The Louisville Stars were taken down by the permabanning of four players in 1877 for gambling. As the St. Louis Brown Stockings had just signed two of those players, they too fell in the aftermath of the second scandal in Major League Baseball history.
The Cleveland Spiders were one of the powerhouse teams in the 1890s, winning a Temple Cup in 1895. Before the 1899 season, its owners, brothers Frank and Stanley Robison, bought the St. Louis Browns (now considered illegal due to obvious conflict of interest) and shipped many of its star players there. The Spiders were essentially left with a minor league club consisting of cast-offs and inexperienced players. The Spiders went 20-134 that year for the worst record ever in Major League Baseball history. As a testament to how bad the team was, home games were so sparsely attended that they had to be converted to road games which the MLB forbids today. When the National League contracted from twelve teams to eight at the end of the 1899 season, the Spiders were one of the victimsnote alongside the Baltimore Orioles, the Washington Senators and the Louisville Colonels; the former two cities and Cleveland would have charter franchises of the American league in 1901.
The "death penalty" is the harshest punishment that the NCAA can inflict on a college athletics team, banning a school from competing in a sport for at least one year. As the name suggests, not only does this literally kill the team for the period of time the ban is in effect, but it is often left gutted afterwards, forced into a long rebuilding period. It is because of this harshness that the NCAA has only handed it down five times in its history:
The University of Kentucky Wildcats basketball team was banned from competing in the 195253 season after it was revealed that three players had been gambling on games during the '4849 season. Further investigation revealed that ten players had received "impermissible financial aid" (i.e. they were being paid under the tablenote As an officially amateur athletic organization, the NCAA prohibits schools from paying players with anything other than scholarships. Given the money generated by the NCAA, this rule is not without controversy, though debates over such are best left for another article.), and that a number of them were ineligible to play. The NCAA went so far as to ban all of the school's other teams from postseason play in 195253, finding that university officials had willfully ignored what was happening and that the problems were much greater than one team.
The University of Southwestern Louisiana (now the University of Louisiana at Lafayette) Ragin' Cajuns basketball team was found guilty of more than 125 violations in 1973, most of them revolving around various perks given to players, including money, gas cards, clothing, being allowed to borrow coaches' and boosters' cars, and in the most egregious case, forging one player's high school transcript. Not only were the Ragin' Cajuns banned from the 1973-74 and '74-75 seasons, but their '72 and '73 tournament appearances were scrubbed from the books and the school was stripped of NCAA voting privileges for four years; some recommended kicking USL out of the NCAA altogether, but this didn't happen.
In 1986, the Southern Methodist University Mustangs football team was hit with what remains known as the harshest punishment ever inflicted by the NCAA. The team had already been put on three-year probation in 1985 for recruiting violations, the seventh time this had happened (and the fifth time since 1974), and the following year, it was discovered that the team was still paying players through a slush fund set up by a booster. The NCAA canceled the Mustangs' 1987 season and all of its 1988 home gamesnote SMU later voluntarily canceled the rest of its 1988 season as well, as so many players had transferred to other teams that the Mustangs were composed largely of unseasoned freshmen., banned it from bowl games and television until 1989, forced it to cut its assistant coaching staff from nine people to five, barred it from off-campus recruiting until 1988, and cut 55 scholarship positions from SMU over the next four years. The Mustangs' once-storied football program took over twenty years just to become halfway-decent again (they had only one winning season between 1987 and 2007, and wouldn't make another bowl game until 2009), and the entire Southwest Conference (a former powerhouse that had already been tarnished by other scandals) was left devastated by the collapse of one of its biggest teams, eventually folding in 1996. The crippling effects the death penalty had on both SMU and the Southwest Conference are the reason why the NCAA has since become very reluctant to hand out such stiff punishments. To this day, the rampant infractions committed by SMU football are considered the baseline for what is deserving of the death penalty. It is for this reason why the NCAA didn't issue the death penalty to Baylor University's men's basketball team in 2005, despite violations just as bad as SMU football, because Baylor, unlike SMU, at least took swift action to crack down on it.
In 2003, the Morehouse College Maroon Tigers soccer team was banned from play until 2006 when they were caught having signed two Nigerian-born players who were clearly ineligible to play, given that they had played professionally for a minor-league team in the past and had obvious red flags in their applications. On top of that, the two also played in games for Morehouse before they were actually enrolled. Morehouse actually canceled the soccer team's season itself after it found out (and has since stuck to intramural play), but the NCAA extended the school's self-imposed death penalty by two years due to how serious the infractions were.
The MacMurray College Highlanders tennis program was shut down for the 200506 and '0607 seasons, with a ban on postseason play running through 2009, after a part-time coach and his father arranged for $126,000 worth of grants for ten players from foreign countries. MacMurray is a Division III school, which are not allowed to grant athletic scholarships; the fact that the head of the athletic department outright criticized that rule during the hearings on the matter was a factor in why the NCAA cracked down so hard. The MacMurray tennis program has remained shut down since.
In addition to the above, five schools (four of them in Division I or its predecessors) have voluntarily shut down one or more athletic programs as a direct result of NCAA violations, possible criminal activity, or both:
In 1951, a massive college basketball point shaving scandal was uncovered.note For those not familiar with the term, "point shaving" is a gambling scam in which the scammers pay players or game officials to try to keep a betting favorite's margin of victory below a published betting line. It initially focused on CCNY,note City College of New York which had won both the NCAA and NIT in 1950.note At the time, the NIT was the more prestigious tournament, and it was possible for a team to play in both tournaments. The probe soon spread to ensnare players at six other schools, with the aforementioned Kentucky program being one of them. The scandal proved to be a real killer for another New York City programLIU.note Long Island University, now a multi-campus university system. The LIU of 1951 is now the Brooklyn campus of the larger institution, and it calls its athletic program "LIU Brooklyn". After six players were caught up in the scandal, LIU shuttered its entire athletic program, didn't reinstate it until 1957, and didn't return to Division I until the 1980s. CCNY itself didn't shutter its athletic program, but it quickly deemphasized sports, and is now a Division III member.
University of San Francisco president John Lo Schiavo shut down the school's prominent Dons men's basketball program in 1982. This followed a decade in which the USF program had been on NCAA probation twice, and Lo Schiavo made it known that he would shut down the program if there were any further NCAA violations. The situation came to a head in 1981, when All-American Quintin Dailey was found guilty of assaulting a female student. He also admitted to being paid for a no-show job by a prominent USF booster and receiving thousands in cash from another booster. The investigation also revealed that boosters were paying many other players, and players were receiving special academic treatment (inflated grades and "tutors" doing their course work for them). True to his word, Lo Schiavo shut down the program in June 1982. The basketball team was reinstated in 1985, but not until the rogue booster club was disbanded and replaced by a club under athletic department control, and academic standards for all incoming athletes (not just in basketball) were significantly increased.
The next such program shutdown came in April 1985, when Tulane University president Eamon Kelly shut down the Green Wave men's basketball program. Five players, including star John "Hot Rod" Williams, were accused of being involved in a point-shaving scheme. Williams was tried, but the judge declared a mistrial and charges were dropped. In the meantime, an independent investigation launched by Tulane found that the head coach and two assistants had been paying players. Some Tulane faculty wanted to shut down the entire athletic department, but they were satisfied with Kelly shuttering men's basketball. Kelly initially vowed that the program would never return under his watch, but students convinced him to restart the program in 1989.
In May 2014, Fresno Pacific University, which was transitioning from the NAIA to NCAA Division II, discovered major NCAA violations in its Sunbirds men's and women's tennis programs. The school announced that both teams would be shut down for 201415. The NCAA responded by requiring that FPU spend an extra year of probationary membership before being accepted as a full Division II member, and FPU then announced that the tennis teams would remain shuttered for at least 201516. (FPU still hasn't brought back tennis.)
Finally, in April 2015, Western Kentucky University shut down its Hilltoppers and Lady Toppers men's and women's swimming and divingnote The NCAA considers swimming and diving to be a single sport. programs. This came about after a former men's team member told police that other team members had assaulted him and forced him to drink alcohol even though he was underage at the time. WKU officials and local police found evidence of widespread drug use and sexually charged hazing going back at least three years. The head coach was aware of this activity and did nothing, even though it violated numerous university policies and several criminal statutes.
Several English football teams have gone bust over the years for various reasons:
Leeds City were ejected from the Football League and forcibly disbanded in 1919. Officially this was for paying illegal bonuses to several of their players during World War I, though rumour has it that the real underlying reason was that they bribed the chairmen of other clubs not to vote them out of the League in 1912 after their second bottom-four finish in three seasons (Gainsborough Trinity were voted out instead), and without being able to directly prove this, the FA just jumped on the next opportunity to destroy the club.
Accrington FC was a founder member of the Football League at its creation in 1888. Initially, the League was just one table, but it divided in two in 1892, and Accrington became one of the first teams to be relegated to the new Second Division. In a fit of pique, they decided to resign from the League entirely, and play in the local Lancashire league instead. They quickly realised their mistake and applied for re-election the next year but were rebuffed, and found that Lancashire League status could not sustain them. They folded in 1896, after losing a local cup match 12-0. Local rivals Stanley Road FC were then able to add "Accrington" to their name and become the much better-known Accrington Stanley. Now we move forward 60 years....
In the late 1950s, Accrington Stanley thought they could upgrade their stadium on the cheap by purchasing an existing stand from Aldershot. Not the football club Aldershot, mind, but the Aldershot military academy. By the time they transported the stand to Accrington and assembled it, the costs were nearly twice what it would have been to design and build a completely new stand, and to really twist the knife, it turned out that only a little over half the stand's seats were angled correctly to view the pitch, as it had been designed for watching military parades, not football matches. The club's finances never recovered from this blunder, and it resulted in them dropping out of the Football League in 1962, before going bust altogether four years later. "Accrington Stanley" subsequently became a catchphrase associated with defunct, long-forgotten sporting teams, until the reformed club got back into the Football League in 2006.
Speaking of Aldershot, that town's football club fell into financial trouble in the late 1980s, and by 1991 they were in such dire straits that they put their trust in Spencer Trethewy, a 19-year-old "property developer" to save them from extinction. Unsurprisingly, he accomplished nothing of the sort, and the club went bust in 1992. The reformed club, Aldershot Town would later get promoted back to the Football League in 2008... only to be relegated five years later and nearly go bust themselves.
1992 also saw the demise of another football club, Maidstone. Three years earlier they won the Football Conference, but should really have been forced to decline promotion to the Football League due to not having an adequate stadium. However, they instead opted to move to playing their home games 40 miles away in Dartford. Most of their fans weren't willing to make the journey, resulting in them posting average crowd figures that barely exceeded a thousand, at a time when the average attendance for Division Four was around 2,000-4,000. Their finances soon collapsed, and they went out of business in August 1992. They could have been saved by resigning from the Football League, dropping back into the Conference and returning to their original stadium... if not for the fact that they sold said stadium (which was subsequently demolished and replaced by a supermarket) after their promotion-winning season, and the town council refused them permission to build a new one, even if they could have afforded it.
After a period of successes in the late 1990s, Darlington chairman George Reynolds decided to build a huge 25,000-seater stadium (which he modestly named after himself) for the club, opening the new stadium in 2003. The problem with this idea? Darlington were in the fourth tier of the League system, had average crowd figures that rarely exceeded 5,000, and had to compete with the three North-East giants of Newcastle United, Sunderland and Middlesbrough for supporters. On top of that, by the time the stadium had actually opened, Darlington's fortunes had slumped and they were struggling to stay in the League, rather than making any serious attempts at promotion, and just to make things even worse, Reynolds was busted (and eventually jailed) for fraud less than a year after the new ground opened. The club managed to stay afloat for the rest of the 2000s, and even made a few promotion challenges, but the cost of running such an absurdly huge stadium soon overwhelmed them, leading to the club being relegated from the Football League in 2010, and then collapsing altogether two years after that. The supporters subsequently founded a new club, Darlington 1883, who sensibly opted to ground share with fellow non-League club Bishop Auckland.
Scottish football club Rangers F.C. filed for liquidation after the 2011-12 season and was relegated to the Scottish Football League's Third Division (fourth tier) for the start of the next season. They quickly recovered and were promoted back to the Scottish Premiership in time for the 2016-17 season.
Italian football club Juventus met this fate after the 2006 season. Despite winning the league, a match-fixing scandal stripped the team of its 2004-05 and 2005-06 titles, and Juventus was relegated to Serie B (the second division) and penalized 9 points for the next season. Despite losing many of its star players (like Zlatan Ibrahimović), Juve won the 2006-07 Serie B and returned to Serie A.
The biggest (and most tragic) example in Italy would have to be Parma (Also known as Parma AC (before 2004)/Parma FC (from 2004-2015)/Parma Calcio (Present)). Once a mere lower-tier provincial club, Parma AC rose from obscurity to fame thanks to the funding of local company Parmalat, which led to a golden period in which the club featured the likes of Hernan Crespo, Gianfranco Zola, Tomas Brolin, Faustino Asprilla, Dino Baggio, Fabio Cannavaro, Gianluigi Buffon, and Lilian Thuram, among others. The success didn't last, however, as Parmalat fell into bankruptcy after years of fraudulent activity and Parma AC itself went bust, re-founding itself as Parma FC and subsequently plummeting down the Serie A table. The club remained stuck in administration until Parma-based engineer Tommaso Ghirardi bought the team and financed it well enough to bring it out of administration and back into relevancy (but not without a small spell in the second tier), with the team qualifying for the Europa League in 2014 under the tutelage of Roberto Donadoni. Unfortunately, the success in 2014 brought to light the financial troubles of Ghirardi and Parma FC, as the team was disallowed from participating in the Europa League due to unpaid wages and taxes. This led to a series of ownership changes (one of which involved a broke fraudster who claimed to be a businessman on Ebay) that culminated in an even worse bankruptcy than the first, which led to the club re-founding as Parma Calcio and having to start over from the fourth tier of Italian football. The future's looking up for Parma, though, as the club managed to return to the Serie A (after a record three back-to-back promotions) thanks to two (competent and legitimate) ownership groups, one of which (the majority owner) is led by a Chinese Businessman and the other being led by the CEO's of Barilla and Dallara.
Much like Parma, Italian giants Napoli, Fiorentina, and Torino fell into financial oblivion in the early 2000's. Those bankruptcies led to a series of anti-debt reforms in the Italian Football Federation.
Napoli (the former club of Diego Maradona) fell into bankruptcy in the early 2000's thanks to massive debts. The once-great club had to re-start from the third tier, but they eventually made it back to the top flight after three years of obscurity.
Fiorentina went from boasting the likes of Stefan Effenberg and Gabriel "Batigol" Batistuta to having to re-form in the Fourth tier thanks to mounting debts. Thankfully, they followed the lead of Napoli and re-established themselves in the top tier.
Torino was once Italy's pride in the mid-1940's, but they went through a period of decline and relegation throughout the late 90's and early 2000's which led to the club going bankrupt after remaining in the second tier in 2005. Unlike Napoli and Fiorentina, though, they managed to avoid having to re-start in the lower divisions, and secured enough funding to remain in the second tier and have yet another go at promotion (which they finally achieved in 2007 (only to get relegated after one season), and again in 2012)
The Tennessee Volunteers football team has had a history of them:
Johnny Majors was bought out after losing to Arkansas, Alabama, and South Carolina in three straight games in October 1992. He actually resigned before the Vols were to play in that year's bowl game, though he did complete the regular season.
Phillip Fulmer survived one losing season in 2005, but another trio of consecutive losses late in 2008, capped off by a homecoming loss against Wyoming, convinced him to step down as head coach that year, but not before winning the last game of the season, the 2008 Battle of the Barrel, against Kentucky. During the run-up to Fulmer's firing/resignation, associate athletic director John Currie pushed extremely hard for Fulmer's removal. Keep that name in mind...
Derek Dooley was fired after three seasons, each a losing season, as head coach, the last straw being a Curb-Stomp Battle at the hands of their rivals at Vanderbilt, 18-41. Unlike the above two coaches, Dooley didn't even make it to the end of the regular season. It didn't help that the loss against Vandy was another homecoming game.
Butch Jones lost his job to the Missouri Tigers like the Vols lost their game, and like Dooley in 2012, he was fully replaced before the 2017 season was out. The Vols ended up 48 overall and, for the first time ever, winless in Southeastern Conference play.
And then came their search for a new coach after that season. They finally did hire Jeremy Pruitt as the new coach in December, but only after the following (more complete rundown here):
An unsigned memorandum of understanding reached with one candidate that was withdrawn due to a fan revolt.
At least seven other candidates approached or interviewed, with at least two receiving formal offers. The offers were either rejected...
...or, allegedly in one case, sabotaged behind the scenes by Fulmer...
...who, according to some media outlets (including ESPN), apparently still held a grudge against the aforementioned John Currie, who by now had become the AD, for his 2008 removal.
And not only was Currie ousted as AD, Fulmer was hired to replace him. The fandom was already pretty much universally against Currie for his incompetence; if anything, any influence Fulmer might have had in the coach search simply hastened Currie's firing.
No wonder that countless message boards and even some media outlets were using "dumpster fire" to describe the atmosphere around UT football. And all the while, Lane Kiffin, who succeeded Fulmer as head coach but only lasted a season in Knoxville, was mercilessly trolling his former employer on his Twitter account. Including this epic.
George Seifert, winner of five combined Super Bowls as a coach for the San Francisco 49ers note one as defensive backs coach, two as defensive coordinator, and two more as head coach, went to Carolina in 1999 after the Panthers fired Dom Capers. While he did go 8-8 and 7-9 in his first two years, it was 2001 that did him in. That year, the Panthers went 1-15, losing 15 straight. He has not been in a head coaching position since. To add insult to injury, that 2001 season may keep Seifert out of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Another possible reason was because Seifert only succeeded with predecessor Bill Walsh's players and coaching staff.
The same thing also applies to former Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders head coach Tom Flores; although he coached the Raiders to two Super Bowl victories, Flores' record with the Seattle Seahawks from 1992-1994 were an abysmal 14-34.
Show-cause penalties are to NCAA coaches as death penalties are to NCAA teams; however, this is handed down more often. Many who have been hit with a show-cause penalty haven't had a coaching job since; the few exceptions are Todd Bozeman (who spent 13 seasons as head coach for the Morgan State Bears until being fired in 2019 after a few poor seasons, and one of the few D-I men's basketball head coaches to receive another NCAA head coaching job after a show-cause), Kelvin Sampson (who became an NBA assistant, first for the Milwaukee Bucks and then the Houston Rockets, before his show-cause expired and he came back to college coaching with the Houston Cougars), Rob Senderoff (who remained at Kent State throughout the show-cause and is the first person to become a head coach during his show-cause penalty), Bruce Pearl (currently the head coach for the Auburn Tigers, having received that job shortly before his show-cause expired), Brad Greenberg (who went international as an assistant coach for the Venezuela national team), and Chip Kelly (who went to the NFL as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles and then with the San Francisco 49ers, and still later returned to college coaching as head coach at UCLA). On a side note, Sampson and another former NCAA basketball coach under a show-cause penalty, Dave Bliss, competed against each other in the Oklahoma Alumni Legends Game which was held on August 27, 2011. The game was decided via sudden death overtime.
Rich Kotite had risen through the ranks of NFL assistants through the 1980s and eventually got a head coaching job with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1991. He did OK for a while, but after the 7-9 1994 season, after losing seven straight games to end the season, then-new owner Norman Braman wanted to put his stamp on the team, so Kotite was let go. His friend Leon Hess, owner of the New York Jets, decided to let rookie coach Pete Carroll go after a 6-10 season that had come out so poorly when the Jets blew their last several games after the infamous Miami Dolphins' "Clock Play" so he could give Kotite the job. The New York press immediately questioned the wisdom of this hire, and they were borne out when Kotite went 4-28 across two seasons, the worst record for an NFL coach in that stretch of games ever (since surpassed by Hue Jackson, who went 1-31 in the same stretch). Kotite resigned a few days before the final game of the 1996 season and hasn't had a coaching job at any level since then.
"The Miracle at the Meadowlands", the infamous 1978 play where the New York Giants fumbled away a game against the Eagles that they had effectively won in the last seconds, ended a couple of careers. Bob Gibson, the Giants' offensive coordinator who had called the snakebitten play, was fired the next day and has never worked in football again. Head coach John McVay's contract was not renewed at the end of the season; he never coached again although he was able to enjoy some success in the San Francisco 49ers' front office. Andy Robustelli, the closest thing the Giants had to a general manager at that time, was also fired and never worked in football again.
Penn State University's Joe Paterno was noted as the winningest coach in college football history and was well respected until the infamous Jerry Sandusky child molestation charges in 2011, which also implicated him in a cover-up of these activities. Sandusky was arrested and later convicted on the charges, and Paterno's career, legacy, respect, and eventually life came to a screeching end in the last months of 2011 (He was terminated from Penn State on November 9, and died two-and-a-half months later; the NCAA also vacated all of his wins from 1998 on before being overruled three years later.)
Ray Handley was a top assistant for New York Giants coach Bill Parcells, having won two Super Bowls with a team that featured Phil Simms at quarterback, and a fearsome linebacker corps led by Lawrence Taylor. He was the proverbial "good cop" to Parcells' "bad cop", and many saw him as a calming departure from the high-strung Parcells when the latter temporarily retired from coaching after the 1990 season. But Handley immediately shot himself in the foot by promoting journeyman Jeff Hostetler to the starting QB role, due to Simms' age and recent injury history. With Hostetler as the starter, the Giants went 8-8 in 1991, and they followed that up with a 6-10 season in 1992. By then, Handley was anything but Mr. Nice Guy, sparring verbally with media and players alike. He was fired after that disastrous two-season run and hasn't been involved with the NFL since. He's also refused to speak to media about anything NFL-related, suggesting that his experience as a head coach may have indeed made him a very bitter man with regards to pro football.
Canadian hockey player Dick Irvin's coaching career was abruptly halted by the Richard Riot on St. Patrick's Day, 1955. He left the Montreal Canadiens afterward and went on to coach the Chicago Blackhawks for the 1955 season, which was his first team as a head coach way back in 1930. He was scheduled to coach the team again for the next season, but his worsening bone cancer forced him to retire; he died a few months later.
Jim Tressel began his tenure as head coach of as the Ohio State University Buckeyes football team in 2001 after coaching the Youngstown State Penguins from 1986 to 2000. He would lead the Buckeyes to six Big Ten Conference championships as well as three BCS National Championship Games. However, his tenure ended abruptly in 2011 when the NCAA investigated improper benefits violations involving some of the Ohio State football players during the previous season, and they accused Tressel of lying and withholding information. After Tressel resigned in May of that year, Ohio State self-vacated their wins from the 2010 season, and the NCAA placed the Buckeyes on a three-year probation and imposed a five-year show-cause penalty on Tressel. Tressel eventually became the President of Youngstown State and announced his retirement as a coach three years later; to this day, he still maintains an academic career. That didn't stop Ohio State from inducting him into the College Football Hall of Fame, however.
Mike Ditka's storied NFL coaching career came to an ignominious end after the 1999 season. His team, the New Orleans Saints, were desperate to improve their fortunes after missing the playoffs for six straight seasons, so Ditka went all-in on Heisman Trophy-winning running back Ricky Williams from the University of Texas, trading away all of the Saints' draft picks for that year, and two for the 2000 draft, to the Washington Redskins to move up for a better chance to land him. Williams' rookie season was tainted by injuries and on- and off-the-field incidents that prevented him from reaching the 1,000-yard rushing mark. He would show flashes of his potential the following two seasons, but the Williams trade was seen as one of the strangest moments in a draft that saw five quarterbacks picked in the first round, three of whom were considered busts, and only one (the Philadelphia Eagles' Donovan McNabb) reaching a Super Bowl. The Saints finishing with a pathetic 3-13 record (also not helped by the team playing four different quarterbacks, none of whom finished the season with QB ratings above 70, or had more touchdowns than interceptions) was enough for the team to send Ditka and his entire coaching staff packing at season's end. Ditka hasn't coached a game since.
Owners and Management
Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling's career ended abruptly in late April 2014 when recordings of him making extremely racist comments were released. In the wake of player protests (including reports that the entire Clippers team, along with their opponents the Golden State Warriors, would walk off the court of the next NBA playoff game if Sterling was not harshly punished) and sponsors bailing out on the team, the NBA stripped him of his title, banned him from the league for life and fined him $2.5 million for his troubles. Oddly, this was met with a generally good response from fans of the Clippers; Donald Sterling was (and is) often viewed as one of the worst team owners in the NBA.
The Sterling affair led to Bruce Levenson voluntarily (cough, cough) selling his controlling stake in the Atlanta Hawks soon after. An internal investigation into racial comments made by a scout regarding potential free-agent acquisition Luol Deng led to the discovery of emails in which Levenson made his own racial comments, most notably expressing concern that white fans might be scared away by black fans. Seeing the writing on the wall, he sold out, and his often-squabbling partners quickly followed suit.
Bill Polian was one of the most successful general managers in the NFL, having the built the following: the 90s Buffalo Bills teams that went to, and lost, four straight Super Bowls, one of the expansion teams, the Carolina Panthers, who went to the NFC Championship in their second year, and the Peyton Manning-led Indianapolis Colts. In the 2011 season, with Manning sidelined for the rest of the season due to him undergoing neck surgery, the Colts fell to 2-14, and Polian was fired along with his son, Chris (who was the Colts GM at the time) at the end of the season. However, he still maintains a steady NFL career as an analyst for ESPN since joining in 2012.
Bobby Beathard was a former NFL general manager whose career seemingly had everything he touched turn to gold; with the Miami Dolphins winning consecutive Super Bowls after Beathard was hired as director of player personnelnote the first of which concluded the Dolphins' 1972 Perfect Season., followed by building the Washington Redskins into a team that would win 2 of the 3 Super Bowls the team appeared in during The '80s (with their last Super Bowl team in 1991 still having most of the players Beathard had brought in) and finally assembling the San Diego Chargers team that made its only Super Bowl appearance after the 1994 season. However, his career was infamously ruined with the drafting of quarterback Ryan Leaf with the #2 overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft. Leaf proved to be a colossal bust; dragging Beathard down with him, as by the time he retired in 2000 his professional reputation was seriously damaged. This final season kept him out of the Pro Football Hall of Fame for 18 years; when someone with his record would usually get in few years after retirement.
Bobby Unser's racing career came to an end shortly after the controversial Indy 500 where he was temporarily stripped of his win over an incident involving a caution flag. His retirement has been blamed on the negative commercial impact that followed the incident.
In 2001, Fox Sports hired Ken Squier to do some studio work for their inaugural NASCAR telecast, the Daytona 500 (an event that Squier did lap-by-lap commentary from 1979-1997 on CBS). As many NASCAR fans know, this was the race in which Dale Earnhardt (Sr.) died in a crash on the final lap. Nobody knew it at the time, of course, but the longer we didn't hear anything the longer we wondered. Finally, we saw a shot of an ambulance racing to the hospital in the closing moments of the broadcast. And at that moment, that very moment, is when Fox turned to Ken Squier to read a poem about what he had just seen (which had been, up to that point, the story of perpetual bridesmaid driver Michael Waltrip finally winning a race on the sport's grandest stage). So Squier was trying to put the race into some sort of eloquence - all the while we're ignoring him and wondering about this ambulance speeding down the highway we're seeing, but not hearing anything about. Squier at this particular point didn't know Earnhardt had died. And yet Fox's production truck was making the "Dean of NASCAR announcers" look like a fool at the end of their broadcast. It would be the last time that Squier would work on an over-the-air network broadcast until 2015 when he was brought back as part of the throwback weekend at Darlington.
Following his retirement from baseball, Steve Lyons became an analyst (first in the studio and later on game coverage) for Fox beginning in 1996. Lyons' network broadcasting career came to an abrupt halt in the middle of the 2006 American League Championship Series. While broadcasting Game 3 alongside Thom Brennaman and Lou Piniella, Piniella, who is of Spanish descent, used an analogy about finding a wallet, and then spoke briefly in Spanish. Lyons said Piniella was "hablaing Español" Spanglish for "speaking Spanish" and added, "I still can't find my wallet. I don't understand him, and I don't want to sit close to him now." After the game was over, Fox fired Lyons and replaced him with José Mota for the fourth and ultimately decisive game in the 2006 ALCS. Lyons had already been getting in hot water for ethnically insensitive comments. For instance, in 2004, Lyons maligned Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Shawn Green, who is Jewish, for sitting out a game on Yom Kippur in 2004, saying: "Hes not even a practicing Jew. He didnt marry a Jewish girl. And from what I understand, he never had a bar mitzvah, which is unfortunate, because he doesnt get the money." Lyons was suspended briefly without pay after his remarks, and the network apologized for Lyons' comments, although Lyons never made an on-air apology.
The Philippines' Metropolitan Basketball Association (MBA) launched in 1998 as a competitor to the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) as the country's second pro basketball league. For fans of uptempo basketball at a time when 80 points was considered high-scoring in the PBA, the MBA was a godsend, as it promoted a faster brand of basketball. Furthermore, the idea of a regional league (as opposed to companies fielding their own branded teams, e.g. San Miguel Beer, Talk 'n' Text, etc.) drew lots of interest from fans. But in the MBA's desire to topple the PBA as the Philippines' top basketball league, it made several key missteps and encountered a few major problems, including the following:
For starters, the MBA didn't have a rookie draft, didn't need a rookie draft, and didn't want a rookie draft. The idea was to give teams free reign to sign whomever they wanted, and rookies to sign wherever they wanted. Those rookies included a plethora of so-called "Fil-Shams", or foreign players purporting to have Filipino blood when they didn't have a drop of it after all. So while the no-draft system had its merits in theory, it also led to the league having integrity problems due to the high number of Fil-Shams with dubious credentials. (Not that the PBA didn't have this problem as well, albeit to a lesser degree.)
Many MBA players had once played for the PBA, and saw the new league as a chance to prove their worth as promising youngsters, or rejuvenate their careers as grizzled vets. However, it was also quite common for top talent to eventually pooh-pooh the MBA as bush league, and join or return to the PBA after just one season. For veterans like Ato Agustin and younger stars like Dondon Hontiveros and Gherome Ejercito, one-and-done was the name of the MBA game.
It can be argued that the MBA overestimated the sustained demand for a regional league. It did pique interest at first, but over time, the unusual nature of the Filipino basketball fan took precedence — they were simply more used to rooting for brands, rather than cities. In the league's last two seasons, some MBA teams did have corporate branding (e.g. LBC-Batangas Blades, FedEx-Laguna Lakers, Andok's-San Juan Knights) to match their owners' main businesses, but it may have been too little, too late.
In the end it all boiled down to money, or lack thereof. It was simply too expensive to run a regional league in the Philippines, and when television giant ABS-CBN withdrew its funding for the MBA, that was the final nail in its coffin, as it went out with a whimper in the middle of the 2002 season.
The United States Football League was a short-lived competitor to the National Football League that played three seasons from 1983 to 1985. Initially, it produced a ton of media hype about creating a credible rival to the NFL, most notably when 1982 Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker signed to the USFL's New Jersey Generals in 1983 instead of an NFL team.
However, this wound up foreshadowing its downfall, as its efforts to snatch up marquee college talent and NFL stars looking for larger paychecks wound up pushing many teams into the red at a time when they still needed to find their footing. Rapid expansion also strained the league's finances, with the USFL approving six expansion teams for the 1984 season in order to collect on expansion fees, with little consideration for whether all of these cities could actually support a pro football team. The original "Dixon plan" for slower, managed expansion, including tight salary caps and a territorial draft, became more of a polite suggestion than anything.
The real killer, though, was the decision in late 1984 to start playing in the fall beginning in 1986, a move pushed by Chicago Blitz owner Eddie Einhorn and New Jersey Generals owner Donald Trump. Einhorn and Trump knew that playing in the fall would probably kill the league, as it would put them into direct competition against the NFL (they had played the 1983 and '84 seasons in the spring in order to avoid that competition); their hope, in fact, was for a merger with the NFL, in which some of the more successful teams would survive and see their value skyrocket. The problem was, many USFL teams were playing in markets like Pittsburgh, Denver, and Houston that already had successful and storied NFL teams, and fans who might've followed the USFL when they played in the NFL's off-season weren't inclined to abandon their "main" teams in order to do so. In addition, the Generals' home schedule would've been impacted, as they played at Giants Stadium, and would've had to schedule around both the Giants and Jets.
The final nail in the coffin was an antitrust lawsuit that the USFL filed against the NFL in 1986, alleging that they had conspired with the major TV networks to deny them broadcast rights and protect their monopoly on football. The lawsuit ended in a Pyrrhic Victory that saw the jury declare the NFL to be a monopoly, but also declared that the USFL's problems came down less to the NFL's predatory tactics and more to their own mismanagement leaving them unable to compete; as such, the USFL was awarded a judgment of only three dollars. The USFL had been banking on a huge payout from the lawsuit to keep the league financially solvent, and without it, they suspended their upcoming 1986 fall season. The seven remaining USFL teams voted to disband soon after.
Then in 1914, a third league was established to compete against the National League and the American League: the Federal League. It was designed to attract players willing to escape the reverse clause the other two leagues enforced. Unfortunately, the Federal League proved to be too aggressive for its own good. It sued both the American and National Leagues, citing breach of antitrust laws only to have the case languish in court. Skyrocketing legal fees forced the Federal League closer to bankruptcy, and it folded after the 1915 season. Afterward, owners of clubs from the other two leagues bought out most of its teams.
Elite Xtreme Combat, a very short-lived MMA fighting league, was infamous for how it collapsed. Founded in 2006, the following year the company put all its eggs into the basket of Kimbo Slice, a YouTube phenomenon street brawler turned MMA fan favorite. On October 4, 2008, Slice was put up against Seth Petruzelli, a little-known, last-minute replacement for legendary brawler Ken Shamrock, who had to bow out due to a head injury during practice earlier that day. The unknown Petruzelli manhandled EliteXC's star fighter in fourteen seconds. Worse, two days later, Petruzelli gave an interview with an Orlando radio show saying that EliteXC had offered him money to basically throw the fight (specifically, to keep the fight standing up instead of wrestling him to the ground, thus playing to Slice's strengths as a brawler) in order to protect Slice's reputation. The company never recovered from the PR nightmare of the match, especially once the Florida State Athletic Commission started investigating Petruzelli's comments (which he later retracted, but by then the damage was done), and it folded on October 20, just sixteen days later.