The NCAA has banned Penn State from college football bowl participation for four years, fined the university $60 million, vacated 110 victories from 1998 to 2011, and enabled all football scholarship athletes at the school to transfer without having to sit out a year. The harsh penalties stopped short of the “death penalty” but imposed perhaps the most that could otherwise be done in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal.
The vacating of the 110 victories over a thirteen-year span will kick the late Joe Paterno out of the record books, reducing his all-time victories below Bobby Bowden and three other coaches. 1998 was used as the cutoff date because that was the beginning of the long coverup of former defensive coordinator Sandusky’s abusive activities, according to the Freeh report. Sandusky has been convicted in state court and is awaiting sentencing.
Penn State also must reduce scholarship offers from 25 to 15 over the next four years. In addition, the Big Ten announced that Penn State will not receive proceeds from bowl games from other teams in the conference over the next four years, as per the norm. The $60 million fine and the roughly $13 million in lost bowl revenue will be put toward programs dedicated to protecting children from sexual abuse, according to the NCAA and the Big Ten. $60 million is roughly what Penn State brings into the university from their football program on an annual basis.
“Football will never again be placed ahead of educating, nurturing and protecting young people,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said at a news conference in Indianapolis. “For the next several years, Penn State can focus on rebuilding its athletic culture, not on whether it’s going to a bowl game.” [...]
In a statement, Penn State President Rodney Erickson said, “It is important to know we are entering a new chapter at Penn State and making necessary changes.
“We must create a culture in which people are not afraid to speak up, management is not compartmentalized, all are expected to demonstrate the highest ethical standards, and the operating philosophy is open, collegial, and collaborative,” he said.
Some attorneys have suggested that the NCAA imposing sanctions stemming not from rules violations but a criminal matter would not be allowed. But the NCAA went ahead, relying on the interpretation that Penn State lost institutional control of the athletic program by covering up for Sandusky’s abuse.
There’s a fine line to draw on accountability between those responsible for the situation and those student-athletes caught up in it who will bear the inevitable burden of the penalties. But with the freedom of movement afforded to the scholarship athletes, the NCAA tried to draw that line while also addressing the serious nature of the scandal.
The statue of Joe Paterno that stood outside Penn State’s stadium was removed this weekend.