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.