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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.

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  • What this punishment does is it allows PSU to "pay for its crimes" in a manner of speaking. When they come out of this......and they will.....it will be buisness as usual.

    The real question is will PSU appeal?

    This post was edited by Gobucks187TTUN 21 months ago

    "The only thing That Team Up North will be tasting this year is the salty tears of defeat" - UFM

  • They have already said they won't appeal. Eventually PSU will climb out of the cellar but that is probably close to 10 years before they are back to being mostly Penn State.

    They put the school's reputation and its football program ahead of those kids. The 73 million they got fined by the NCAA and the B1G will go to charity to support child victims around the country. They will never be the institution they were before. They will forever be linked with covering up for a pedophile.

  • I think the issue is really the lack of consistancy. The price paid is fair to me but in regards to other issues and schools they seem to pick and choose who they want to really enforce infractions on..like where the heck has the ncaa been this summer or the last few years in the SEC. On Sirius radio I think it said the Sec had 14 students with arrests this summer which is more than all the conferences combined. Yet the Ncaa does nothing to these schools and hammers USC,OSU and now PSU. Penn State to me got the right punishment but they need to be consistent and really do something about the SEC issues.

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    I'm gong to lay out the football schedule for the next 5 years, show me one, just one game Ohio State fans would find acceptable to lose.

  • Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't Bliss the highest ranking person involved in the Baylor cover up? As I recall, Baylor admin took action (unlike PSU) when they first heard of the allegations...and they did get hammered by the NCAA. I get your point if the NCAA claimed lack of jurisdiction, but I honestly have no problem with the sanctions handed out to PSU. Unfortunately, I think you're right re: the sympathy issue. I recall getting pretty ticked off the first time I heard a complaint re: the war on terror after 9/11. People's memories will fade. Liberals will feel sorry for the poor folks at PSU, but I do like the fact that the NCAA gave the players the right to walk. So if they stay and endure tough seasons ahead, it was their conscious decision to do so. If they stay, they should be applauded for sticking by their university, but they should not be revered at martyrs.

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    Go Bucks!

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    BuckeyeDog

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    ..pay forward ........................................he made them pay...............................he'll make them pay again and again

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    BuckeyeDog

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    ..pay forward ........................................he made them pay...............................he'll make them pay again and again

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  • I didn't read it as sarcasm. I think the poster was saying there have been at least 100 threads and no one saw the big picture. I may have read it that way because I feel that way. This is a massive story with 100 subplots and only by looking at the entire picture can you begin to formulate an answer to what should be done by the NCAA or otherwise.

  • Wow. So your rationale is the NCAA overreacted because... The bowl ban and scholarship reductions are too harsh?

    I simply could not disagree any more strongly. How about a bowl ban for each victim they empowered Sandusky to abuse? Or schollie reductions for each year of the coverup? PSU got off easy. Every person who thinks they got harsh penalties is using prior penalizations as a point of reference, which is the flaw. There is no precedent and comparisons to prior penalties are essentially useless.

    Ditto to prior offenses (Baylor). And geez, can you pick a worse example to compare PSU scandal to? The Baylor scandal could not be MORE different. Not only was there no coordinated cover up, but the AD resigned (even though he didn't know of the illegal activity) because it was his job to oversee the program. That would be like Gene Smith resigning because TatGate occurred on his watch even though he clearly wasn't involved. Terrible comparison, and an "F" for effort and research here. The point of comparison was not only wrong, but it also seemed to be used as an emotional ploy in your argument. Seriously terrible writing.

    The point of the sanctions was to reset the culture that led to this situation. I'm not sure that will get done, but these at least seem to be accurately pointed in that direction. As other posters have pointed out, the PSU fans and alumni don't seem to be worried about changing and are still more interested in clinging to their false god, Paterno, than to moving on and allowing some healing to occur. Hero worship, as Emmert so rightly pointed out, is over. At least, that's what we're looking for here. Time will tell us if the cult of Penn State has been dismantled or not.

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    At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought.

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  • Adding a few more thoughts to an interesting discussion on the questions of whether NCAA overreacted and whether the penalties are too harsh or not.

    1. It is useful to break down the question of the harshness of the penalties by looking at those who were guilty of something and those who were affected by NCAA penalties

    The "guilty" people included Sandusky at the a sick criminal and then Paterno, Spanier, Curley, Schultz, and possibly McQuery. Others that knew things and did nothing are also cuplable.

    Sandusky will die in jail and rightly so.
    Paterno is beyond punishment from the law or NCAA, so any penalties for Joe would have to be determined by a "higher authority." Maybe there is a way to take most of his pension away so his estate will not benefit or for the victims to sue his estate.

    Interestingly, the NCAA penalties have no specific impact (that I see) on Sandusky, Paterno, or the other guilty people, including Spanier, Curley, and Schultz and possibly others. I think that the NCAA had the power to ban any individual who knew and covered up a crime from every working at a college again in any capacity, atheltics or otherwise. This would have been appropriate for NCAA to do and is conisistent with and extends past show cause orders (e.g., Tressel). Obviously, some or all of the people who knew and then allegedly lied to the grand jury may face legal and civil penalties and I hope that the system works well enough to put a few in jail. But why did the NCAA pass the opportunity to punish the clearly guilty using their well established powers and a justifiable allegation of unethical behavior of individuals under rule 10?

    The "innocent" people includes everyone on the planet that knew nothing about Sandusky crimes. This includes about 7 billion people on the planet, including PSU football players, PSU athletes in other sports (who will likely be hit hard by reduced revenues from football), PSU fans, the kids that will not have scholarships, other Big 10 teams, local bars and businesses, and anyone else impacted by relegating PSU to a second tier program for the next 8-10 years.

    The NCAA penalties have a signfiicant impact on a lot of innocent people. The theory seems to be that punishing a lot of innocent people while ignoring the guilty will prevent the same thing from happening again. Maybe this is so, but I think the jail terms for those guilty of covering up crimes would be a much more important factor to those in the future who are faced with a similar situation. I undertand the concept of collateral damage in penalizing the guilty but it is not clear to me that the NCAA penalties have been pointed in the right direction or will have the desired effect.

    2. Did the NCAA overreact?

    I think the better question is whether the NCAA has a clear mission and rules.

    My view is that the NCAA got it wrong this time and had it right in the Baylor case when they indicated that coverup of a crime was not in its jurisdiction. Clearly, NCAA has a role when there is a coverup of a recruiting violation, play eligibility, or other factor involving competitiveness of a sports team. However, coverup of a crime that was not related to players, recruits, or competitiveness, seems more like the jurisdiction of the law than the NCAA.

    Others may disagree on this point and I understand and respect other views. But, I find it disturbing that the NCAA rules are so vague that an NCAA official can make one decision in one case and the opposite decision in another. This is a symptom of an organization that is fundamentally flawed in its charter and rules, and that is subject to the whims of individuals and public pressure rather than founded in clear rules and precedents (as the legal system strives to be).

    I would hope that NCAA and its member colleges use this as an opportunity to reform and define the NCAA roles and authorities in a sensible manner. But the opposite is happening as the NCAA is getting kudos for exercising unprecendented authorities and strong actions.

    The comparison to Baylor is interesting but not as good as a the comparison to the Catholic church pedophile scandals and coverups. Within the Catholic church, there were some abusers and some that covered up crimes. These people are subject to the law and I hope the guilty are caught, tried, and jailed. There have been and will be very large civil penalties, amounting to millions of dollars for the church. Like the chuch, the guilty parties at PSU are subject to criminal and civil prosecution and PSU as an institution will be sued and probably settle for many millions. The investigation and prosecution of pedophiles in the church and those who covered up seems to be happening through the police and courts. If the church can be investigated by police and judged by courts, without the "help" of the NCAA, I do not see the benefit of the NCAA adding another level of judgment and punishment to the PSU case. We have a situation at PSU that would be like telling the Catholic church to cut back on masses or charity services because there are some criminals in their organization.

    Another way to look at the PSU case is to ask if the situation is truly a problem unique to football or sports. Clearly Paterno was revered and had influence on others. It is worth asking of things would have been different if the pervert was a math professor and was protected by a Department head that won a Nobel prize in math. The university may well have protected its reputation and tried to avoid civil liability by a coverup in such a case as well, and this has probably happened before. To think that this could happen only in football and with a famous coach is probably naive. Nobody suggests that colleges stop teaching math if a math professor is a disdusting criminal.

    The legal adage that hard cases makes bad laws is apt for the NCAA situation and I am concerned that we have given more power to the NCAA than they deserve.

    This post was edited by buckenator 21 months ago

  • Real victim # 2?

    The mysterious victim # 2 has come out. He's the one that MCQueary reported to Joe Paterno.

    If he's verified, then lots of points against NCAA sanctions would become moot.

    Lawyers: Shower abuse victim to sue Penn Stat

    HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) -- For months, the identity of the boy who was sexually assaulted in the locker-room showers by Jerry Sandusky was one of the biggest mysteries of the Penn State scandal. Now, for the first time, a man has come forward publicly to claim he was that boy, and is threatening to sue the university.

    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2012/football/ncaa/07/26/penn-state-victim-lawsuit.ap/index.html?sct=hp_t2_a2&eref=sihp

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