NCAA drops a heavy hand on Happy ValleyJul 23, 2012 - 3:45 PM Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - One day after the Joe Paterno statue was taken down and put into storage, the NCAA has handed Penn State's football program a similar fate.
While the NCAA did not slap the program with the "death penalty," it stopped just short of it in delivering unprecedented fines and sanctions that will undoubtedly hamper Penn State and the football program for years to come.
Two weeks ago it was the Freeh Report that was the buzz of the college world, as former FBI Director Louis Freeh and his team found Penn State and more specifically, Joe Paterno, school president Graham Spanier, vice president Gary Schultz and athletic director Tim Curly guilty of concealing "critical facts relating to Jerry Sandusky's child abuse from the authorities, the board of trustees, Penn State community, and the public at large."
Freeh's report was damning, pointing the finger at Penn State's now infamous foursome.
"Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky's child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State. The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized."
If there was ever a case of "lack of institutional control" it was what has transpired in University Park over the last decade and a half, by the very men that had all of the control.
In not serving Penn State the "death penalty," the NCAA took into account many factors.
"Imposing the death penalty does not address the cultural, systemic and leadership failures at Penn State. Instead, our approach demands that they become an exemplary NCAA member by eradicating the mind-set that led to this tragedy. If imposed, the death penalty would impact far more student-athletes than those at the Penn State program. Indeed, hundreds of student-athletes who are not even Penn State students would be negatively impacted."
NCAA Executive Committee Chairman Ed Ray addressed the notion that the NCAA may be overstepping its bounds in regard to sanctioning Penn State.
"There has been much speculation on whether or not the NCAA has the authority to impose any type of penalty related to Penn State. This egregious behavior not only goes against our rules and constitution, but also against our values."
NCAA President Mark Emmert was charged with determining the punitive and corrective penalties on Penn State, and those sanctions speak volumes to this unprecedented case.
To start, the university will be fined $60 million with the endowment used to support programs to help victims of abuse. The dollar figure is equivalent to one year's gross revenue of the football program.
In addition, Penn State will be hit with a 4-year bowl ban and have its scholarships reduced as well. All scholarship athletes and incoming freshmen will be able to transfer without punishment. The football program will also void its wins from 1998 until 2011 (112 victories) and serve a five-year probation period.
Of the 112 victories lost, 111 will be taken away from Joe Paterno, dropping him from major college football's all-time winningest coach (409) to fifth on the list (298).
In addition to all the punitive sanctions, Penn State will also be charged with changing the way it conducts business. The university will have to implement plans to adhere to NCAA rules in the future and will need to sign an athletic integrity agreement. The school will also have to form a compliance council and will be under an independent monitor for 5 years, specifically charged with making sure Penn State is in compliance.
Emmert addressed the notion that the NCAA was quick to judge and did not adhere to proper due process in coming to its conclusion. Because Penn State signed off on the Freeh Report and its finding and commissioned the group to investigate in the first place and the fact that the Freeh Report was more in depth than any investigation in NCAA history, the feeling was that yet another investigation by the NCAA would be redundant.
A truly unprecedented scandal was answered by unprecedented sanctions.
"We cannot look to NCAA history to determine how to handle circumstances so disturbing, shocking and disappointing," said Emmert. "As the individuals charged with governing college sports, we have a responsibility to act. These events should serve as a call to every single school and athletics department to take an honest look at its campus environment and eradicate the 'sports are king' mind-set that can so dramatically cloud the judgment of educators."
Emmert was also quick to give Penn State credit for cooperating and starting to move in the right direction.
"The actions already taken by the new Penn State Board of Trustees chair Karen Peetz and Penn State President Rodney Erickson have demonstrated a strong desire and determination to take the steps necessary for Penn State to right these severe wrongs."
The reality is that the sanctions levied against Penn State far outweigh what would have transpired if the program was shut down for a year or two.
So, while the NCAA did not hand out the "death penalty," those in Happy Valley may wish they had.
No one has shouted yet.
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