Hilltop, meet Hiroshima.

"I'm sorry the story had to be told," says Hansen, whose work earned him a coveted Peabody Award. "But I'm really proud Channel 8 told it."

The carnage has been catastrophic. SMU returned in 1989, only to lose a game to Houston, 95-21, and record only one winning season (6-5 in 1997). And after this season's faceplant, the Ponies appear as far from credibility as ever.

The NCAA's response: Oops. In a kinder, gentler, post-SMU environment of enforcement couched with watered-down legislation, compliance officers and institutional control, the NCAA has since pardoned all 29 schools eligible for the death penalty.

Like a flawed taser delivering fatal aftershocks, Proposition 3 has been all but pulled from the shelves.

"It's not for me to say," Orsini says, "but I'd hope the NCAA would remain consistent in administering penalties fairly."

While SMU begins the search for its next losing coach and continues to deal with its permanently scarred legacy, Hansen long ago shed any remorse.

"There's nothing for me or Channel 8 to feel guilty about," says Hansen. "We didn't put SMU on probation. They did it to themselves."

The death penalty may be dead.

But in its wake, SMU is barely alive.

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