NCAA Imposes "Sanctions That Reflect the Magnitude of These Terrible Acts" on Penn State

By Michael Collins

NCAA President Mark Emmert wasted no time on the podium Monday morning.  Much like the way in which this case has been expedited through the channels of the executive committee of the NCAA, Emmert cut right to the chase and let us know how severely Penn State University will be punished.

Emmert made it clear that it was never the intention of the executive committee to try to repair the damage done to victims of the sex abuse scandal, but to impose “sanctions that reflect the magnitude of these terrible acts.”

The sanctions against Penn State are as follows:

  • Penn State will pay a $60 million fine, equal to one year’s revenue from the football program.  These funds may not come from non-revenue sports, football scholarship dollars, or the academic funds within the university.  The money will be used to establish and endowment for a support programs around the nation that serve the victims of child sexual abuse.
  • Penn State football will be banned from bowl games and any other post-season play for a period of four years.  (The Big-10 has also banned Penn State from participating in the conference championship game for the four years concurrent with the NCAA post-season ban.)
  • Penn State football will have it’s initial scholarships reduced from 25 to 15 per year, for a period of four years.
  • The NCAA vacates all football wins for Penn State from 1998-2011, and the record books will reflect the vacated wins.
  • The Penn State University athletic program will serve a 5-year probationary period, during which, it must work with an academic integrity monitor of the association’s choosing.

It was added that the NCAA is reserving the right to conduct formal investigations and disciplinary processes to impose sanctions as needed on individuals involved in this case, after criminal proceedings have been completed.

In addition, the NCAA is imposing “other corrective actions to ensure that the intended cultural changes actually occur.”  One of these actions is that Penn State must enter into an athletic integrity agreement with the NCAA and the Big-10 conference.  This agreement will be monitored and be reported on a quarterly basis to both the NCAA and the Penn State Board of Trustees.

I think it’s important to note that the NCAA took careful consideration in terms of the current and incoming student athletes in making sure that these penalties had a minimal effect on them.  In regards to sanction number three, any returning or incoming student athletes may transfer to the school of their choice and be eligible for play immediately.  Further, any current student athlete who wants to remain at Penn State and retain their aid and grants may do so – provided they maintain academic eligibility – regardless of whether or not they remain on the football team.

Emmert did address the idea of the “Death Penalty”, which many had thought would be an appropriate punishment for Penn State.

“The executive committe, the Division-1 board, and I, had extensive discussions about the appropriateness of the suspension of football for one or more years.  An argument could be made that the egregiousness of the behavior in this case is greater than any other seen in NCAA history, and therefore, a multi-year suspension is appropriate.  After much debate, however, we concluded that the sanctions needed to reflect our goal of driving cultural change, as much as apply punitive actions.  Suspension of the football program would bring with it unintended harm to many who had nothing to do with this case.  The sanctions we have crafted are more focused and impactful than that blanket penalty.”

Firm, but fair.  The Penn State football program has been severely punished, with a limit to the collateral damage caused to innocents in this case.

Joe Paterno, once in the record books at the all-time winningest coach in the FBS,  now drops to 5th on that list.

The football program has not been killed, but simply placed on life support for the next four years.  As much as I was a proponent of the death penalty for Penn State, after seeing this list of sanctions and how the brunt of the punishment was levied upon the keepers of the program, and not the current students, I feel these actions are indeed more appropriate.

When questioned about whether or not these sanctions and the way in which they were handled and delivered ignored due process as set forth by the NCAA infractions committee, Emmert was quick to point out that this was not a standard infractions case.  This was the executive committee exercising their right to correct an institutional problem at a college athletic program, and was treated separately from any typical infraction.

Penn State President Rodney Erickson has stated that Penn State accepts the penalties and corrective actions that were announced today, so it’s obvious that Penn State – who did sign an agreement allowing Emmert and the executive committee to take these actions – will not appeal or fight in any way.

The question has also been posed as to whether or not Penn State received a competitive advantage due to the cover-up of Jerry Sandusky’s crimes.  According to the chairman of the NCAA Executive Committee Ed Ray, they absolutely did:

“Penn State did a hell of a lot of recruiting between 1998 and 2012 of very top football athletes, played in bowl games, had great records during some of those years.  I don’t know if a lot of that would have been possible if the truth had come out over the last 14 years.”

Certainly there is nothing that the NCAA or anyone else can do to repair the damage that has been done to Sandusky’s victims, but the message that has been sent to not only Penn State, but every other college athletic program in the country, is that it’s time for a gut check, and a change of the “win at all costs” mentality.

Another important action that was witnessed this morning was the completion of the tearing down of Joe Paterno’s legacy.   The statue is down; the records have been altered; and Paterno will forever be linked with these terrible crimes, and an incredible abuse of power.


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