Why the NCAA Shouldn't Shut Down Penn St. Football

Why the NCAA Shouldn't Shut Down Penn St. Football

Let me begin by saying something as clearly as I possibly can.

I know that just the premise proposed by the title of this piece will put a target on my head for comments to tear me apart. And I expect that.

I'm a father of two little boys, age 5 and 19 months. I cannot fathom someone doing to them what Jerry Sandusky did to his victims, and believe there's a special place in both jail and hell for people that prey on innocent children. What that monster did makes me sick to my stomach.

What also makes me sick is what we've learned in the last 24 hours through the Freeh Report about the institutional trainwreck that took place in (Not-So) Happy Valley to cover-up his crimes. It's pathetic, disgusting and a disgrace to anyone that calls themselves a leader, teacher, or even a man. For all the great things that Joe Paterno did to make that university what it has become today academically, it will all forever serve as a footnote on the greatest failure of his life.

But I have some concerns when I hear the phrase "death penalty" being used in reference to the football program (no comment on Sandusky's punishment).

Reality for Penn State is pretty simple: the (filthy dirty, corrupt, disgusting) football program is paying for the entire athletic department at the university. If the NCAA slams the door on the football team, they would effectively bankrupt the (lying, deceiving, manipulating) athletic department.

While the numbers aren't yet available for the most recent school year, we can access the financial records of the university from the 2010-11 year (through the US Dept. of Education's Equity in Athletics site). Here's what we learn:

  • Penn State's football program made $72,747,734
  • Penn State's football expenses were $19,519,288
  • Penn State's football profit for 2010-11 was $53,228,446

Those are some big numbers. To wrap them in some context, when Forbes published their rankings of the most valuable college football programs, Penn St. ranked third behind only the University of Texas and Notre Dame.

Now consider these numbers:

  • Penn State's total athletic revenue was $116,118,026
  • Penn State's total athletic profit was $31,619,687

I'm not going to be confused for a math teacher any time soon, but the last time I checked 53 was significantly bigger than 31, especially when six zeroes followed each number. But to be a little more specific, roughly 62 percent of the total revenue generated by the athletic department at Penn State came from the (awful, putrid, pathetic) football program.

What we're learning from these statistics is that the football team paid for the baseball, wrestling, softball, women's field hockey and both men's and women's track and field, basketball, volleyball, swimming and diving, gymnastics, lacrosse, soccer and fencing teams to operate at a loss of over $20,000,000.

There were 884 student-athletes during the 2010-11 academic year at Penn State. Only 121 of those were football players.

If we take the numbers one step further, the total revenue for all sports at Penn State other than football and basketball (men's and women's) was $9,029,777. The total expenses for all sports at Penn State other that football and basketball (men's and women's) was $20,053,422. Once again, the numbers aren't working out well.

Penn State is going to pay for what they've done from a financial perspective. Again citing Forbes:

Patrick Rishe, a Forbes contributor and Professor of Economics at Webster University, estimates that Penn State athletics stands to lose $20 million to $30 million in the long term as a result of the Sandusky scandal. Rishe also suggests that the loss of alumni contributions and game-day income may cost the football program $5 million to $10 million each year... It seems almost certain that Penn State’s reign as a top-earning program is coming to an end.

This is going to be a painful time for the Nittany Liars Lions. What was once a nationally recognized beacon for athletic excellence done the right way has now been stained by the lack of character, judgement and souls from the most powerful and prominent men in the school.

I listened to a lot of sports talk radio on Thursday. Every caller and most of the hosts made a very valid point: this scandal is absolutely a football issue that cannot (and should not) be separated from the football program or the institution.

But the one part of the issue that everyone is ignoring is the trickle-down impact of taking the football program away from the school. Even for one or two years, as the NCAA did to SMU in 1987.

The NCAA has been forced to come down hard on some other high-profile school recently. USC was hit with major sanctions that they are just getting past this fall. Ohio State felt the burn of the NCAA after the Jim Tressel scandal. And the hammer hasn't yet dropped on the University of Miami for perceived institutional failure.

Again, let me be clear: what took place at USC, Ohio State and Miami are raindrops when compared to the ocean of failure that took place at Penn State.

A booster giving money to players isn't OK. And not being honest with the NCAA about players getting free tattoos or a federal investigation surrounding one of their acquaintances isn't a good ideal.

Covering up a pedophile to save face is a different level of wrong.

But my thoughts are for the 763 student-athletes that were participating in a sport they loved at the highest collegiate level because the football program that everyone is now spitting on and cursing at paid for them to do so.

The NCAA must address the issue and the university; saying this matter isn't specifically breaking any rules in the so-called Manual is a joke (in poor taste I might add).

Take away scholarships. Take away postseason eligibility. Hell, take away the statue of Paterno.

But don't take away (what's left of) the money that's paying for hundreds of kids to get an education they might not otherwise be able to afford.


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  • Good stats and points. Kids deserve another school to play ball at still, but everyone involved with the cover up needs to be severely punished (the whole state it seems).

  • Since some NCAA official was quoted on THE SCORE as making the same argument, let me say that this is rank hypocrisy, only indicating that the NCAA is only concerned about its members' money--which was obvious from the beginning.

    IIRC, the THE Ohio State University mess was about players selling memorabilia. and the linked article says "involving 14 players the NCAA said accepted more than $16,000 in illicit benefits. The case revolved around former quarterback Terrelle Pryor and several others who got cash and free or discounted services from the owner of a local tattoo parlor." So, the NCAA is willing to make an issue of players getting about $1200 each, but it can't say anything about an obvious "lack of institutional control" because it is going to cost PSU money??????????

    Maybe they can go to Priest Daniel MacCormack and pray for absolution.

  • In reply to jack:

    I should have said "former" official.

  • So Tab says, in essence:

    "If we don't let them play football, there will be no money for the swim meet."

    And then uses this to rationalize why the program should stay. Even though it breeded JoePa, a man so powerful he told a University president where to stick it when the retirement talk started. Seriously the guy wrote an OPEN letter to Spanier and said "do not concern yourself with the when and how of my retirement, I will attend to that."

    What's clear from the testimony of Schultz and Curley, was that JoePa told them to STFU. And they did.

    But you want to keep a program so financially profitable that it bred this kind of demagoguery in the name of keeping the LaCrosse team's bus filled up with gas.

    Congratulations Tab, you just floated the "too big to fail" argument with respect to NCAA Division I football.

    (Golf clap)

  • You are doing the same thing that all the people that covered up for that homosexual paedophile Jerry Sandusky did, you look at the money and say it is more important than someones life. There are 95,000 students, 30,000 full time staff and 496,000 alumni who benefited from the football program and as such they can pay to make up for the $53 million in lost profits from the program. It would cost each of those people $85.35 per year or $0.233 per day to make up the $53 million in profit lost from the football program.

    The NCAA doesn't need to end the Penn State football program, the students, alumni and staff need to do the right thing and disband the program themselves. By disbanding the program they will prove that football, or Joe Paterno, or some board of directors, administrator or wealthy benefactors that allow Penn Sate to exist....it is the other 99% that really make Penn Sate and all the good in the world exist.

  • This has got to be one of the most idiotic, simple minded, morally void arguments I have ever read.

    Allow me to assume all of your mathematics are correct. Let's say the total loss to Penn State University is $51 million. Now, attempt to follow the simple math. We do not know the total number of victims of Jerry Sandusky, Joe Paterno's and Penn State's willing hosting of a den of sexual abuse, but let's say it is a total of 10 (for argument's sake). That means that the per child cost per rape/physical violation/mental humiliation would be, ohh about $5, $6 million per child. So, following your argument, by voiding that cost we would allow Penn State University to continue to offer its sports and entertainment programs as usual for its athletes and fans while fulfilling its contractual obligation to its athletic partners such as TV networks, advertisers, etc.
    This would mean that the NCAA, by ignoring the events in Happy Valley could continue to conduct business as usual, causing a minimum of disruption to the Penn State program and its participants so it could continue to profit from the sexual market, human trafficking , white sex slavery practices it has so successfully and profitably carried on and encouraged and conducted to this point.
    That would be wonderful...it would make Penn State as successfull as other organizations such as the Mafia, the white slavery rings of the Balkans and Eastern Europe and countries such as the Sudan, the Congo, the border sex traders in South America, several of the slavery markets in Asia and Central Africa. Think of all the good a little discretion in dealing with Penn State would do.
    Good thinking Tab Bamford, why you could take the idea to the Board of Trade.

  • In reply to TsaoTsuGonzalez:

    A few responses:

    to gpldan: the problem with assuming this is an example of the "too big to fail" mindset is that Penn State has already failed. The face of the school is not only dead & gone, but his legacy is covered in filth. And you clearly failed to read the closing few paragraphs where I say the NCAA should drop the hammer on the program with unprecedented sanctions (50 scholarships & a long-term bowl ban). That effectively kills the football program's ability to recruit & compete... but by allowing them to walk out on the field each week, there will be people in seats and viewers at home that pay the bills for the other sports.

    to FMR: no, I'm not doing the same thing as covering up for Sandusky. just the premise of that statement makes me laugh. But if we want to do some honest math, let's be honest about things. Where is the $51 million lost going to come from? You can't bank on alumni giving, especially after this. and any contributions "from faculty" would come in the way of lost jobs, not "donations." Where this money comes from is the 95,000 students. Which means tuition goes up. Who wins then?

    to Tsao: Your argument doesn't track... I never said someone would "void the cost" of civil suits anywhere in this article. Furthermore, you also appear to have stopped reading before I propose the NCAA brings the harshest sanctions in history (short of the death penalty) down on Penn St. Because you clearly didn't read the entire article, I won't even start with the comparison of Penn State to third world problems.

  • In reply to Tab Bamford:

    I checked just to make sure I was not being unfair. I wasn't, I read it. Yours is an idiotic statement. Penn State should be held institutionally responsible for the crime, the attempted cover-up and for the fraud perpetuated on the tax payers of Pennsylvania. And you, for an economic analysis of a rationalization to permit soft-pedaling horrible crimes, human abuse and a fundamental moral problem. Perhaps there is a place for you...in the new Penn State's PR Office.

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    The leadership of Penn State University sealed the fate of all student athletes in their school. The university has shown a lack of oversite and regard for the welfare of the youngest individuals in its care. Trust that Penn State University administration will be able to correct the poor decision making created by the need for football revenue is unfounded. The higher principles of education, integrity, quest for knowledge and reason that led to the establishment of this and other academic institutions are jeapordized if financial profit is deemed more important. The "death penalty" is the only meaningful way for the NCAA to provide legitamacy to its claim of a "core value of supporting the role that intercollegiate athletics plays in the higher education mission and enhancing the sense of community of its members".

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    Your powerful financial argument cannot be denied, nor can
    the unfairness of subjecting deserving kids to gain scholarships
    in other sports.

    Unfortunately, any other honest sports are already irreparably connected to the heartless behavior of just a powerful few.

    If SMU was taken down for gift giving, to not at least do the
    same to PSU reflects a terrible, myopic tendency of most
    people to simply not care.

    There is right now the unusual opportunity to draw a line
    in ground, and the NCAA should do it.

    But since it very likely could impact cash in their
    own pockets......

  • I'm with you, Tab. If someone demands NCAA sanctions against the football program, why do they stop there? Why is it more moral for the U. to continue without a football program than to dismantle the whole school? What I'm trying to say is, if the whole administration turned a blind eye, then punish the whole school. Having said that, I do believe the school itself should be free to punish the program appropriately. And I think the NCAA should allow any current athletes to transfer without having to sit out a year. They didn't know the mess they were getting into.

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