce Arians, the Owls went 6-5 twice and both winning records were posted against the then-No. 10 schedule in the country. Arians’ 6-5 seasons were in 1984 and 1986.

To show you how much times have changed at Temple, the current Owls are playing against the 126th-ranked schedule in FBS football. That’s pretty hard to do when you are in highest-rated G5 league, the AAC, but thanks to Charlotte and Stony Brook, the Owls are doing it this year.

SMU’s highly-paid players lost their entire 1987 season due to sanctions and could play no home games in the 1988 season. The Mustangs went 52-19-1 from 1980 through 1986.

The 1984 SMU team went 10-2 with no common opponents with Temple. The 1986 SMU team went 6-5, like Temple, and beat Boston College, 31-29. That year, the Owls lost to BC, 38-29.

When SMU and Temple played in the 1940s, neither was a national power as the 2-4-1 Owls tied the 4-5-1 Mustangs in 1946 and 3-6-2 SMU and 2-5-3 Temple tied, 6-6, in 1942.

Decades later, both programs lost their way because one put too much illegal money into the program and the other did not put enough legal money into the program.

Now, both are trying to come back from the dead and the Owls have had more recent success than the Mustangs. It was a long, hard, climb, but both appear headed upward.

Friday: Game Preview


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