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NCAA Football

The NCAA’s Penn State Sanctions Might As Well Be The Death Penalty


Over the weekend, as the statue of Joe Paterno outside Beaver Stadium came down, more Penn State news came up: namely, that the NCAA was about to come down hard on Penn State football with sanctions. This morning, the NCAA did just that. As announced by NCAA president Mark Emmert, the major sanctions are as follows:

- A $60 million fine that will be used to create an endowment to “serve the victims of childhood sexual abuse.” (The $60 million amount is about equal to a year of gross revenue for Penn State football.)
- Four-year postseason ban for football.
- Initial scholarships reduced from 25 to 15 for four years, total scholarships reduced from 85 to 65. Additionally, players in the program can transfer without sitting out a year.
- All Penn State wins from 1998-2011 vacated (a.k.a. Joe Paterno’s wins record is no more).
- Five years of probation.

Needless to say, that is a lot. (And it’s not everything, since Emmert said the NCAA reserves the right to continue investigating the issue on its own, and is requiring the school to adopt the recommendations put forth in the Freeh report.) It’s not the “death penalty,” since Penn State will still play football this year, but it’s facing a serious uphill battle while doing so, and for several years going forward. Don’t ask us how, but Penn State was doing very well in recruiting this year – with these punishments in place, that might be over – to say nothing of the years to come.

Still, no matter how understandable the desire is for the NCAA to do something here, and no matter that it’s tempting to praise the organization for taking swift, decisive action for once, this still feels like vigilante justice. For one thing, the people at the top at Penn State – those who allowed Sandusky to go on unchecked – are all gone. It doesn’t mean the culture at the school doesn’t still need changing, but those who’ll be impacted the most by these sanctions will essentially be collateral damage.

Additionally, this decicion was highly unusual for the NCAA. It based its sanctions on the Freeh report, not its own investigation. Plenty have raised questions as to the NCAA’s fitness to issue sanctions here at all, but even for those who thought the NCAA should have acted, it didn’t act in a way it normally does – it acted in a way that could give it more power to issue harsh punishments, and quickly, going forward. Maybe it won’t – Emmert noted this is a “very unique circumstance” – but the possibility is now on the table.

There will be debate for years going forward about whether the NCAA’s actions here were appropriate, but the actions have been taken, and they were as strong as anyone could have predicted. Penn State football is in for a rough time for a number of years going forward. What happened there was unimaginably terrible – only time will tell whether these sanctions help ensure nothing like it happens again – or whether they’re more about the NCAA wanting to look tough.

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  • John

    A dichotomous scenario and necessarily so. I too am conflicted on the outcome of this case. I feel the punishment is necessary to send a message but it’s almost like the innocent are being penalized all for the consolation of conscience. If I understand correctly, those responsible for the failures have already resigned or been terminated. So the NCAA is left with punishing those who remain. That does not seem just to me, necessary yes but just no. As for Paterno’s legacy, I think it’s a shame that this is most likely to be it. Guilty by association. I have not read where Paterno witnessed any of these atrocities personally. Consequently he was given second hand information with which he correctly notified his superiors. He did say he wished he had done more and looking back I am sure we all agree.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tom-Eberlin/1615130233 Tom Eberlin

    Bob grease ball Greise is probably the happiest man in the world. His hatred of JoePA was so noticable during his broadcasts of games it was sickening. Instead of killing the football program for players who had absolutely nothing to do with what happened go after the people who let it happen. This is typical high school punishment. Don’t punish the people who committed the crime punish everyone and anyone who is part of the school. Pedophiles should be put to death! Including all those in Hollywood where it is the norm. Paterno should be stripped of his wins, 60 million isn’t enough. The money should be comming  from the people who let it happen though.

  • Devon Graham

    “Vigilante justice”? Penn State and JoePa enabled a child rapist to commit more crimes. This isn’t vigilante justice, I would call it a good beginning.

    After the civil suits that will no doubt be coming, Penn State University will be  lucky to exist at all.

    This is why people who watch a lot of sports and think the world revolves around “children’s games” shouldn’t procreate and probably reevaluate their own existence on this planet. 

  • Dontcare

     As if the pain on the abused and the dismay of its revelation wasn’t enough let’s further instill pain on the innocent by fracturing what remains.  Typical thoughless act by the NCAA – collateral damage that will impact more lives.

    The first step was done fire everyone involved.  If the NCAA is so concerned and so tough where were the safety protocols for the university to follow then (there weren’t any; the university should have known better; there are things  that are obvious – right).  If it was left up to the school to keep its students safe then by all means let the school deal with the fall out.  If the school is now deemed incabable of its own rule then dictate the new course of action – don’t take away from the innocent thinking it’s somehow going to set an example.

    This is mere politics.  An oportunity to gain.  Surely some crooked mind within the NCAA thought how can we leverage this for gain.  If athletes can transfer, then let’s do it accross the board.  Taking away the wins (remember there were other innocent kids who played the game and gave it their lives best).  This is not all about football, yet with this move, you in essence have made it all about football.


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