My thoughts on NCAA sanctions against Penn State

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock or you’ve locked yourself up Howard Hughes style you probably heard that the NCAA announced it’s sanctions against Penn State this morning. Rather than hitting Penn State with the “death penalty” (suspending football completely for a season or more), the NCAA chose to drop the hammer and use a combination of fines, bowl bans, and vacating of victories and scholarships. Here is an overview of the sanctions and my thoughts on each.

$60 million sanction on the university
This figure was reached by calculating the average annual gross revenue generated by the football program. The money will be required to be placed into an endowment to fund programs against child sexual abuse or to help victims. Not to minimize the impact the money will have on the programs or victims it will help but the NCAA helped improve public perception with this and possibly give Penn State a jump start on more fundraising for the same cause. One idea I heard from Bonnie Bernstein filling in for Dan Patrick on the Dan Patrick Show today was for Penn State to place donation jars around their football stadium next season. If each of the 107,000 fans donates $1 multiplied by 7 games, you have over $700,000 of funds raised to donate. Add to that, the possibility that many people will donate more than a dollar and the amount goes up. Either way, Penn State should take the ball from the NCAA and run with it.

Four year postseason ban and reduction of scholarships
I lumped these two together to compare them to the “death penalty” that so many people were talking about. The idea with a “death penalty” is to kill the football program all together for a year. This might sound like a just punishment at first, until you think about how many of the school’s other programs would be affected by it. The football program is the highest revenue-generating program on most major college campuses around the country and Penn State was no exception. Kill the football program and you probably kill the other 26 athletic programs Penn State has. Punishing the athletes in other programs who had nothing to do with the scandal is far from fair. So I’m glad the NCAA took account of this and decided to allow the football program to continue playing making money.

In addition, the four-year bowl ban and scholarship reduction will set the football program back for years after the bowl ban and scholarships. First of all, which five star (or even 4, 3, or 2 star) recruit wants to play at a school with no chance of playing in a bowl?  Assuming recruits stay for four years, the seniors in 2020 will be a class that came in as freshman under the final year of the bowl ban and scholarship reductions. It’s safe to say the Penn State football program will be crippled for much longer than only four years. Having said that, if Bill O’Brien is able to recruit and coach them to even halfway decent seasons the next few years, he deserves to be held in high regard.

Vacating of victories from 1998-2011
Obviously this is a direct shot at Joe Paterno. While this is sad because Paterno isn’t around, I think this is also a just penalty. It can be argued that Paterno met his legal obligation when he reported Sandusky’s actions to his superiors at Penn State. It can also be argued that Paterno was not able to fire Sandusky when the prosecutor did not press charges against him in 1998. However, Paterno was still apart of the cover up and did in my opinion did not meet his moral obligations as a football coach or more importantly a human being. Paterno may have done a million great things but this one wrong (or many wrongs) wipes out all of the good he did. I commend the NCAA in making a point to knock Paterno out of his lofty status as the ‘winningest‘ coach in college football history. Society’s moral compass did not feel right about that and the NCAA took steps to correct it.

I also want to commend the normally stiff and unforgiving (to players) NCAA in allowing current Penn State football players to transfer without penalty. Those players had nothing to do with the scandal that went on and should not be punished for it. As a fan of another school in the Big Ten (Ohio State) I am interested seeing the fallout from players potentially leaving Penn State (I am confident that Urban Meyer was on his phone a couple minutes after the sanctions were announced).

All jokes aside, I feel like the NCAA acted swiftly and justly in administering sanctions on Penn State. Had they gone through the process they normally do (at a snails pace), they would have taken months or possibly years to come up with information that took former FBI director Louis Freeh nine months to gather and the police almost three years.

What do you think of the NCAA sanctions on Penn State? Do you think they were just, too light, or too severe?

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About Rajiv Radia

Rajiv is a third year law student at American University - Washington College of Law in Washington DC and a long time sports fanatic.
This entry was posted in NCAA, Rajiv Radia and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to My thoughts on NCAA sanctions against Penn State

  1. Ann Hoffmeister says:

    Fine writing, Rajiv! I agree with your summary. Unfortunate outcome but necessary.

    • jdsportsfan says:

      Thank you! We can only hope some good will come of this. Although Ohio State and Penn State are Big Ten rivals, I’d like to see competitive football between the two.

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