TIME Television

Walton Goggins on the Series Finale of Justified and the Fate of Boyd Crowder

Walton Goggins as Boyd Crowder in the series finale of 'Justified.'
FX Walton Goggins as Boyd Crowder in the series finale of 'Justified.'

The actor discusses the show's final episode, Boyd's relationship with Raylan Givens and his upcoming projects with Quentin Tarantino and Danny McBride

Spoilers for last night’s season finale of Justified follow below.

Boyd Crowder was a great many things—criminal, villain, outlaw, preacher, lover, enemy, friend. But perhaps more than anything else, he was Harlan County’s great survivor. If the gospel according to Elmore Leonard had followed to the letter, Boyd (Walton Goggins) would have died in Justified‘s very first episode. Instead, Boyd made it to the show’s very last. He survived two bullets to the chest, one from each of his soulmates: Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) and Ava Crowder (Joelle Carter). He also endured countless attempts on his life, innumerable betrayals and a litany of would-be Harlan County kings. Those imposters all ended up dead, and even though Boyd didn’t fulfill his dream of opening up a Dairy Queen, he did escape Harlan with his life.

Much of the credit for Boyd and his legacy goes to Justified‘s creator, Graham Yost, but it was Walton Goggins’ portrayal of the Kentucky crime lord that compelled Yost to keep Goggins around beyond the pilot and straight through to the show’s very last scene.TIME spoke with Goggins about the show coming to an end, the possibility of a Boyd-centric spinoff and the actor’s upcoming projects.

TIME: How does it feel now that the show is finally ending—or, how did it feel when it ended for you?

Walton Goggins: You know, it was much harder than I anticipated. I’ve been through this once with The Shield and I knew relatively what I was in store for, and then the day came, the last week came, and I was actually going back and forth between “The Hateful Eight,” and the movie, and the show. And I thought, “Well, I’m going to be fine,” and then the moment came—the realization came that morning, on my last morning—that this was it. It was the last time I’m going to be buttoning my shirt all the way to the top and speaking the way the Boyd Crowder speaks.

Needless to say, we saved the last scene that Raylan and Boyd have together—that Tim [Olyphant] and I had together for the last day—and I just almost couldn’t get through it.

It was very, very difficult and we tried to stay in this very Zen place, and when it was over, I just broke down. And there happened to be a 100 people from both networks—Sony and FX—and a lot of good people who worked very, very hard behind the monitor, on hand to watch this scene happen, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the place. It was a real cathartic experience I think for everyone. But it was sad, and then thankfully, right after that, they did them out of order. I got to do Boyd Crowder on a high note, which was him and the prison sanctuary.

I got to go out on Boyd Crowder and preach it. I think literally the last words I said as Boyd Crowder were, “I got the wind in my face!” [Laughs]

Very fitting.

Yeah, so it was. As it turned out, it was a great high to end on and then it was—you know… But I’m doing better today and getting some proper perspective on the experience and I suppose it’s kind of a delayed grieving process because I’m working on something else right now, and it’ll catch up with me sometime later on this summer.

At this point, every fan of the show is more or less aware that Boyd was initially supposed to die in that very first episode. But instead he made it all the way to the very last scene of the final episode and didn’t die at all. Was that something that you had hoped for, or had you thought at all about that, as you were going through the process of the final season?

You know I have had my designs on the ending that I wanted for Boyd, for a number of years. And I pitched it to Graham [Yost] for the end of Season 3. I saw it and it was this beautiful trajectory, and I thought it was a fitting way to end this journey that I had hoped to continue on. And it ended with a bullet for Boyd. I think in some ways it would have been easier for me, as an actor, to let him go knowing that he was dead and gone, and I wouldn’t have to think about what he’s doing every day.

But circumstances dictated the ending that we have, and at the beginning of the season, Graham set me down with the other producers on the show, and we talked about it and we said, “Well, you know, what if nobody dies? It would be very, very painful for people to see Boyd actually die.” I agreed with that and I think that Graham made the right decision, although he put Boyd through hell over the last five episodes, and Boyd crossed lines that were so far outside of his own moral compass that it was very difficult.

The penultimate episode when they asked me to kill Shea Whigham’s character, a working class hero—I had a real hard time with it, because that is who Boyd represents, that’s who he speaks up for when he speaks publicly and that man’s issues are the issues that he fights for. I can’t just arbitrarily commit that act, because that’s a psychopath, and Boyd Crowder is not a psychopath. He’s an outlaw, he’s a villain. I get that. But he also has a moral code, and the people that he’s killed in this show up until this point—aside from the pilot [episode]—were people that were trying to kill him.

And in the outlaw world, you’re given permission to do that. So they agreed, and we wrote that stuff for Boyd to say, and I really believe that that’s what he believed at that time. He’s so angry and bitter and hurt that it allowed for us to reach his absolute bottom, and it didn’t even happen with that. It really happened with what Ava says to him when he asks the only question that he wants to know the answer to before he died, which is, “Why?” And she says, “I just did what I thought that you would do.” There is no greater recipe for sobriety than the only person you trust and love in the world telling you that.

And there was such a start contrast between that final scene between Boyd and Raylan in the Bennett barn and how angry Boyd was, and then the scene in the prison four where the Boyd who obviously has a lot of affection for Raylan comes through.

Yeah, and you know he’s always loved Raylan. He loves him. Deeply. Sometimes I think more than probably Raylan loves him, or Raylan would ever admit.

Right.

Boyd’s the dude who wears his emotions on his sleeve for the most part. He’s a buttoned-down guy but he will tell you how he feels and where you stand: “If you cross me I’m going to kill you.” That’s it. But if you are an intellectual equal and we have dug coal together and we’ve had all these life experiences—then there’s a real affection there. There’s a levity, a lightness to Boyd that I did not anticipate when we sat down to do that last day in the chapel and then our last scene together. I realized that morning when I was getting my stuff on and I was walking in to rehearse, that it is through incarceration, through being at the whims of another person’s schedule and another person dictating the rhythms of Boyd’s day that he had probably more freedom than he’s had in a very long time. I would imagine he slept for the first two years and then finally kind of came out of this dark, morose hole and only to really be able to look at what he did, and to atone for it.

Even with the revelation of Ava’s death—at least to him— and the sadness that came from that news, he didn’t want Raylan to leave, and when he asks, “You have to go?” we know Boyd didn’t want him to go. And Raylan gives Boyd the only things things that he ever really wanted from Raylan, which is that an acknowledgment that Boyd loved Ava and that our friendship wasn’t just adversarial, but that it was rooted in the life experiences that we had growing up, all going back to working in the mines. Then Raylan says, “Because we dug coal together.” That is a metaphor for the life that they had led.

I always really enjoyed the end of Season 1, which had a similar tone.

Me too!

There’s that scene where Raylan has every reason in the world to stop Boyd or to shoot him or prevent him from driving away. But I thought it was really gratifying to see it come full circle and end on a scene like that after so many seasons of the two of them ending a year on different sides of the spectrum.

Yeah, it was a very, very small needle to thread, and I was so grateful that Graham decided to keep Boyd alive to have that scene. I think I can speak for Tim and fans of the show when I say this that the scenes between these two men, between Raylan Givens and Boyd Crowder and the actors playing them mind you, were so rich and they were so nuanced and they were so many things over these years that to have it end with a six-page conversation, maybe it was always supposed to be that.

Obviously you spent a lot of your time over the course of the last six seasons with the two of them, Tim and Joelle [Carter]. Is there anyone you didn’t have a chance to work with as much as you might have liked?

Jeremy [Davies], you know, Dickie Bennett? He’s such a wonderful actor. Neil McDonough, who played Quarles. That was so, so much fun. I enjoyed obviously Mags Bennett (Margo Martindale) so much. I enjoyed Sam [Ellliott] from the season. But the one actor that I wish to God I had had more scenes with, and I’m damn happy with the one scene that we did have together is Garret Dillahunt. I have been a fan of Garrett’s for such a long time. I think he’s just one of the best in my generation and I wish that there was reason to have had more of an exchange with him because he just brings it, and so that’s one big one.

Is it sad for you that you won’t have a chance to play Boyd again? Where does he rank for you amongst the characters that you’ve played over the course of your career?

I am sad, yeah. I think that’s an appropriate word. Sad. I don’t have any regrets. There’s nothing that I would have done differently. I feel like I did it on my terms and he’s someone that I’m very, very close to and I’m very proud of. But I felt like it was time to go, that we had left no stone unturned in his evolution as a fictional character from the imagination of Elmore Leonard.

So while I’m sad, I am simultaneously relieved because it was a lot of weight to carry around for the last three years. You know that’s the thing about television in the 21st century, man, this era of TV. If you are one of the lucky few who get an opportunity to tell a 78 or 84 or 96-hour movie, after Season 3, it’s all going to be difficult from there. That’s just how it happens. Insert drama here. There’s still fun and games to be had, but if you’re telling a drama for today’s audience, you can bet some shit’s going to hit the fan. Those are long days, and I enjoy them immensely, but it’s time to lay them down. I’m still going to button shirt up to the top from time to time, and I’m still going to slip in his accent whenever I want to piss my wife off or drive her crazy. But yeah, I’m coming to terms with this being over.

And so I guess this means that we’re not going to get the spinoff that I’m sure I’m not the only one hoping for, where Boyd breaks out and finally gets to open that Dairy Queen that he’s been talking about?

Well, never say never. [Laughs] I mean it is Elmore Leonard after all, and his characters live on. So you know, I don’t know. That’s in the hands of the people that make that decision. But it’d be hard to say no sometime in the future. Just not tomorrow.

On a slightly more small-scale note, I feel compelled to ask whether you’re a bourbon fan in real life and whether you’ve ever actually ordered Boyd’s usual [four fingers of Elmer T. Lee], which I think would be pretty much an entire glass.

Yeah, absolutely. That’s when he’s feeling particularly frisky. I actually have a few bottles at the house, but I won’t drink it with everybody. I like whiskey, I like scotch, I like bourbon—and I’ve got more than a few bottles at the house. But I’ll only drink Elmer T, I’ll only pull that out with someone very, very special because it’s not top-top shelf but it’s my top-top shelf.

It’s good stuff.

So, uh, so yeah. I have done that both outside of and inside my house. [Laughs]

You’re working on The Hateful Eight right now. Is your character like anything you’ve played before? It seems like given his title he might be on the other side of the law a bit.

Well it’s hard to say in a Quentin Tarantino movie on which side of the law you’re on, you know? Everything is up for grabs. It’s anyone’s guess, really. And what’s been so nice about this opportunity other than the obvious and getting to work with QT again and all of these unbelievable actors—these f—ing icons—is that it’s in the same vein [as Justified].

Elmore was a hero of Quentin’s, and Quentin may be the only other person on the planet that can write in a similar tone when he wants to. Quentin is the master of a scene, and Elmore was the master of a scene, and so I’m just giddy every single day I go to work.

And then from this I’ll go do this [HBO] comedy series, called Vice Principals with Danny McBride and Jody Hill and David Gordon Green, and I’m just beside myself with anticipation about this experience because I think they’re just some of the smartest and best guys working in comedy today. And I’m just happy to throw my hat in their ring and to be invited on their boat.

So here we go man! It’s as politically incorrect as they come, and it’s f—ing good!

Between Tarantino and then McBride and Jody Hill on the other end of the spectrum, it definitely seems like everything is going really well at the moment.

A day at a time, my man! A day at a time.

TIME Television

Game of Thrones Watch: Dead Lords and Monsters

Helen Sloan—HBO Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen.

Tywin Lannister's death has left a power vacuum in Westeros, but few seem ready—or qualified—to fill the void

Spoilers for last night’s Game of Thrones follow:

“The good lords are dead, and the rest are monsters.”

If the opening episode of the fifth season of Game of Thrones is any indication, we’re likely to spend the next nine weeks finding out whether Brienne of Tarth is right. It’s certainly not difficult to appreciate her point of view. She’s seen Renly Baratheon killed by a rather literal demon spawn right in front of her eyes and heard tell of the atrocities visited upon her next liege, Catelyn Stark, and Catelyn’s son Robb at the Red Wedding. Brienne is also no doubt aware of the execution of the honorable Ned Stark, and may have even received word that the righteous Oberyn Martell had his head crushed, Gallagher-style, by Gregor Clegane. So yeah, you could probably forgive her if her opinion of the world is as bleak as the new True Detective teaser at the moment.

Unfortunately, the outlook elsewhere throughout Westeros and across the Narrow Sea isn’t much sunnier. Only a few days have passed since the conclusion of Season 4, but anyone expecting Tywin Lannister’s demise to bring newfound hope and optimism to the Game of Thrones universe will be as disappointed as those forced to watch Robin Arryn engage in swordplay.

Cersei is still in King’s Landing, having added a dead father to her ever-growing tally of deceased family members, which already included a son she loved and a husband she loathed. Though now freed (presumably) from her obligation to mary Loras Tyrell, Cersei remains committed to coping with her father’s death in the only way she knows how: trying to drink her way through the capital’s plentiful stock of Dornish wine, berating her brother Jaime and doing her level best to ignore everyone else while keeping a disapproving eye on the budding romance between her last remaining son, King Tommen, and unlucky-in-love Margaery Tyrell. Even the return of a chiseled and short-haired Lancel Lannister, who rededicated his life to a religious fundamentalist order known as the “Sparrows” in the wake of the Battle of Blackwater, does little to sway Cersei from her path toward total and utter spite-filled misery.

It’s a path that her younger brother and avowed arch-enemy Tyrion knows all too well. Whereas the journey of Arya Stark (absent from the premiere) to Essos at the end of Season 4 appeared to suggest a new beginning, Tyrion seems determined to make his own crossing the start of a bitter, wine-drenched end. (His is another bleak outlook difficult to find fault with, given that he traveled days in a tiny crate, pushing his own feces through the crate’s little holes after killing his father and the woman he loved in cold blood.) “The future is shit,” Tyrion declares, “just like the past.”

Tyrion’s travel companion, Varys, isn’t particularly inclined to agree with that assessment. In fact, if anyone (other than Littlefinger—currently in transit with Sansa Stark to somewhere that certainly isn’t The Fingers) has reason to celebrate the way things have turned out since the death of John Arryn, it’s the Master of Whispers. It’s possible to forget this far down the road, but Varys was more or less serving as a spy in Robert Baratheon’s small council, feeding information back to supporters of House Targaryen. Since then, much of the potpourri of power-players throughout Westeros have met their demise: Robert, Ned Stark, Robb Stark, Renly Baratheon, King Joffrey, Tywin Lannister—all dead. Stannis Baratheon is still trying to consolidate the power in the North and Tommen isn’t nearly the force he would have been with Tywin pulling his strings. Varys may have once decried chaos as a pit, but pits can be rather welcome when it’s your enemies who are falling into them.

Varys has never made any secret of his affection for Tyrion, but his decision to smuggle Tyrion away from King’s Landing was as much strategic as altruistic. During his brief reign as the King’s Hand, Tyrion proved himself a far more skilled political operator than his predecessor or his siblings. And, of course, it wouldn’t hurt Daenerys’ chances of claiming the Iron Throne if she had the support of a Lannister upon her return to Westeros.

At the moment, however, that doomed throne is the least of Daenerys’ concerns. There was something odd about watching a member of the Unsullied wind his way through the alleys of a brothel, seemingly enchanted by the women offering their services. Up to this point, we’ve seen Grey Worm’s troops care about nothing other than serving and killing, not necessarily in that order. And even though it turned out there was nothing particularly untoward about White Rat’s intentions—refusing the unrealistic offer of sex in favor of a comforting song—Game of Thrones followed its usual pattern of quickly replacing fulfillment with death, and White Rat got his throat slit all the same.

That it is far easier to conquer than rule is a lesson Daenyerys has been forced to learn since last season, and the murder of an Unsullied only reinforces it. Daeny’s words still sound good (“Angry snakes lash out. Makes chopping off their heads that much easier”), but her ability to back them up appears severely diminished. The power granted by her army of Unsullied is tossed off with the explanation that anyone with gold can buy them (though I was under the impression that Dany had basically cleaned out Astapor when she swept through the town back in Season 3). As Daario Naharis says in a moment of post-coital frankness, the Dragon Queen cannot be Queen without dragons. Rhetorical redundancy aside, Daario has a point: an inexperienced ruler in a foreign land—no matter how gifted—ain’t as intimidating without dragons at her side. Daenerys knows that, which is why she enters the dungeon where she had Rhaegal and Viserion chained up, but her excursion seemed as short-sighted as her refusal to even consider acquiescing to Yunkai’s sole request that it be allowed to keep its Fighting Pits. The dragons breathe their fire and Daeny scurries out of the cavernous room, looking much more like fearful girl of the show’s first season rather than the confident woman of its later years.

If you believe in the totally made-up law of conservation of confidence, you’ll find pretty much all of it concentrated at Castle Black. Stannis has renewed purpose after his relatively bloodless defeat of the Wildlings north of The Wall, Melisandre is showing off her impressive ability to maintain homeostasis in Boston-like conditions and Jon Snow is doing what he does best: parrying with inferior competition and delivering impassioned speeches to important people who have absolutely no interest in what he has to say. In this particular instance, the important person on the receiving end of Snow’s impassioned pleas is Mance Rayder. Rayder, captured by Stannis at the conclusion of Season 4, is being asked to bend the knee to the Baratheon would-be-king and to help Stannis lead the Wildlings into battle at Winterfell. The King Beyond the Wall doesn’t have to bend the knee, but the alternative is being burned alive, so Snow is predictably keen to convince Mance to throw his support behind Stannis rather than meet a crispy demise.

Their exchange is one of the episode’s best, with Snow proving him every bit Mance’s equal—something that was certainly not the case during their first meeting in Season 3. The respect Snow has for Mance is mutual, and the crow’s argument in favor of Mance joining forces with Stannis is sound (not dying, getting further away from the Whitewalkers, saving countless innocent women and children, maintaining the tenuous alliance between Wildling tribes). It doesn’t matter. Mance says it’s not pride that drives him, but it’s a difficult claim to fully believe. Perhaps Snow’s assessment that Mance is “afraid to be afraid” is more accurate, but the end result remains the same: Mance would rather die than take any action that could be seen as a betrayal of his Wildling brethren.

And so, for the first time since the first episode of Season 2, we watch Melisandre set a man ablaze while Stannis looks on approvingly. Jon Snow, having seen and heard quite enough by the time the flames reach Mance’s boots, ducks out of the crowd and fires an arrow into Mance’s heart, sparing him a slow and excruciating death. It’s a small triumph, but it does little change the reality of what Stannis has effected: another good lord killed by a monster. Brienne may have been right after all.

And now for the hail of arrows:

  • As mentioned above, no Arya in this episode, but it’s a safe bet that she’ll surface before long. Ditto Theon and the murderous father-son duo of Roose Bolton and Ramsey.
  • We’d been told there would be flashbacks in this season for the first time, but you’d be forgiven if you didn’t know that’s what you were seeing in the episode’s opening scene (even though the girl’s tone, sense of entitlement and threats of violence were pure Cersei).
  • Tough run of luck for Jaime Lannister, huh? He loses a hand, his sister breaks up with him when he finally makes it home, he’s compelled to send his best friend on a Quixotic journey to ensure the safety of the daughters of his dead rival, and he frees his brother from prison, only to see him turn around and murder his father.
  • No word yet on the Clegane clan. Last we saw them, the Mountain was in better shape than his little brother, if only slightly.
TIME Sports

The ‘Death Penalty’ and How the College Sports Conversation Has Changed

Mustangs Texas A&M Football
Bill Jansch—AP Photo Southern Methodist University tailback Erick Dickerson is all smiles on Nov. 2, 1982, in Texas Stadium.

On Feb. 25, 1987, the Southern Methodist University football team was suspended for an entire season. Nearly two decades later, the program has yet to recover

“It’s like what happened after we dropped the [atom] bomb in World War II. The results were so catastrophic that now we’ll do anything to avoid dropping another one.”

That’s how John Lombardi, former president of the University of Florida, described the so-called “death penalty” levied upon Southern Methodist University in 1987 after the NCAA determined that the school had been paying several of its football players.

Until the punishment came down—on this day, Feb. 25, in 1987—SMU had seemed like the opposite of a cautionary tale. The tiny Dallas university, with just 6,000 students, had finished its 1982 season undefeated, ranking No. 2 in the nation and winning the Cotton Bowl, and added a second Southwest Conference championship to its résumé two years later. The SMU of the early 1980s stood toe-to-toe with conference powers Texas, Texas A&M and Arkansas—and proved itself their equal.

Trouble was, SMU needed help standing with those giants. There aren’t many ways to build a dominant football program on the fly, but if you’re going to try, you need a coach who can convince a bunch of teenagers that they’re better off coming to your unheralded program than they are heading down the road to Austin or College Station or hopping a plane to Los Angeles or South Bend. That’s no easy task, even for a recruiter as gifted as Ron Meyer, who became SMU’s head coach in 1976. Sometimes promises of playing time or TV exposure aren’t enough—especially when your competitors are offering the same things, only more and better. Though the Mustangs weren’t caught till a decade after Meyer arrived in Dallas, there’s every reason to suspect SMU and its boosters had been bending the rules for years.

When the other cleat dropped, it dropped hard. The death penalty—part of the “repeat violators” rule in official NCAA parlance—wiped out SMU’s entire 1987 season and forced the Mustangs to cancel their 1988 campaign as well. So, when Lombardi compared the punishment to the nuclear option, in 2002, the analogy seemed like an apt one. For years, scorched earth was all that remained of the SMU football program, and of the idea of paying players.

Now, however, the conversation has changed.

Dallas itself played a major role in the rapid rise and ferocious fall of the Mustangs. By the 1970s, the northern Texas city was a growing metropolis, a hub for businessmen who had recently acquired their fortunes thanks to oil and real estate. Virtually to a man, each had a college football team he supported, and with that support came an intense sense of pride, not to mention competition. Combine that environment with the enormous success of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys during the 1970s as they assumed the title of “America’s team,” and it’s easy to see how so much pressure was placed on SMU.

With Ron Meyer’s arrival at the university, the goal became to dovetail the success of the Cowboys with the Mustangs’ performance—and he fit right in with the image that Dallas had begun to embody. He was brash, he was charming, he was dapper; the comparisons with Dallas’ J.R. Ewing came all too easily. And like Ewing, Meyer could be ruthless, pursuing recruits throughout eastern Texas with near-mythic fervor.

And the best myths have a dragon to slay. For Meyer, that dragon was Eric Dickerson. Dickerson was one of the nation’s top prospects—a high school running back so gifted he could have chosen any school in the country to play for in 1979. By all accounts, SMU wasn’t even in the running. They’d come a long way toward respectability since Meyer had arrived, but still weren’t on a level with Oklahoma or USC or Notre Dame. Plus, Dickerson had already committed to Texas A&M (and famously received a Pontiac Trans-Am that SMU supporters had dubbed the ‘Trans A&M’ right around the same time). But then, suddenly, miraculously, Dickerson had a change of heart. He decommitted from A&M and picked SMU shortly thereafter.

To this day, that decision remains a mystery wrapped in an enigma. There’s a section of ESPN 30 for 30’s excellent documentary about the SMU scandal, The Pony Exce$$—a riff on the SMU backfield, Dickerson and classmate Craig James, which was dubbed ‘The Pony Express’—about Dickerson’s recruiting process. No one involved, from Meyer to the boosters to Dickerson himself, would say how he really ended up at SMU. But none of them were able to contain the smirks that crept across their faces when they talked about the coup. There’s a reason that a popular sports joke in the early ’80s was that Dickerson took a pay-cut when he graduated and went to the NFL.

Dickerson changed everything for the Mustangs. With him powering SMU’s vaunted offense, the team became a force to be reckoned with in the Southwest Conference. Greater success, however, brought with it greater scrutiny. SMU was in a difficult position because Dallas had such a vibrant and competitive sports media scene (led by the Dallas Morning News and the Dallas Times Herald) at the time—one increasingly focused on investigative journalism in the wake of Watergate. The school’s status as a relative neophyte in the world of big-time college football and lack of rapport with the NCAA also did them no favors. There’s little question that other programs in the Southwest Conference were engaged in recruiting practices that bent the rules when it was possible, but none had quite as many eyes on them as the Mustangs.

Bobby Collins took over in 1982 and led SMU to its undefeated season, after Meyer left to be head coach of the hapless New England Patriots, but the Mustangs would never again reach those dizzying heights. Despite a growing recruiting reach, Collins failed to lure top-caliber prospects to Dallas, even with the help of the program’s increasingly notorious group of boosters. Instead, SMU became better known for its damning misfires, the first of which was Sean Stopperich, a prep star from Pittsburgh. Stopperich was paid $5,000 to commit and moved his family to Texas, but SMU had failed to realize that Stopperich’s career as a useful football player was already over. The offensive lineman had blown out his knee in high school, spent little time on the field for the Mustangs and left the university after just one year. Upon his departure from SMU, Stopperich became the first key witness for the NCAA in its pursuit of SMU.

The first round of penalties came down in 1985, banning SMU from bowl games for two seasons and stripping the program of 45 scholarships over a two-year period. At the time, those were considered some of the harshest sanctions in NCAA history. In response, Bill Clements, chairman of the board of governors for SMU, hung a group of the school’s boosters—dubbed the “Naughty Nine” by the media—out to dry, blaming them for the program’s infractions and the university’s sullied reputations.

Shortly thereafter, the NCAA convened a special meeting to discuss new, harsher rules for cheating, the most severe of which was the death penalty. (Despite Texas’ reputation as a pro-death penalty state for felons, its universities were some of the new rules’ staunchest opponents.) Still, due to the sanction’s power, few believed it would ever be used.

If SMU had cut off its payments to players immediately, it might not have been. Instead, the school and its boosters implemented a “phase-out” plan, which meant they would continue paying the dozen or so athletes to whom they had promised money until their graduation. One of those students-athletes, David Stanley, came forward after being kicked off the team and gave a televised interview outlining the improper benefits he had received from SMU. His words alone may not have been enough to damn the university, but an appearance on Dallas’ ABC affiliate, WFAA, by Coach Collins, athletic director Bob Hitch and recruiting coordinator Henry Lee Parker sealed the program’s fate.

Their interview with WFAA’s sports director Dale Hansen is a mesmerizing watch. Hansen sets a beautiful trap for Parker involving a letter that the recruiting director had initialed, and the recruiting coordinator walks right into it, all but proving that payments to players came directly from the recruiting office. The fact that Parker, Collins and Hitch looked uncomfortably guilty the entire time didn’t help their case.

The NCAA continued gathering evidence, and on Feb. 25, 1987—a gray, drizzly day in Dallas—it announced it would be giving SMU the death penalty. The man who made the announcement, the NCAA Director of Enforcement David Berst, fainted moments after handing down the sentence, in full view of the assembled media. SMU football, for all intents and purposes, was dead. The team managed just one winning season from 1989 to 2008, in no small part because the rest of the university community had decided it wanted nothing to do with a program that had brought so much infamy to the school.

The initial reaction to the penalty—both in Dallas and throughout the country—was one of shock. The Mustangs had gone from undefeated to non-existent in just five years. Few, however, could deny that if the NCAA were going to have a death penalty, then SMU was certainly deserving of it. But the fallout from the penalty was worse than anticipated; perhaps not coincidentally, in the decades since 1987, the penalty has never once been used against a Division I school.

Over the last two decades, the conversation that surrounded SMU’s fall from grace has changed even more. These days, those in and around the world of college sports don’t talk much about what the penalties for paying players should be; instead, many are wondering whether there should be any penalty at all for paying college athletes. The arguments in favor of paying college athletes are manifold, especially considering they often generate millions on behalf of their universities. Few, however, would argue that players should be paid in secret (or while still in high school). Any sort of pecuniary compensation that student-athletes receive would, as in pro sports, require some sort of regulation.

Despite the recent groundswell of support, the NCAA appears reluctant to change its rules. At some point, the governing body of college sports may not have a choice, especially if wants to avoid further legal trouble.

Ron Meyer, the SMU coach who nabbed Eric Dickerson more than 25 years ago, would famously walk into high schools throughout Texas and pin his business card to the biggest bulletin board he could find. Stuck behind it would be a $100 bill. That sort of shenanigan may not be the future of college sports, but we may be getting closer to the day when money isn’t a four-letter word for student-athletes.

Read TIME’s 2013 cover story about the ongoing debate over paying college athletes, here in the TIME Vault: It’s Time to Pay College Athletes

TIME movies

There Are So Many Reasons Why Donald Glover Should Be the Next Spider-Man

Donald Glover AKA Childish Gambino at he 57th Annual GRAMMY Awards.
Lester Cohen—WireImage Could this be the face of the next Peter Parker?

The dream has lived only as a hashtag for long enough

On Monday night, Marvel announced that it would bring “the amazing world of Spider-Man” into its Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The particulars of the deal between Marvel and Sony Pictures — which owns the rights to Spider-Man — are a little complicated, but the upshot is this: Spider-Man will be an Avenger while also continuing to appear in standalone films. Also of note: Andrew Garfield is not expected to reprise the role.

The deal makes sense for all sorts of reasons, most notably because it returns a huge, blockbuster character to Marvel, and also because it will provide a jolt of life to a character that has grown stale over the last few years. It’s hard to blame Garfield for the stagnancy of the franchise, but he and the writers of the last two Spider-Man films struggled to differentiate the Spidey of the reboot from Tobey Maguire’s wildly successful version from the early 2000s. It’s an issue Sony and the producers might have avoided had they thought a little more outside the box when casting their new lead prior to 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man. Now, Marvel and Sony have a chance to avoid making that same mistake twice. All they have to do is make the decision that Sony should have made the first time around.

In some ways, Donald Glover is almost too obvious a choice to play Peter Parker. Glover’s public persona of the sorta-nerdy-sorta-shy-often-misunderstood-and-under-appreciated-but-totally-brilliant guy is just about as Parker-esque as it gets in the acting world. It probably helps that Glover isn’t really an actor per se, but an artist, in the most 21st-century sense of the word — someone whose goal is to make cool, thoughtful art, regardless of the medium. It could be acting, it could be rapping, it could be writing, it could be graphic design; sometimes it’s a combination of all those things. Glover has never aspired to be just one thing — he wants to be as many things as he can be.

That’s a quintessentially millennial impulse. Members of this generation aren’t picking one profession and staying there for life, or specializing in one subject. And in different ways than their predecessors, millennials are addressing social issues: bullying, racism, sexism, homophobia and a host of others. The world doesn’t need another white male superhero to send the message that nothing has changed; Sony tried that once and wasn’t rewarded for it. The world has changed — is changing — and our superheroes should change with it.

The #DonaldForSpiderman movement took off after Glover — in a long-since deleted tweet — suggested he’d like the opportunity to audition for the role in Marc Webb’s 2012 reboot. At the time, Glover was wrapping up his first season as Troy Barnes on NBC’s Community. Though the Community gig was his first major acting role, Glover’s notoriety far outpaced his mainstream resume. The now-31-year-old Georgia native was big on the Internet, just as being big on the Internet started becoming an actual thing. His Derrick Comedy sketch group had released a handful of shorts, along with the feature length Mystery Team in 2009. Glover also had a burgeoning rap career under the pseudonym Childish Gambino, with a pair of mixtapes to his name. Pair all that together with his Writers Guild awards for 30 Rock (he was hired straight out of NYU), and it was obvious that Glover was headed for bigger and better things, sooner rather than later.

Still, Glover probably would have been the first to admit that he wasn’t the safest bet for a multi-billion dollar franchise at that point of his career. What he understood less were the objections to his candidacy because of his race:

The objections were ridiculous then, but they’d seem even more out of place now. The new Captain America is black; the new Thor is a woman. Even though neither of those changes have crossed over to the big screen yet, the changes in the comics mean it’s all but inevitable that there will be corresponding ones in the MCU somewhere down the road. The world is ready for a black Spider-Man on the big screen.

The bigger question might be whether Glover is still willing to take on the role. He’s now a Grammy-nominated rapper with a few more seasons of Community under his belt (he left the show in early 2014), as well as various film credits. Last December, FX ordered a pilot for Glover’s Atlanta-based comedy series that he’ll star in, write and executive produce. If he wasn’t established enough before, he’s certainly much closer now — and debuting in a Marvel film would give audiences a chance to familiarize themselves with their new Peter Parker a bit before he stars in a standalone Spider-Man film in 2017. Plus, in the standup clip above, he says frankly, “Who doesn’t want to be Spider-Man? That would be cool.”

On the other hand, Glover has demonstrated an aversion to being tied down throughout his career. He left his writing gig at 30 Rock before the end of the show’s run to star in Community. Then, he left Community before the end of its run, primarily to focus more on his rap career. He also dropped off the radar for nearly a year back in 2012, deleted his popular blog and Twitter account (now somewhat resurrected) and has dramatically scaled back his once-prominent social media presence. He’s an entertainer with a lot of interests beyond acting, and becoming Spider-Man would require that those other interests take a backseat.

It’s a stretch to say that the power of Glover’s undeniable Internet popularity gives him the responsibility to pursue the Spider-Man role, but Marvel and Sony — not to mention audiences — would be lucky to have him. At this point, the “Donald for Spider-Man” campaign might be more necessary to convince Childish Gambino himself rather than producers. Fans would be lucky to have it prove more successful than the last one.

Read next: This 1 Chart Shows Why Sony Spun a Spider-Man Deal

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Chris Pratt Almost Wasn’t the Lead in Guardians of the Galaxy

Glenn Howerton at the 2014 Emmy Awards
Kevork Djansezian/NBC—NBC via Getty Images This was almost the face of Starlord.

The role was nearly awarded to another member of one of TV's most-acclaimed comedies

There were lots of interesting bits from Drew Magary’s profile of Guardians of the Galaxy star Chris Pratt in the December issue of GQ, but perhaps the most revelatory was one that didn’t quite make the cut. According to outtakes from the piece, posted on The Concourse, Pratt’s character Star-Lord was nearly played by Glenn Howerton, best known as Dennis on It’s Always Sunny on Philadelphia.

According to Magary, here’s what director James Gunn had to say: “Glenn came along a little bit later, but there was a good chance that, if I didn’t cast Chris, that I would’ve cast Glenn Howerton in the role.” (That sound you hear is the breaking hearts of die-hard Always Sunny fans.)

As crazy as that is, maybe even crazier is the fact that Howerton himself had no idea how close he came to landing the life-changing role:

Gunn confirmed the report earlier this afternoon:

There’s little question that Pratt proved a runaway success in the role (you don’t have an entire summer named after you without having a pretty good one), but that won’t stop fans from imagining what might have been if Howerton had inhabited the role.

On their respective critically-acclaimed TV comedies—Parks and Recreation for Pratt, Always Sunny for Howerton—their roles are drastically different, with Pratt playing a kind-hearted simpleton and Howerton a narcissistic sociopath. Starlord clearly resides in the vast space between the two, but it’s imaginable that Howerton might have had an even more biting take on the role, even if he didn’t go full Dennis.

Even if coming so close might sting for Howerton, he’s got the fact that he’s a golden god to fall back on. Oh, and Always Sunny returns for its 10th season in January.

[via The Concourse]

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