Could Freeh Report Contents Lead to Penn State Death Penalty?

The Jerry Sandusky child abuse case has clouded the sporting landscape this summer, and with his conviction things appeared resolved. After the conviction, however, news of the pending independent report from the law firm of Freeh, Sporkin, and Sullivan LLP– led by partner, Louis Freeh– into the alleged cover-up on the Penn State campus began to be a part of our collective awareness.

Tomorrow morning at 9 am Eastern Time, the Freeh Report will be released for public consumption on a dedicated website, for which the URL has been floating around social media this afternoon.

Word has it the contents of the Freeh Report could be damning enough to put the Penn State football program deep into sanctions which were previously not thought possible, even with what we knew about the alleged actions of university president Graham Spanier and former head coach Joe Paterno, among others, who surrounded Sandusky during his time on the Penn State coaching staff.

What we do know is that several series of e-mails were passed around between these parties regarding Sandusky’s actions, and what could be done to at a minimum lessen the damage when the all-but-inevitable accusations came to light.

What we don’t know– as of yet– is what all these emails entailed. If indeed what has been believed to be a conspiracy reaching across all levels of the University, from the athletic department to those at the very top of the system’s hierarchy, turns out to be true, can the NCAA take the little used death penalty off the table?

In that case, isn’t it something they have to consider? Is this case all that different from what we saw with the well-organized, but ill-conceived plot at SMU during the early 1980s?

For death penalty to be considered, the NCAA has to determine that violations were so egregious  a competitive advantage was gained through their implementation which by any other normal standard of behavior and operation would not have been otherwise.

In SMU’s case, the blatant paying of players under– but several times, over– the table was at the heart of the advantage gained. If in fact, Penn State did cover up Gerry Sandusky’s behavior across institutional hierarchies then it was done to protect the “image” of the program, an image at it’s very core central to the success of the football program itself.

Without image a Division I football program has nothing. Without image there are no recruits. Without image there is no merchandise sales. Without image there are no television deals. Without image, no one cares.

While it isn’t as tangible as handing a player a check to buy a new car, it’s still an effort to maintain an intangible which is patently false through subversive means.

Will the NCAA use the heaviest hand it can deal in this case?

It’s not likely, but it sure seems like it could be considered.

This, assuming we see in the Freeh Report what we all assume we will see.

Kris Hughes is the College Football Network Manager for Rant Sports and a member of the Football Writers Association of America.

You can follow him on Twitter or check out hisFacebook page.

Kris is also the host of Rant Sports Radio on the Blog Talk Radio Network Wednesday evenings at 8 Central Time.

Around the Web