PSU Sanctions: Did NCAA Overreact?

I heard the best way to describe Penn State’s sanctions earlier today:

The late Joe Paterno

“They received the walking death penalty,” said Michael Lombardi of NFL Network.

Pretty much sums it up, huh?

There’s no question that even a two-season “death penalty” would have been preferred to what Penn State was levied with by the NCAA. The Nittany Lions are ineligible for postseason play for four seasons, they’re docked 20 scholarships per year for the next four years, they’ll be fined $60 million (and this is before all the civil suits that are coming down the pike), all wins from 1998-2011 have been vacated, their current players can transfer anywhere in the country and be eligible to play immediately … and they have to move their campus to Beirut. (All right, joking on that last one.)

Hey, I have to commend the NCAA here. Just like when former Baylor basketball head coach Dave Bliss covered up a murder, the NCAA hammered the Bears’ hoops program with heavy sanctions.

Oh wait, they didn’t do that. The NCAA felt getting involved with the cover-up of a murder was out of its jurisdiction. Let that marinate for a moment.

So, this is another example of the NCAA making up the rules as they go along.

To be clear, the NCAA needed to do something to Penn State. However, they also “needed to do something” in the Baylor case (and the Cam Newton case, although that’s completely different from criminal acts being committed) and they sat on their hands.

Also, Penn State’s “interim” president Rodney Erickson (that’s what I’m calling him because he clearly doesn’t have the chops for the job, although he’s obviously an upgrade over future-prisoner Graham Spanier) appears to be about as spineless as they come. Penn State fans are upset with him and rightfully so. Why not wait and go in front of the NCAA Committee on Infractions? There is no way NCAA president/Newt Gingrich-look-alike Mark Emmert would have levied the sanctions against Penn State without the school signing off on them. In fact, there have been published reports that Emmert and Erickson worked together in coming up with these penalties. (As an aside, in case you weren't aware, comparing someone to the appearance of Gingrich is the polar opposite of a compliment.)

I just feel this is too harsh of a punishment for Penn State’s football program. I’m glad the wretched piece of human scum known as Jerry Sandusky is going to rot and die in prison. I’m glad Spanier (who hasn’t even been charged yet, but soon will), Tim Curley and Gary Schultz will be learning what “tossed salad” means in jail lingo. I’m glad the Joe Paterno statue came down, even though it meant I lost a $50 Outback Steakhouse gift card bet. (I thought all along the statue should come down, I just thought the legions of JoePa supporters would never let it happen.)

However, I think there was a better solution here. I like the idea of money going to programs that assist and prevent child abuse victims. That was a must. The NCAA got that one exactly right. (Although a fool could have figured out that one.)

But the scholarship reductions and postseason ban is too harsh. Erickson should have either said “Just give us the death penalty for two years” or “I’ll see you in Indy” over taking that “deal.”

I’m on the fence regarding Paterno’s wins being wiped away for the final 14 seasons of his career. I definitely see both sides of the issue there.

One argument you will not see me make in this space is “It’s unfair to punish the current players and coaches for stuff they had nothing to do with.” Uh, that’s how it works in the NCAA. Was anyone crying about USC (other than Trojan fans) not being bowl eligible the last two years because of Reggie Bush’s transactions? Is anyone outside of Buckeye Nation feeling sorry for the Buckeyes that they are ineligible for postseason play this season? Exactly.

Another horrible argument I hear from people is this: “Does penalizing the current players/coaches mean that the victims get un-raped?”

Wow, that’s as dense as one could get. Using that rationale, we shouldn’t imprison murderers because there’s no way to bring the deceased back to life.

Sympathetic Figure?

Something else to keep in mind here: Due to the heavy sanctions, the NCAA will eventually make Penn State somewhat of a “sympathetic figure” across college football. That seems absurd to say now, but you watch. As time passes, people will feel sorry for the players and coaches at Penn State who had nothing to do with the worst scandal in American sports history. As soon as the postseason ban is up, many fans across the nation will be hoping Penn State finds its way into a bowl. There will be “feel good” stories about the quarterback (and other players) that stuck around during the tough times.

Penn State football is now “the underdog.” The majority of fans across the country will want to see the Nittany Lions keep their head above water and one day return to national prominence. I don’t think turning PSU football into a sympathetic figure – which is exactly what will happen in the future – was a wise move here.

So, in closing, the NCAA needed to act and they did. But Emmert went too far and Erickson erred in not standing up for his school better.

“Walking death penalty.”

Truer words have never been spoken.

Skip To Comments

  • The PSU abomination is clearly the worst case of LOIC ever presented to the NCAA. The athletic department, the university president and the head of the campus police all enabled a child rapist to continue to have access to new victims for 14 years. Then on top of it, the Freeh report shows all kinds of other NCAA violations were covered up or "handled internally" and were never reported. Ignoring the Sandusky mess, there were more NCAA violations in the Freeh report than what Ohio State was ultimately charged with.

    The PSU penalties are nominally a little less than double USC's penalties. Think about that. Was enabling a child rapist for 14 years about twice as bad as giving Reggie Bush & family rent free housing? I don't understand how anyone can be ok with PSU playing games in miserable valley this fall. The NCAA should have eliminated home games at PSU for at least a year or two on top of the postseason bans and scholarship reductions.

    When it comes time to punish Oregon or Miami, the NCAA will have to weigh any sanctions against these penalties with a one year bowl ban and 10 scholarships being the equivalent of 25% as bad as lying to the NCAA for 14+ years, enabling child rape for over a decade and covering up every other violation for just as long. PSU got off easy.

  • The NCAA didn't need to investigate psu did it for them. It is very well documented that the NCAA could never had done such a through investigation as was done by the Freeh report. Psu agreed to it, so that was that investigation done. Penalties levied, Psu accepts those penalties. Pretty simple.

  • we marinate the food in a marinadecoffee

  • So you're suggesting that past inaction justifies continued inaction? Perhaps, the NCAA ought to be compelled to act when children are not just raped but murdered as well for the sake of safeguarding a football brand.

    Where would you draw the line Dave?

    Competitive advantages were realized by avoiding a scandal. They covered it up for a reason.

    I find it hard to believe that an institution which traded 52 counts of child molestation for cash would ever elicit any "sympathy" from me.

  • No, I've said this many times in this thread: I absolutely think Penn State deserved to be punished. I've said for weeks they were going to get hammered. I just think the NCAA took said hammering too far. Course, PSU's interim president bent over and agreed to it, so can't just blame the NCAA.

  • Lying, multiple men of power looking the other way while collaborating to conseal MULTIPLE FELONIES of a perverted football coach. THIS IS "LACK OF INSTITUTIONAL CONTROL" AT ITS WORST!!!!!! Whats the problem? The NCAA dosent have a Statute of Limitations that i know of. And if it does, it should'nt apply in this case!!!

    I think some of us are using too big a microscope, comparing what the NCAA has done in the past. They've got it wrong at times looking back on other incidents. Dont think they got it wrong this time. Not in the least. It's very unfortunate for the present players, but they do have an out. The victims of Sandusky are at the forefront here, not the PSU football players!

    This post has been edited 6 times, most recently by mapatton 2 years ago

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  • Everyone has their opinion and of course I have mine. I think the NCAA was completely out of line in taking any action inasmuch as no NCAA rules were violated. Yes, PSU's leadership was spineless in not standing up for themselves JoPa but other than that have done noting in line with punishments. The third right should have been the conference where our noble leader, Delaney, has remained silent. Of course at this stage since the school has yet to act he could be construed as waiting his turn. Should PSU face penalities? Absolutely!!! However these penalities should be being enforced by other bodies other than the NCAA. I also find in of interest that the NCAA Committee of Infractions declined any participation in this matter and yet their President stepped out boldly and acted. Could it be that the NCAA's Legal Staff advised against taking any action and the President single handedly over-ruled them?

  • Dave - not totally true on the Baylor story

    Bliss paid for the murdered player's education because he had reached a limit on scholarships and then publicly portrayed him as a drug dealer. He was taped instructing players to fabricate the story of the murdered player being a drug dealer. Prior to the murder, Bliss and his staff had knowledge that the the player had been threatened by 2 teammates when they publicly denied such knowledge

    Baylor self imposed penalties on the basketball program. The program's probation was extended for an additional year, scholarships were reduced for the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons, expense-paid recruiting visits were also reduced for the next two seasons and other recruiting abilities were also inhibited and one exhibition game was eliminated for the 2004-05 season.

    Baylor forwarded its findings to the NCAA, who imposed further penalties on the school on June 23, 2005: The university's probation was extended until June 22, 2010. Baylor was barred from playing any nonconference games for the 2005-06 season, the first time such a "half-season" penalty had been imposed.
    The NCAA further reduced Baylor's paid recruiting visits from twelve to nine for the 2006-07 season. (Baylor had already imposed restrictions on recruiting visits for the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons.)

    This post was edited by mjoeb 2 years ago

  • You do realize that the B1G has acted? Delaney and the head of the council of Presidents had a rather lengthy news conference yesterday, just a couple hours after the NCAA made their announcement. I presume that everyone is aware of this?

    The NCAA committee of infractions didn't need to to participate, because President Emmert took it upon himself last November. He moved pretty quickly after this whole thing started to hit the fan, so the lack of action of COI was had nothing to do with their not wanting to participate.

  • Based on their boards? Someone had to stop the arrogance? You don't levy sanctions based on the vocal minority of fans that come on a 247 message board. And agreeing that you are guilty of crime doesn't mean you agree with the punishment. The notion that PSU doesn't get it based on message boards is like saying OSU is a bunch of criminals b/c people sent LTT death threats on twitter. And I promise you, if your son was the victim of this, the last thing you would be worried about is how many years of probation and how much the scholarship reduction was that PSU got.

    I think they deserved a harsh penalty b/c their football team was given special treatment and Coach Paterno operated the team above the law as far as PSU institutional control is concerned. But, the NCAA doesn't have subpoena power for a reason. They aren't equipped to deal with criminal issues and all the organizations that are seem to have this firmly in hand. Sandusky, Spanier, Curley, Shultz, probably all going to jail. PSU will get sued into oblivion and rightfully so, might even lose federal funding. The NCAA is out of its depth and Emmert just didn't have the balls to say so.

  • I agree with you.

    Penn State got everything they deserved. OSU got a 1 year ban for their MINOR infractions, so 4 bowl bans in this case seems about right, to me. Joe has been living a lie since '98. He deserved to have those wins removed just like Tress got his. They were covering up major criminal acts!

    For all those who say that the current students don't deserve this, well, it could have been worse. They still have games they can attend as psu fans. No one is closing the school so they can all get their degrees (which is why they are there anyway, correct?) and the current players can transfer without penalty.

    All things considered, I think the NCAA acted well in this case. Penn State will survive.

    "according to a source familiar with the goings on behind the doors of the WHAC,there is absolutely no panic.Actually, quite the contrary."

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  • It seems there is a PSU faction that does not see this as a football issue. I believe the NCAA was justified in punishing the football program, not because of Sandusky, but because of the willingness to cover up what was done to protect their image. Sandusky will spend the rest of his life in jail. PSU administrators who turned their backs will never work with young people again. A culture that puts football before the well being of innocent children has to be changed. The message sent here says this will never be tolerated.

  • Great post!!!! You feel the same as I. PSU got off EASY!!! We're not hearing about this only going on at a Days Inn. This shit went on at the football facilities ON campus. Hell, didn't they even have something named after Sandusky at the creamery? Death Penalty for five years, and then everything else for five. Lucky Bastards.

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  • I think Erickson did what he thought was best . . .and was best for PSU
    PSU had to take their punishment and purge themselves of this terrible corrupt regime. PSU and their loyal alums will rise from the ashes and be stronger for this after they cleanse themselves from this Paterno fetish. Maybe even the biased media establishment will learn from this and take off their blinders the next time someome like Paterno is running an entire university.The media was drinking the kool aid when it was perfectly obvious that Joe Pa had way too much power.

  • The last thing I'm going to worry about is whether the NCAA overreacted. All I know is that Penn State underreacted. Let's move on.

  • So most people are in agreement that if this happened at OSU and these were our sanctions, it would be what we deserved?

  • Dave,
    Just because the NCAA screwed up re: Baylor doesn't mean that they need to screw up again. Precedent should work toward the positive and not the negative. If a molester is let go for some stupid reason should all molesters be let go? No! Don't blame the NCAA for finally getting it right. But, I think it needs to go farther.

    Do I think that what the NCAA handed down to PSU is enough, no. Do I think that any punishment would have sufficed, no! That said I applaud the NCAA for taking quick action that does affect the school and its pocket book yet provides its scholarship players with the latitude to make decisions that are best for them. I just hope that they don't take the $60M and any potential lost revenue away from the non-football sports. I think that the NCAA should mandate that all that money should come from the football and administration budgets (let's not forget that this cover up extended to the admin).

    Furthermore, I think that PSU should step forward and designate X percentage of their endowment (btw, they raised the 2nd most amount of money this year in their history) and set up a fund to aid and assist children who have been affected by child molestation. Moreover, they should open up a segment of study dedicated to this horrible act.

  • Dave,
    When it comes to a cover up by high ranking officials regarding a subject like child molestation there is no penalty that is too great. Shame on you for thinking only about football. Frankly, I want to see PSU step forward and take steps apart from football. Read my post (BAS) and you will see what I mean. This is not a football issue, but it was swept under the rug because football is such a big revenue producer...guilt by association happens all of the time and welcome to the real world.

    Dave, I have always enjoyed reading your pieces, but you are soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo off base here. Let me hear from you if someone in your family falls victim to an ass like Sandusky and the idiots like JoPa et al. You will be screaming holy murder. This is like those that don't want a ban on assault weapons. All well and good until a loved one is sitting in a movie theater and gets gunned down because a guy can get the weapon on the Internet. The tone changes when it affects you personally. It is a great feeling to stand 10,000 feet above and cast judgment...try being on the front lines.

  • It's 65 max players a year and allowed to offer 15 scholarships. It is a double hit to not allow them develment of players and limit how many can play. Personally I can sleep better now but as Said when this happens to your own family it's different. The NCAA doesn't get much right but this was a good start for them. Public officials, uni police, and state college officials fail, NCAA did what it needed to do and god speed to them.

  • I agree completely. Two different presidents. It wasnt the entire Baylor system....It was the Head coach. But i agree more should have been done. The entire administration lied to protect the football team and the university. Even when confronted with the truth they continued to lie. They put the university in front of the helpless victims over and over again. The university should be punished plain and simple. They continued to gain monetary advantages and athletic advantages at the expense of the victims. They didnt care about the victims, Why is anyone complaining about a loss of scholarships. If the current team or past team members wants to be mad then be mad at the people responsible.....The Administration who chose to do nothing. You think its unfair to the current players, you say they did nothing wrong and they are getting punished, hmmmm....Well they still get to play football, a game. If this is as much adversity they face the rest of their lives, consider them lucky. They dont have to live with them nightmares of being raped by somebody they thought they could trust and then have the very people they looked up to, turn a blind eye,

    "All that is needed for Evil to prevail is for Good men to do Nothing."

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