SALT LAKE CITY — Jiminy Cricket — what in the world is wrong with college football these days?

Yet another program is under the proverbial lights of cheating.

In case you've been on vacation, the Miami Hurricanes football team is under scrutiny for major NCAA violations.

Accusations have claimed the Miami football program accepted funds from a convicted Ponzi schemer, Nevin Shapiro.

In the report it claims that Shapiro provided close to $2 million to the athletic program and gave illegal benefits to 72 current or former players of the program.

Players like Kellen Winslow Jr., Devin Hester, Andre Johnson, Willis McGahee, Frank Gore, Jacory Harris, Sean Taylor, Antrel Rolle, Vince Wilfork and D.J. Williams were all included in the alleged list.

Well golly! No wonder the Hurricanes were nearly unbeatable in the early part of the last decade. The 2001 National Championship team is considered by many to be the most talented team to every be composed.

Don't agree?

Along with McGahee, Johnson, Rolle, Gore, Taylor, Wilfork, Winslow and Williams — Ken Dorsey, Ed Reed, Clinton Portis, Roger McIntosh, Jonathan Vilma, Bryant McKinnie, Roscoe Parrish and Jeremy Shockey ran through the smoke tunnel that season.

It's hard not to negatively think, did other players accept illegal benefits as well and slip through the cracks? Just how many players were influenced to attend school near South Beach by Shapiro?

This is all stemming weeks after the NCAA slammed the final hammer on the long-running saga of the USC scandal involving Reggie Bush by vacating the Trojans of their 2004 National Championship. It was the finishing touch of long string of punishments.

The Trojan's were sentenced to the timeout corner with punishments stretching from four years of probation including two years without postseason eligibility, the loss of 30 scholarships over a three-year span and stripping Bush of his Heisman trophy.

The NCAA is obviously fed up with recruiting violations and cheating. Talks of the "Death Penalty" for Miami have already risen and for good reason.

Over the past years — Alabama, Boise State, West Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio State, Auburn, Georgia Tech, LSU, Oregon, South Carolina, Michigan, Tennessee, Arkansas State and Texas Tech have joined the Hurricanes and Trojans in committing major NCAA violations.

Is this college football or the mafia?

Who knows how long these antics have been circulating throughout the programs, but, figuratively speaking, say they have continuously committed violations over the past decade.

Dating back to the 2000 season — excluding North Carolina and Arkansas State who have roughly the same college football pedigree as some Texas high schools — the afore mentioned teams have combined for 1,322-574 record (a .697 winning percentage). The wins are grouped with 134 bowl games, 69 bowl wins, 33 BCS appearances, 23 BCS wins, 7 national championships, 11 national championship game appearances and 45 conference championships.

That's not including the wins and bowl game victories surrendered by USC, Georgia Tech, Ohio State and Alabama already.

Who says cheaters don't prosper?

These violations aren't just a-run-in-the-muck mistakes either. These are well known infractions such as improper benefits, lack of institutional control, excessive recruiting including contact from boosters, ineligible student participation, amateur athlete and coaching staff violations and failure to report such scams.

What's next? An organized underground casino to lure recruits? Prostitutes are so yesterday's tactics.

That's why the NCAA made the decision with the Trojans — it had too. The problems are spiraling out of control, and there really is no choice to rid USC of its hardware. However, does that really solve the problem at hand?

First of all, the original punishment is bogus. The suspended bowl games and loss of scholarships over the three-year period isn't affecting the persecutors. It's punishing the current players and coaching staff. Yeah, Pete Carroll can release a statement that he's saddened by what's unfolding in Southern California. But does he really care? No. He cheated and nearly doubled his salary with the Seattle Seahawks because of it — he's caring all the way to the bank.

It's a waiting game with the NCAA. Who's ready for Auburn's title to be stripped in a couple of years? Punishments need to be handed out immediately for the necessary message to get through. In other words, act now with Miami. Get the facts and lay down the law.

Secondly, I watched the 55-19 beatdown the Trojans laid on Oklahoma in 2004. I saw Bush, Matt Leinart and Carroll hoist the championship trophy in Miami. Those memories, those images can never be forgotten. So for the NCAA to say otherwise is almost a waste of time. No matter what, in my mind — USC won the national championship.

However, it's a step. Anyone who accomplishes something wants to be recognized for it — so erasing USC from 2004 hurts whether players and coaches want to admit it.

So, what's to be done with the "title"? The year has to have a winner right? Should it go to Oklahoma — the team that looked like it should be playing in the Peach Bowl? What about Auburn and Utah? They went a combined 25-0 that season? But who wants to back into a championship? It's like bragging that you kissed a girl to your buddies after they already had.

The correct decision in that regard is to leave the championship line blank.

No asterisks. No replacement. Nothing but emptiness is the only workable solution.

The cheating problem certainly is far from over then until something is actually done to prevent it at the time it happens. Even in the case of SMU and the "Death Penalty" it took the NCAA years of dealing with corruption before sentencing the program in 1987. Cough, back to Miami.

The best example of how the problem should be handled compares with performance enhancing drugs.

In the early 1980's steroid use was sickeningly common. The NCAA put a stop to the drug use by implementing harsh penalties including loss of eligibility that season. Not the first five games of the next season as in the case of Ohio State and the Sugar Bowl in 2011.

To prevent usage of banned substances, the NCAA spends roughly around $4 million annually in drug testing throughout both the offseason and season.

It's obviously a priority.

The result?

According to a survey conducted by the NCAA — steroid use has decreased from 9.7 percent in 1989 to 3.0 percent in 2003. During the 2003 season, there were 7,327 drug tests, with just 77 turning up positive.

The NCAA wanted to put a stop to the abuse of illegal drugs. Although small amounts of usage are still present in programs today — steroids are hardly a factor thanks to the testing.

The same results with illegal recruiting and improper benefits would appear if the NCAA truly put its foot down to stop it.

Hear this: act swiftly and immediately. Make it a priority to stop cheating.

3 comments on this story

If caught terminate the eligibility of the players and punish the coaches and program on the spot. Not three, four years later which defeats the purpose. That's like putting a toddler on delayed timeout.

The NCAA has the chance to make Miami the poster child of what happens when you cheat. Send the feeling of fear like a plague throughout the nation.

It's on the right track to clean up the garbage that's polluting college football. Let's hope it's soon before it's too dirty to repair.

Email: tphibbs@desnews.com