SMU puts together the best football team in America during the early 1980s with the help of bribes and payoffs, until the NCAA gives the team the "Death Penalty"--a sanction from which the team has yet to competitively recover.



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Episode credited cast:
Fred Akers ...
Himself (archive footage)
Dick Anderson ...
Himself - SMU Defensive Tackle
Ken Andrews ...
Himself - SMU Booster
Harvey Armstrong ...
Marilyn Arps ...
Herself (archive footage)
Skip Bayless ...
Dan Beebe ...
Himself - NCAA Investigator
David Berst ...
Himself - NCAA Director of Enforcement
Cash Birdwell ...
Himself - SMU Trainer
Sherwood Blount ...
Himself - SMU Booster (archive footage)
Michael Bowen ...
Himself - SMU Wide Receiver
Gil Brandt ...
James E. Brooks ...
Himself - SMU Interim President 1980 (as Dr. James E. Brooks)
Paul 'Bear' Bryant ...
Himself (archive footage)
Robin Buddecke ...
Himself - SMU Booster


From 1981-1984, a small private school in Dallas owned the best record in college football. The Mustangs of Southern Methodist University (SMU) were riding high on the backs of the vaunted "Pony Express" backfield. But as the middle of the decade approached, the program was coming apart at the seams. Wins became the only thing that mattered as the University increasingly ceded power of the football program to the city's oil barons and real estate tycoons and flagrant and frequent NCAA violations became the norm. On February 25, 1987, the school and the sport were rocked, as the NCAA meted out "the death penalty" on a college football program for the first and only time in its history. SMU would be without football for two years, and the fan base would be without an identity for 20 more until the Mustangs' win in the 2009 Hawaii Bowl. This is the story of Dallas in the 1980's and the greed, power, and corruption that spilled from the oil fields onto the football field and all the way ... Written by Anonymous

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Release Date:

11 December 2010 (USA)  »

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1.78 : 1
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Did You Know?


The introducing close-up picture of Sherwood Blount has the reflection of dollar signs in his eyes. See more »


Norm Hitzges: If you're gonna be a dirty program, you better be good at it. You better understand that the group handling the dirtiness has to be small, and it has to be committed, and it doesn't go out and chirp at bars.
See more »


Features 1980 Holiday Bowl (1980) See more »

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User Reviews

A Marvelous Way to End the Series
12 December 2010 | by (Louisville, KY) – See all my reviews

30 for 30: Pony Excess (2010)

**** (out of 4)

The final entry in ESPN's 30 FOR 30 series takes us back to the early 80s when Southern Methodist University had the best record in college football. You might ask yourself how SMU could have the best record and that's because they were buying the best players in the country. After being caught twice and put on probation, the boosters continued to pay players and this led the NCAA to put a "death penalty" on them, which got rid of the football program for two years and nearly twenty-years later it's still not restored. Clocking in at just under two-hours there's no doubt that the series goes out on an incredibly high not as this documentary perfectly explains and tells you everything you'd want to know. It's funny that ESPN shows this one just shortly after Cam Newton won the Heisman considering all the stuff floating around about his father taking money. This documentary shows that paying players has been going on for a very long time and it reminds younger people that the trouble Reggie Bush got USC in isn't nearly as bad as what happened to SMU. We get interviews with their coaches, players and even a couple of the boosters who were paying people. The interesting aspect of the story is that there were two newspapers in Dallas and both of them were trying to out do the other, which led to some famous writers to try and track down and get a player to talk, which they eventually did. The shocking thing is that the Texas governor was even involved in the paying. Sports fans are going to recognize every writer that was working in Dallas at this time so that just makes this film even more special when you notice you had famous people playing, paying as well as writing about the situation. Director Matula does a marvelous job at showing the atmosphere of college football in Texas and they also make it quite clear that SMU wasn't the only school paying players. When you watch a film like this you can't help but feel that this has been going on for decades and it certainly hasn't stopped as college football is still worth a lot more money than it was in 1981. Fans of college football are going to love this documentary but it also gives a great message to anyone that there are lines that can't get crossed and even something as big as a football program can be taken away in the matter of seconds.

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