10 Craziest Suspensions in College Football History
College football suspensions are unlike suspensions in any other sport. First, they seem to happen more frequently (which is understandable, considering there are 120 teams). But what really sets them apart from benchings we see in the NFL, or any professional sport, is the reasoning for the suspensions.
College athletes are under tremendous pressure to compete at the highest levels, and they do so under the strictest of conditions. Not only are these athletes expected to behave themselves on the field, but any misstep at a random Thursday night campus party and players can quickly find themselves missing game time.
While the reasoning behind some suspensions (say, getting arrested) make sense, there are others that defy logic. Some players get suspended for the stupidest things, or worse yet, some players are so stupid, they get suspended for their crazy antics.
Either way, here are 10 of the craziest suspensions we’ve ever seen in the history of college football.
2011: Stephen Garcia, South Carolina
1 OF 10
In April, former South Carolina starting quarterback Stephen Garcia was suspended for some pretty dumb behavior at an SEC-mandated leadership seminar for football athletes.
What makes the suspension so crazy is not only the fact that it was Garcia’s fifth, but because it was for showing up intoxicated at the aforementioned seminar, and causing a disturbance.
To make matters worse, the suspension came just two weeks after Garcia had been warned by South Carolina officials about his behavior and had promised to clean up his act.
Funny enough, Garcia was ready to play in the 2011 season opener (some suspension).
But even that came back to haunt South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier.
In October, Garcia submitted to a team-mandated drug test and allegedly tested positive for marijuana and alcohol. The athletic department had finally had enough of Garcia, and athletic director Eric Hyman announced Garcia’s dismissal.
Maybe Spurrier has learned his lesson: Six strikes is probably a few strikes too many.
2008: The Wisconsin Marching Band
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OK, this isn’t technically a player suspension, but it’s definitely a college football suspension, and it’s one of the most bizarre, especially considering the perpetrators.
After allegations of rampant alcohol abuse, sexual misconduct and hazing, the University of Wisconsin took the unusual step of suspending the marching band from playing at football games.
The band missed an October game at Camp Randall between then-No. 14 Ohio State and then-No. 18 Wisconsin.
What makes matters worse is the fact that the band was suspended mainly because this wasn’t the first time such allegations had surfaced. The band was placed on probation in 2006 after a trip to Michigan.
One of the craziest stories from the Wisconsin band saga was female members of the band being forced to kiss other female members if they wished to use the bathroom on the bus. There’s nothing wrong with having a little fun in college, but when you gotta go, you gotta go and you shouldn’t be forced to kiss anyone to do so.
It appears the unprecedented suspension worked. Since 2008, there have been no reports of major misconduct in Madison from the marching band.
2009: LeGarrette Blount, Oregon
3 OF 10
There are probably few things that can get you suspended from a college football team faster than throwing a punch.
Especially if that punch comes after a game and is on national television.
That’s exactly the case of LeGarrette Blount and his punch seen ’round the world after Oregon’s 2009 season-opening loss at Boise State. When the game concluded, Blount sucker-punched Boise State linebacker Byron Hout in front of other players, coaches and television cameras.
In all fairness, Hout was taunting Blount about his pre-game comments about giving Boise State an “ass-whuppin’.”
Since Oregon couldn’t take care of business on the field, Blount decided to do it himself—and ended up suspended for the rest of the 2009 season (but was reinstated in November).
2006: Florida International and Miami (FL)
4 OF 10
Separated by just nine miles, it would seem like the University of Miami and Florida International University would be natural rivals.
But the fact that FIU is a young program with no real football tradition causes more than a few folks from Miami to look at the Panthers’ program as nothing more than a Miami wannabe.
Miami is also a private school in Coral Gables—starkly different from FIU’s public university campus in western Miami.
The 2006 game was supposed to be the first in an annual series between the crosstown schools, but the events of this first meeting changed those plans quickly.
By midway through the third quarter of an increasingly physical game, Miami took a 13-0 lead. Miami’s James Bryant caught the touchdown pass and was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after pointing to the crowd from the end zone.
During the PAT attempt, FIU’s Chris Smith appeared to punch Miami’s Matt Perelli in the chin and FIU’s Marshall McDuffle, Jr. kicked Perelli in the head.
Numerous Hurricanes players came immediately to the aid of Perelli, but they did so by throwing punches of their own.
Within seconds, both benches had cleared, and chaos ensued.
One of the craziest moments from this stupefying brawl was Miami’s Anthony Reddick running at several FIU players, swinging his helmet at them. Miami’s Brandon Meriweather was also seen kicking an FIU player on the ground.
After several minutes—and police intervention on the field—the officials handed out 13 personal foul penalties, along with ejections. Bizarrely, Miami players took the opportunity provided by the delay to gather on the sideline and appear to celebrate their fighting.
In the end, 31 suspensions were handed out by the universities and respective conferences (13 Miami players and 18 FIU players were suspended).
Former Hurricane Lamar Thomas was providing color commentary for the game’s broadcast on Comcast Sports Southeast and made the following comments during the fight:
2010: Cam Newton, Auburn
5 OF 10
This suspension isn’t crazy in a couple of unique ways. First, it was counted in days, not hours. Secondly, it was in the aftermath of a growing media frenzy surrounding the player favored to win the Heisman (which he eventually did) playing on a team favored to win the BCS national championship (which it did).
Finally, the suspension was so short, it didn’t even affect a single game.
Thus was the saga of the 2010 “suspension” of Auburn’s Cam Newton when allegations surfaced that his father, Cecil Newton, had “shopped” around for a new collegiate football home for Cam.
Mississippi State had reported that the elder Newton was searching for somewhere in the six-figure range for Cam’s services—an offer at which Mississippi State balked. Cam ended up at Auburn, so the obvious question was what did Cecil get for Cam’s enrollment?
In the end (and as it happens, very shortly after Cam was declared “ineligible”), the NCAA found no wrongdoing on the part of Cam himself, and cleared him to play.
After missing no game time, Newton went on to lead Auburn to a 14-0 record, which included a BCS national championship.
While not a terrible suspension—especially since it was found that Cam Newtom himself committed no wrong-doing—it still makes our “craziest” list due to the media circus surrounding it, and it’s unusually brief existence.
2003: Maurice Clarett, Ohio State
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If ever there was a college football version of the classic cautionary tale about hubris, it has to be Maurice Clarett.
The standout from Warren, Ohio quickly found a home on the Ohio State Buckeyes’ roster with seemingly endless ability and tons of talent. He set an Ohio State freshman record with 1,237 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns, and he was an important part of Ohio State’s 2002 national championship. In the 2003 Fiesta Bowl (which was also the BCS championship game for the 2002 season), Clarett scored Ohio State’s winning touchdown over Miami in overtime.
But almost from the time Clarett set foot on campus in Columbus, there were problems. During Ohio State’s game against Northwestern, several media outlets captured Clarett arguing with coaches on the sidelines. Between the 2002 regular season and the 2003 Fiesta Bowl, he publicly complained that Ohio State didn’t pay him to fly home (remember, he’s from Warren, Ohio). When Ohio State officials responded that Clarett had not filed any paperwork requesting a plane ticket, Clarett simply said they were lying.
Finally, things with Clarett came to a head when the New York Times reported that he was at the center of an academic cheating scandal (although an internal investigation found no evidence of misconduct).
The final straw for Ohio State was the criminal charges against Clarett stemming from a false police report filed by Clarett, claiming that personal effects—a staggering $10,000 worth—had been stolen from a car he was “borrowing” from a Columbus-area car dealership. Combined with an ongoing investigation by Ohio State into Clarett’s alleged receiving of improper benefits (say, for instance, $10,000 in clothing, stereo equipment, CDs and cash), Ohio State decided to expel Clarett.
Coming so quickly upon the heels of his suspension, and his amazingly rapid and well-documented fall from grace at Ohio State, Clarett’s very public crash-and-burn story has to rank near the top of any list of craziest suspensions.
Clarett wasn’t finished with his troubles, as he was later cut from the Denver Broncos and convicted of federal gun charges and armed robbery.
Clarett now plays for the Omaha Nighthawks of the United Football League.
2007: Florida State University
7 OF 10
Florida State had been working hard to erase the memory of the moniker “Free Shoes University,” but an academic cheating scandal not only resulted in the suspension of more than 20 Seminoles football players, but the team was also forced to vacate five wins from 2006, and all seven victories from 2007 before losing to Kentucky in the 2007 Music City Bowl.
Perhaps even more damaging was the fact the this scandal spelled the end of an illustrious career for one of the game’s greats, Bobby Bowden. The living legend retired (not entirely by choice) after the 2009 season. The vacated victories also meant Bowden no longer had a chance of catching Joe Paterno for the title of all-time winningest FBS coach—a title Paterno holds after his own unceremonious departure from Penn State in 2011.
2004: Gary Barnett, Colorado
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After allegations of improper recruiting and mishandling of a rape allegation, Colorado suspended, and later forced the resignation of head coach Gary Barnett.
“Improper” is putting it mildly. The allegations included buying alcohol, strippers and prostitutes for recruits visiting Colorado.
Even as the program was being investigated, a former female player, Katie Hnida, accused a former teammate of rape. Barnett’s response was to call Hnida an “awful player” and said she simply “couldn’t kick the ball through the uprights.”
Regardless of Hnida’s playing abilities (or lack thereof), it’s clear that Barnett’s response to the rape allegation was anything but proper. His ouster from Colorado apparently couldn’t come quick enough, as the university agreed to a contract buyout worth $3 million.
1951: United States Military Academy at West Point
9 OF 10
This scandal not only shocked college football, but it shook the foundation of one of the nation’s proudest institutions to its very core.
One of the grandest things about West Point is its famed “Honor Code.” Part of that code insists that cadets live by a higher standard and perform their duties and live their lives to a higher standard, always striving to be the best possible soldier and person possible.
The 1950 Army football team seriously dropped the ball on that one.
Initially reported in April of 1951, West Point launched an investigation into the alleged Honor Code violations.
The allegations went beyond academic cheating, but those charges were the most damning of all. In the end, fully half the Army football team was suspended and later dismissed from the U.S. Military Academy.
While a mediocre program by today’s standards, at the time of the scandal Army was the best of the best in college football. Such a scandal today would be on the order of Nick Saban suddenly announcing that half of his football team, including every starter anyone had ever head of, was being expelled from the University of Alabama—it was just that shocking to the college football world, and even the country as a whole.
1987: Southern Methodist University
10 OF 10
We’ve talked about a lot of players, and even some coaches being suspended, but this time we’re dealing with the suspension of the entire program.
After what we all know by now to be the worst example of improper benefits in the history of college sports, the Southern Methodist University football program was completely shut down by the NCAA for the 1987 football season (and by SMU itself for the 1988 season).
The SMU tragedy happened for reasons bigger than simple cheating; it was the institutionalized nature of the cheating coupled with the programs refusal to change its ways that led the NCAA to impose the harshest penalty possible—the dreaded “death penalty.”
The repercussions were so bad, even after SMU restarted its football program, the NCAA has not instituted the penalty in the sport since.
SMU went, literally overnight, from a power of the Southwestern Conference to a pariah that suffered through two decades of futility on the field before ever returning to a bowl game.