Penn State didn’t receive the dreaded death penalty, but it can be argued that the unprecedented sanctions handed down by the NCAA on Monday were equally as harsh, if not more severe.
NCAA president Mark Emmert announced sanctions that include:
- A $60 million fine, with the money going toward an endowment to support victims of child abuse and for prevention programs. The total is based on the revenue generated by the Penn State football program in one year.
- A four-year ban on participation in bowl games or any postseason games.
- A reduction in football scholarships from 25 to 15 per year.
- Students on football scholarships can transfer to another school and be eligible to play immediately instead of sitting out one year.
- Students on football scholarship can elect not to play football but will retain their scholarships.
- Penn State must vacate all football victories since 1998, when the first allegations of Jerry Sandusky’s sexual misconduct were made.
- The NCAA reserves the right to look into penalties against any individuals after criminal proceedings are completed.
In addition to the sanctions, the NCAA announced “corrective” measures centering on Penn State instituting recommendations from the investigative report compiled by the firm of former FBI director Louis Freeh. The NCAA will pick an independent athletic integrity monitor to assure compliance and to make certain Penn State makes progress toward implementing the recommendations.
The first issue addressed during Monday’s news conference was whether the NCAA had the authority to punish Penn State for its handling of allegations of sexual misconduct against Sandusky, who served as defensive coordinator through the 1999 season. The explanation was that not only does the NCAA have the authority to act, but the “NCAA has the responsibility to act.”
“This strikes at the very heart of what intercollegiate athletics is about,” Emmert said.
Anticipating criticism that this will mark the beginning of the NCAA imposing penalties for actions that don’t necessarily violate specific rules and by-laws, NCAA officials described the Penn State situation as having a very unique set of extenuating circumstances. Emmert said the Penn State situation is completely different from enforcement cases dealing with specific rules violations.
Other messages sent, according to NCAA officials, are that the presidents and chancellors are in charge, not the athletic programs, and that the athletic culture should not overtake or overshadow the athletic culture. This is clearly what the NCAA believes occurred at Penn State.
The impact on Penn State’s football program will be devastating. The reduction in scholarships will take 40 scholarships away from Penn State over a four-year period. In four years, there will need to be a significant number of walk-ons in order for Penn State to field a full squad. The four-year ban on bowl games and appearances in league championship playoffs also will make it more difficult to recruit players to Penn State.
Furthermore, allowing players currently at Penn State to be eligible immediately at a new school removes an obstacle that discourages transferring for athletic reasons. Allowing students to remain at Penn State on scholarship even if they choose not to play football there also, potentially, reduces the number of scholarship players on the field for Penn State, thereby increasing the need for walk-ons.
The decision to vacate all wins since 1998 removes 111 wins from Joe Paterno’s total (and takes away Bill O’Brien’s bowl victory last season). According to official records, Paterno will move from the winningest Division I football coach in history (409 wins) to eighth overall (298 wins).
The statue of Paterno, commemorating his 324th victory, which moved him past Alabama’s Bear Bryant and into first place on the Division I (excluding Division I-AA) victory list, was removed from outside Beaver Stadium on Sunday.
“Against this backdrop, Penn State accepts the penalties and corrective actions announced today by the NCAA,” Penn State President Rodney Erickson said in a statement. “With today’s announcement and the action it requires of us, the University takes a significant step forward.”
Emmert also points out the university also accepted the findings of the Freeh Report, upon which much of the decision to impose severe sanctions is based. Unlike in typical cases, the NCAA did not conduct its own investigation before imposing penalties.
The Paterno family and others have taken issue with the Freeh Report, which faults the senior leadership of Paterno, Penn State president Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, the vice president of business and finance. Curley and Schultz, awaiting trial on criminal charges for failing to report a 2001 allegation of sexual misconduct involving Sandusky and a boy in the showers of the football facility to either police or the Department of Public Welfare, did not speak with investigators. Paterno died before speaking with investigators, although the Freeh Report notes that investigators believe Paterno would have done so if had not died in January.
Critics of the Freeh Report contend that it includes conclusions based upon inferences and speculation rather than evidence.
The entire archive of Penn State and Joe Paterno pieces on PhillyPhanatics.com:
Paterno one of a kind (11/3/10)
Paterno, Nittany Lions looking ahead (12/31/10)
Let’s learn the facts (11/8/11)
In defense of Paterno (11/19/11)
Paterno dies at age 85 (1/22/12)
Paterno was the best (1/24/12)
Rushing to judgment (again) (7/4/12)
Failure of leadership at Penn State (7/12/12)
Doing what’s right (7/14/12)