NCAA Rightfully, Appropriately Hammers Penn State

NCAA Rightfully, Appropriately Hammers Penn State

A little more than a week ago, I stated my personal feelings about Penn State’s football program receiving the “death penalty” in the wake of the pathetic institutional cover-up of Jerry Sandusky. On Monday morning, the NCAA and Big Ten made their feelings on the matter public with a number of sanctions and penalties.

While they didn’t eliminate the football program, or games, from the university, what the NCAA handed Penn State today amounts to the harshest discipline in the history of college athletics.

And, in my opinion, they got it right.

NCAA President Mark Emmert announced that the NCAA was:

  • fining the university $60 million
  • banning the football team from all post-season play and bowl games for 4 years
  • vacating all of the program's wins between 1998 and 2011
  • placing the university on probation for 5 years, and
  • reducing the program's number of scholarships from 25 to 15 per year for four years

There are a couple important designations from the $60 million fine that need to be considered. First, the university will reportedly pay the fine over a five year span ($12 million per year). Also, the funds cannot come at the expense of other athletic teams. The specific dollar amount, according to the NCAA, is equivalent to the annual gross revenue of the football program. The money must be paid into an endowment for external programs preventing child sexual abuse or assisting victims and may not be used to fund such programs at Penn State.

In what can be seen as a personal shot at the ultimate legacy of Joe Paterno, the NCAA formally removed 111 victories from Paterno’s career total by vacating wins between 1998-2011. That penalty completely removes from the conversation of the NCAA’s all-time winningest coach.

Current Penn State players will immediately be allowed to transfer without sitting out a year.

Later on Monday morning, the Big Ten announced they would withhold Penn State’s share of the conference’s bowl revenue during the four year ban, opting to donate those funds to charitable organizations that deal with child abuse instead. That dollar amount is expected to take another $13-15 million away from the university.

If that seems like a lot, it is.

And Penn State earned every bit of it.

While the football program will continue playing games, the impact of the lost scholarships and bowl ban will remove the school from relevance for a decade, if not longer.

More importantly, the moneys being donated to organizations can, and hopefully will, go a long way to helping a community of victims.

These penalties cannot fix what took place. They won’t erase the terror experienced by the individuals that continue to suffer because of Sandusky’s perversion and the university’s unwillingness to deal with him appropriately. But they will serve as a long-standing, powerful reminder that no coach or program is big enough to break a moral compass ever again. There is no such thing as “too big to fail” any more.


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  • Well, so much for "Why the NCAA shouldn't shut down Penn St. Football" of July 13, 2012. While it didn't shut down Penn. St. football completely, your argument was mainly based on the other programs losing football money, at least of what you cited above.

    At least you were never in the camp of all the "former NCAA officials" who were quoted as saying that the NCAA didn't have jurisdiction over the matter.

    The real question is whether the NCAA has sent the message Emmert said that football is to be integrated with the academic program, and apparently not be independent or superior to it. I bet that applies to a lot of football factories.

  • In reply to jack:

    Actually, Jack, if you read the article from July 13 I was fully in favor the the NCAA throwing the book at PSU like they did today (financial penalties, lost scholarships, bowl ban, etc). My concern 10 days ago was centered around the opportunities being afforded to non-revenue sports through the money being made by the football program. The language used by the NCAA to make sure the fines imposed do not come at the expense of other sports, and the fact that they can continue selling tickets/making money on football in spite of the lack of talent & postseason appearances is effectively what I was presenting on the 13th.

  • In reply to jack:

    Yeah, the NCAA did pretty much exactly what Tab hoped for. The NCAA specifically forbade Penn State from taking money from any other sport.

    I'll be very glad to see Penn State suffer on the field rather than disappear completely.

  • sorry, Tab, but you and a lot of other people really missed the boat on this one. This was not a football crime and many innocent football people are being penalized. This is a case of one truly despicable human violating the rights and innocence of young boys and a handful of other despicable individuals trying to cover it up. This had nothing to do with the workings of the football program or the school and now BOTH are going to be irreversibly and fatally wounded. All this is again due to the grotesque actions of a handful of people, each of whom is either in jail, going to jail or dead. Please tell us who is being punished here and why. I keep using the term "Buckshot Justice" because everyone wants to make sure there are enough villains here to satisfy the hunger of angry people. There is plenty of blame to go around here but this is simply misdirected punishment against many people who did nothing wrong.

  • Coach Tony:

    Here is the critical element that I believe drove the NCAA to act the way they did: the hubris displayed by Penn State's athletic department and highest offices showed a complete lack of respect for not only the NCAA, but also the law. They believed they were too big to fail, and conducted business in a way that allowed a predator to do as he pleased for more than a decade under their roof and on their watch.

    This penalty makes clear to any and every program that there is no such thing as "too big to fail" any more.

    I considered a similar perspective to yours when I considered "the innocent student-athletes" at Penn State - the non-football players. I appreciate that the NCAA is imposing a fine of this magnitude and took the time to include language that forbids the university from eliminating lacrosse, swimming, soccer or any other non-revenue sports to pay for the crimes of the football program.

    There are indeed a lot of angry people, and rightfully so. And you're right that not everyone will be happy with any decision that is made. But my personal opinion is that this punishment is adequate given the circumstances of the crime.

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