Andrew Hanselman, of Bucks County, Pa., and Maddy Pryor, a senior from Neptune, N.J., react as they listen to a television in the HUB on the Penn State University main campus in State College, Pa., as the NCAA sanctions against the school's football program are announced Monday. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Monday, July 23, 2012 6:09 PM
NCAA president Mark Emmert was well within the organization’s bounds and constitution when he dropped the big hammer on Penn State Monday.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean the NCAA should have gone there.
It will be a popular move. Penn State is easy to hate right now.
And I get it. This was the worst college football scandal, surely the most galling, centered around unspeakably sickening acts, in NCAA history.
It was a heinous crime.
As such, it has been, will be and should be handled by the criminal justice system, hopefully with a hanging judge presiding.
I get the lack of institutional control at Penn State, a major sticking point when the NCAA comes snooping around. In fact it’s a text book case as higher-ups at Penn State not only were unconscionably silent to authorities when they knew they had a child sexual predator in their midst, they looked the other way and let Jerry Sandusky continue to have free run of the football complex for more than a decade after quietly getting him off the football coaching staff.
That was a stomach-turning crime.
It is being dealt with by the proper authorities. Sandusky will spend the rest of his life (hopefully rotting) in jail. Former coach Joe Paterno died before he could really defend the indefensible. Athletic director Tim Curley, school vice president Gary Schultz and president Graham Spanier were all summarily fired. Curley and Schultz face trials. Hopefully the justice system can find more than perjury and “failure to report” for a jury to ponder.
And surely they can find something to charge Spanier with, malfeasance of something or another.
At any rate, their professional lives and reputations are effectively and properly dead and, at this point, it’s just dickering about the jail time.
By piling on Monday, everybody the NCAA hurts further are the innocent bystanders — most notably the players, fans, faculty and alums of the school who had nothing to do with the crime or any knowledge that it was happening.
There are always some caught in the crossfire when NCAA sanctions come down.
The NCAA has to keep some order. But mainly it should be concerned with keeping the playing field level, which would include academic integrity.
As awful as this crime was, it did nothing to give the Nittany Lions an advantage on the field.
These innocent bystanders, as opposed to other cases, weren’t involved in (or at least haven’t been accused of) giving or accepting $100-handshakes or inflating grades. The players certainly didn’t benefit from it. And if the guilty players are usually gone when the sanctions come down in other cases, well, at least you could say the past sins helped create the prestige of the program the players are then playing for.
That wasn’t the case here. The players are accused of nothing. Neither are the fans or faculty. Just a few criminally negligent minds at the top.
For this kind of truly criminal stuff we surely have enough court rooms and more than enough lawyers to take care of it.
OK, maybe Emmert and the NCAA didn’t feel they could let such a high-profile, disgusting saga go without some official reaction.
But they didn’t have to bomb the program into submission. What does that accomplish?
A year’s bowl ban and a few docked scholarships would have been plenty.
Some power programs in the past — Florida, Alabama, Southern Cal, for instance — have survived some major sanctions while hardly missing a beat.
This would be a tough one for anybody.
The NCAA stopped short of the death penalty, opting instead to bleed Penn State football to within an inch of its life.
The school can only sign 15 recruits per class for the next four years (25 is the norm). And lots of luck even filling that quota this year when the hotshots know the Nittany Lions can’t go to a bowl game for the next four years.
By 2014, the Nittany Lions must be down to 65 total scholarship players (20 fewer than their FBS competition), which should be no problem since any player now on the roster can (rightly, given the circumstances) leave for another program with no restrictions.
The $60 million fine levied against the school is fairly unprecedented, too, while vacating 112 victories since 1998 is just plain silly.
The NCAA continues to think it can rewrite history. Paterno lost 111 of his victories, but I doubt Bobby Bowden now feels much like the winningest coach of all time and LSU still didn’t win the 2010 Capital One Bowl.
Penn State officials accepted the penalties without a whimper. Of course they did —any protests at this point would sound like a lack of sensitivity toward the victims.
But that doesn’t make the severe sanctions right.