NCAA to Hand Down "Unprecedented" Penalties to Penn State. Unprecdented to Who?

By Michael Collins

This morning, the announcement was made that the NCAA would hand down “unprecedented” penalties to the Penn State University football program and school.  NCAA President Mark Emmert is to hold a press conference announcing these penalties on July 23, at 9am.

“Believe only half of what you see and nothing that you hear”.  Wise words from famed poet Edgar Allen Poe, and something that should always be kept in mind when dealing with the NCAA.

Unprecedented could mean anything.  It could mean that they force the coaches to wear neon-pink leotards while dancing a jig and singing ‘Call Me Maybe’ on the sidelines.  It could mean that all Penn State football scholarships are hereby turned over to the university fencing program. (And yes, before you Google it, Penn State does have a fencing team)

More than likely, what we’ll see is more of the same type of nondescript and ineffective punishments that the NCAA has been handing down for decades.  There have already been reports of bowl bans and loss of scholarships.  Perhaps NCAA President Mark Emmert should have put in a call to University of Southern California head coach Lane Kiffin to see exactly how impotent those type of penalties truly are.

What’s worse, if reports are correct, then the “death penalty” for the football program is not one of the punishments being given to Penn State.


So let’s put this in perspective.  In 1987, Southern Methodist University – a relatively small private university – had their football program subjected to the death penalty for an entire season as a result of repeated recruiting violations.  I think we can all agree that payoffs to players, slush funds, and other unethical recruiting tactics are not acceptable, and should summarily be consequenced.  The SMU football program rightfully suffered, and has taken many years to recover from their deserved punishments.

Now we have Penn State – a public institution supported not only by alumni and boosters, but also by taxpayer dollars – involved in a scandal of monumental proportions that reaches all the way up to the president of the school.  A scandal involving felony crimes against children by one of their own, and the choices of the administration to simply shove their dirty laundry under the bed and go about with their agenda of winning football games.

And this doesn’t deserve an equal or even more severe penalty than SMU received?

Make no mistake, Penn State is already damaged goods.  There will no doubt be de-commits from this year’s recruiting class coming down the road.  Any four and five-star prospects that were considering Penn State will undoubtedly have second thoughts, or even completely scratch the Nittany Lions off their lists.  Losing scholarships, bowl games, and potential television exposure will only add to the likelihood of those problems.

But for an institution the size of Penn State, with the financial resources they have, these are merely surface nuisances.

I’m sure that money will be involved in whatever sanctions the NCAA announces on Monday morning, and there may be other penalties that none of us have ever thought of that could fall under the scope of the word “unprecedented”.

I can only hope that in their consideration of whatever punishment they see as fitting for Penn State, the NCAA has taken into consideration how “unprecedented” these crimes are in the context of a major college football program.  I hope they have tried to put themselves in the “unprecedented” shoes of the victims and their families, in particular victims that might have been spared the horrors they were subjected to by Jerry Sandusky had these crimes been dealt with properly when first reported.

Joe Paterno and the Penn State administration spent many years putting these victims last, and putting “the program” first.  It’s time that the NCAA righted that ship, and put the victim’s rights, feelings, and well-being first above all other considerations.

At 9am on Monday morning, a large portion of the nation will be glued to their television sets, phones, computers and radios, waiting to hear what the NCAA has to say.

Let’s all hope “unprecedented” isn’t a a cryptic code for “cover our asses”.

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