Twelve years after the NCAA "death penalty" that caused the SMU football program to shut down for two years, SMU encountered another scandal. SMU notified the NCAA of possible recruiting violations in early August 1999 and subsequently suspended defensive line coach Steve Malin. On November 7, 1999, The Dallas Morning News reported that former SMU football player Corlin Donaldson alleged that Malin paid another person $100 to take Donaldson's ACT exam in 1998 so that Donaldson would be eligible to attend SMU. Although Donaldson described this account to NCAA investigators, Donaldson recanted this story under pressure from Malin to save Malin's job. Following an internal investigation, SMU fired Malin on December 8, 1999; Malin had been suspended that year since August 3 without a replacement at his position. Additionally, SMU removed one assistant coach from recruiting roles for the 2000 season, reduced a total of 8 scholarships for the 2000 and 2001 seasons, and reduced a total of 16 official campus visits for high school recruits for those seasons as well. SMU also submitted a report to the NCAA.
On December 13, 2000, the NCAA placed SMU on two years' probation and vacated ten games from SMU's 1998 season in which Donaldson played, which reduced SMU's record to 1-1 for 1998. SMU's 2005 media guide indicates that the NCAA vacated the first ten games of the 1998 season. The NCAA reported that its infractions committee "concluded that the assistant football coach [Malin] initially suggested that the prospective student-athlete [Donaldson] should participate in academic fraud, actively assisted in the initial fraudulent ACT, had actual knowledge of the fraud in the second ACT and finally, had reason to know that the prospect, after enrolling at the university and becoming a student-athlete, was ineligible to compete by reason of the academic fraud." Additionally, the NCAA also discovered rules violations regarding recruiting and tryouts dating back to 1995. The NCAA also extended SMU's self-imposed restrictions on coaches' off-campus recruiting to the 2001 season and limited official visits for high school recruits to 38 for the 2001–02 school year. Malin also was assessed a seven-year show-cause penalty.