NCAA hits Penn State hard, but ‘death penalty’ appropriate (UPDATED with video)

Mark Emmert moved fast and hit Penn State for their actions (and inactions). (AP photo)

Mark Emmert moved fast and hit Penn State for their actions (and inactions). (AP photo)

(See video blog with CineSports’ Noah Coslov below)

(Updated at 6:40 p.m. with comment from Penn State president that school accepted penalties to avoid death penalty)

Let’s start with this: NCAA president Mark Emmert acted swiftly and justly. That’s a rarity for the NCAA.

Emmert didn’t need a 17-month investigation by an overworked and underpaid staff to unearth something that we didn’t already learn from prosecutors and witnesses in the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse trial, or from the exhaustive, 267-page Freeh Report, conducted by a former director of the FBI. Anybody who believes Emmert moved too quickly on Penn State without the NCAA doing its own leg work must not having been paying attention for the past several decades, when policing college athletics became far too big of a job for that relative mom-and-pop organization.

The NCAA appropriately slammed Penn State Monday for its perceived enabling and cover-up of Sandusky. Emmert referenced an athletic culture “that went horribly awry” and a misguided “hero worship” that led to it. He didn’t bury the lead.

The penalties will double-over every blinded school official, player, fan, alum and misguided individual who hugged and tried to protect the Joe Paterno statute. The school was hit with a $60 million fine, equivalent to one year’s gross revenue for the football program (the money will fund an endowment that will fight child sexual abuse).

There’s also a four-year bowl ban; the loss of 40 scholarships over four years; the freedom for existing Penn State players to transfer to another school without having to sit out a year; the vacating of all victories since 1998, a symbolic punch to the gut for the memory of Joe Paterno. (The quarterback for Paterno’s last official win in 1997: Mike McQueary, whose eyewitness account of seeing Sandusky in the shower with a young boy was ignored years later.)

The sanctions will cripple the football program. But Emmert still fell short.

The NCAA, as I’ve written previously, should have gone one step further and shut the program down for one to two years. It would’ve been more than just a symbolic hit.

There is a need for a cultural change at Penn State, as Emmert himself said frequently Monday, and the “death penalty” would have increased the likelihood of that happening.  It would have prompted anybody who ever took part in a cover-up or ignored whispers about Sandusky to reflect during Saturdays in the fall when football wasn’t being played at Penn State. Beaver Stadium could have been used for weekly prayer vigils for the victims.

Penn State officials need time to process this. They need to consider where, when and why they jumped the rails on their mission. While there’s no question the NCAA’s punishment will make them feel the pain of their actions, nothing can equal the silence of an empty stadium, the absence of weekly pep rallies. No program in history deserves to be shuttered as much as the Penn State football team. We send criminals to jail. We don’t tell them, “OK, you can still go back to that bank that you robbed, but now you’ll have to take the bus, and just don’t do it again.” Penn State needed to lose its freedoms, its privileges.

For some reason, the NCAA apparently gave Penn State a choice. President Rodney Erickson told the Centre Daily Times the school accepted the sanctions to avoid the death penalty: “We had our backs to the wall on this. We did what we thought was necessary to save the program.”

Some believe the death penalty would have been a softer punishment than what Penn State received. I don’t get that. Has anybody seen SMU since the death penalty?

Emmert believes the death penalty would’ve caused “unintended harm” to those who were innocent in this mess. That’s true. Unfortunately, the innocent always get hurt in NCAA probation. New players and often new coaches are in place when sanctions hit for past misdeeds.

Those who believe Sandusky’s crimes didn’t warrant any sanctions because they did not give the school a competitive advantage are missing the big picture. Question: If Jerry Sandusky was a chemistry professor and not a former high profile football coach, do you believe he would’ve been protected? Of course not. Penn State’s actions and inactions were about preserving the competitiveness, image and profitability of the football program.

Even without the death penalty, however, it was encouraging to see Emmert take charge. The NCAA has needed somebody with logic and courage to run things. The hope is that this won’t be an isolated case, because the leaders of college athletics have long since lost perspective.

Emmert said the Penn State case “involves tragic and tragically unnecessary circumstances. One of the grave dangers coming from our love of sports is that the sports themselves can become too big to fail, too big to even challenge. The result can be an erosion of academic values that are replaced by hero worship and winning at all costs. In the Penn State case, the results were perverse and unconscionable.”

They were the perfect words to punctuate the punishment and begin the process of closure. Going one step further would have made it just a little better.

By Jeff Schultz

Here’s my chat with CineSports’ Noah Coslov on the NCAA’s sanctions against Penn State.
Yes, first you read me, now you can see me in living color!



525 comments Add your comment

NC Dawg

July 23rd, 2012
10:58 am

Not enough. But, is there anything short of shutting the program down that would suffice?

hirejongruden

July 23rd, 2012
11:05 am

Fire mark richt. We are playing with less scholarship players than Penn St!

gomdawg

July 23rd, 2012
11:06 am

Can Georgia go after any of these players from Penn St

kappellmeister

July 23rd, 2012
11:07 am

Jeff – why is it the custodians who kept their mouths shut because they “feared for their jobs” getting a free pass in all this? They could have done SOMETHING, even anonymously. Making money is so much more important? I mean, I am a teacher at a high school with a well-entrenched head football coach. If I witnessed such a thing, fear of my job or not, I would have to say something.

Ostrich Racer

July 23rd, 2012
11:07 am

JJ

July 23rd, 2012
11:08 am

The 60 mil and vacating wins means very little.

gomdawg

July 23rd, 2012
11:09 am

hirejongruden have you lost your mine , CMR IS A GREAT COACH , I FOR ONE AM 100 % BEHIND HIM

MetsH8r

July 23rd, 2012
11:10 am

I agree Jeff. PSU Football taking the field this fall, regardless of the penalties now imposed, will still send the message to the victims and everyone else that “Almighty football” is too important to shut down.

Ward

July 23rd, 2012
11:10 am

This punishment feels right for the most part, knowing that you can never do enough to make it right for those men that were abused. I do wish, however, that the Big 10 comes in and says that for the next 10 years PSU will not get any football money from the conference. I think that it should be forfeited for more abuse prevention causes… I’m so happy the Peterno loses what he held so precious.

Truth

July 23rd, 2012
11:11 am

The sanctions are essentially the death penalty.

Can Georgia get some much needed help here?

Ron

July 23rd, 2012
11:12 am

All these Little Ceasars in charge of these mammoth programs need to be reeled in. Remember John Goodman’s character in “Revenge of the Nerds”? He reminds me of several present day coaches, a few of them in close proximity to Atlanta.

hirejongruden

July 23rd, 2012
11:12 am

CMR should stand for can’t manage recruiting.
Walk ons don’t win championships. Great coaches don’t undersign classes.

BobDawg

July 23rd, 2012
11:12 am

Jeff, what do you think the ramifications are for other changes: The Big 10 letting Penn State go; a Memorial erected some day over a torn down Lasche Building and changing the Penn State Uniforms as I see Sandusky now every time I see a clip of the football team…..

yeller bug

July 23rd, 2012
11:13 am

I guess the NCAA will never use the death penalty again. That mindset has pluses and minuses—the death penalty does create a lot of collateral damage to the innocent. In most cases as in this case, the problem is due to the horrific actions of a few. That said, if a case warranted a death penalty—this one did.

KingGator

July 23rd, 2012
11:14 am

Miami where are you? Get Ready. Your turn is coming up next. You can’t run, and you can’t hide

GStateBen

July 23rd, 2012
11:14 am

So what about the 12 programs that would have to scramble for games now that Penn State would have shut their program down? Fall camps for some schools start in less than two weeks.

It’s not that simple to stop competition.

BobDawg

July 23rd, 2012
11:14 am

HIREJONGRUDEN – did you not here Mark Emmert today about Universities better achieve better balance between Academics and sports… We are just fine with Mark Richt…

Bill Stanfill

July 23rd, 2012
11:14 am

I agree, Jeff. All those who are saying these sanctions are worse than the Death Penalty are simply parroting what they saw in a headline.

We know what happened to SMU after their football program was suspended. And we know what has happened to football programs that have been banned from bowls and had their scholarships cut, ie., Southern Cal. Multiply that times 2 or 3 and you have some idea of what will happen to Penn State.

Tough penalties handed down today? Yes. Equivalent to or worse than the Death Penalty? Not even close.

Jeff Schultz

July 23rd, 2012
11:14 am

Gomdawg — Yes, Georgia and any other school can go after Penn State players who wish to transfer, and players don’t have to redshirt a year.

gtg

July 23rd, 2012
11:15 am

The death penalty would have done the same thing to the big ten as it did to the southwest conference. So no absolutely not the death penalty would have punished several other schools not just Penn state. You are letting your emotions get the better of you

gomdawg

July 23rd, 2012
11:16 am

THANKS, Bobdawg i’m with you 100%

Tide Rising

July 23rd, 2012
11:16 am

I was in favor of a one year death penalty but when looking at these penalties I think its appropriate. A death penalty only hurts current players, the various vendors, and current students. We are mostly punishing others and current people at that for the sins of 4 people committed in the past. It does nothing to address the 3 people left who are responsible.

But a 4 year bowl ban and a whopping 40 schollys lost is absolutely brutal and will devastate the program for the next 8 years. I remember when we were devastated with the loss of 21 schollys over 3 years and how bad Miami was over losing 15 schollys. I can’t imagine how bad their program is going to be losing 40 schollys over 4 years. Total decimation and almost as bad as what a 1 year death penalty would have been.

Jeff you may not think the penalties are serious enough but with 40 schollys lost I can tell you they are severely screwed for almost a decade. And the vacating of wins is also a slap in the face that will be a forever reminder when people reflect on Penn State’s all time legacy.Same with Paterno.

BobDawg

July 23rd, 2012
11:16 am

Jeff, I like what Jesse Palmer said… this is worse than the death penalty… in 4 years there will only be walk-ons playing at PSU. Will take 8 years to see them in a bowl game again, if ever… This may work out to be worse than the death penalty….

Jeff Schultz

July 23rd, 2012
11:16 am

Kappelmesiter — I’m with you. Janitors should’ve said something and pursued it, but obviously was an intimidating atmosphere there and people feared repercussions.

eaglenationrising

July 23rd, 2012
11:16 am

I have believed for some time that the staff of Mark Rich is complacent and lazy. However, Georgia lost their starting running back (Crowell). I can only pray that Georgia coaches are on the phone with the high school coaches of Silas Redd, who rushed for 1241 yards last season. It is that simple. We are known as Running Back U. Surely, Georgia should be a logical place for Silas Redd to play next season. My guess is Mark Richt and his staff will be the last school to reach out to Redd.

DIT

July 23rd, 2012
11:17 am

Gruden has already said a while back that he is not interested in coching college football. He has a cushy job now, why ruin it.
It will be interesting to see how quickly other coaches go after their players. They have some good ones. Because of one man’s rude acts and decisions (putting it mildly) the rest of the university is going to have to pay the price. Look at all of the groups on campus that are affiliated with the football team. Those clubs will now be shut down.
I feel for all the fans and Alumni. This will follow them where ever they go, but mostly feel for the victims because no matter the penalty or any monitary funds given for compensation what happned to them years back can’t be erased. My God be with them for old wounds have been opened wide up!

Well

July 23rd, 2012
11:17 am

Sad day for college sports. I feel for all the Penn State grads/students who have to endure this tragedy.

gomdawg

July 23rd, 2012
11:17 am

Jeff do you think Georgia will go after any of the players ?

5150 UOAD

July 23rd, 2012
11:17 am

Death Penalty is too MUCH.

This is bad but OK.

Did what just happened at Penn St make them moving to the ACC much easier?
If the Big 10 bans them from TV I think the ACC moves FAST to get Penn St.

Jeff Schultz

July 23rd, 2012
11:18 am

JJ — The vacating of wins is “symbolic” obviously. Games have been played. But $60 million is a lot of money. Still, yes, they can recover from that with their alumni base.

Youkiddingme?

July 23rd, 2012
11:18 am

Ir is an election year. This is so much worse fhan steroids in baseball. Can congressional involvement be far away?

PMC

July 23rd, 2012
11:19 am

So students, coaches, players, business owners etc. They just become further victims of Sandusky.

Jeff Schultz

July 23rd, 2012
11:19 am

Truth — “The sanctions are essentially the death penalty.”

We disagree.

BobDawg

July 23rd, 2012
11:20 am

5150 TOAD…. not sure if you are a Tech fan, but why would any conference want PSU right now??? To beat them 60-0???? every time you play them the Sandusky comments and stench of the whole affair will be a lead up to the actual game…. Do you really want that in your conference???

eaglenationrising

July 23rd, 2012
11:20 am

FYI: I am unaware of exactly how many scholarships are available for the Dawgs (obviously, the Isaiah Crowell scholarship should be available). However, Georgia should be on the horn with folks in Connecticut (home of Penn State’s top running back Silas Redd – 1241 yards rushing as a sophomore & no top tier quarterback to stretch defenses). The staff of the Dawgs should be reaching out to offensive line (experience would do wonders for Georgia in that area), defensive linemen (depth) & wide receivers if the Dawgs have additional scholarships. For goodness sake, Mark Richt. GET TO WORK!!!

Big Crimson 75

July 23rd, 2012
11:21 am

Penn St deserves receiving these harsh penalties. They deserve the harshest penalties since the Pony Express. Paterno knew He had a Monster on his staff & decided to turn the other cheek.(sorry)
These penalties will set Penn St back a minimum of 10 yrs.
SMU has still not over-come their penalties from 25+ yrs ago.
The NC2A no longer uses the term “death penalty”, however this is it for Penn St.
Next up for the NC2A is the U. The U will likely get something similar to Penn St minus the $60mil fine. Miami will probably lose 10 scholly’s per season over the next 4 or 5 yrs plus a minimum 3 yr Bowl Ban.

On a personal note, I hope Bobby Bowden will rightfully re-claim the title of winning-est College Football Coach, unless of course someone has something on Mickey Andrews!!
Every game Paterno won with Sandusky on the staff should be vacated.

Mike S.

July 23rd, 2012
11:21 am

I personally thought they should get the death penalty, but this is still severe none the less.

Browncoat

July 23rd, 2012
11:22 am

Well, I feel for all the children who were raped.

LeadBlocker

July 23rd, 2012
11:22 am

Jeff,

Right on.

ESPN has poll, nationally, about 50% feel NCAA acted appriately, 11% say over-reacted, 22% say was too lenient.

I’m with you, and say, too many children were victimized.

Penn St got off easy, should have been death penalty for 2 years.

gatorboy62

July 23rd, 2012
11:22 am

the program should have been shutdown. In the fall we should organize and boycott all PSU games. Let’s see them play in an empty stadium.

markie mark

July 23rd, 2012
11:22 am

Jeff, I was in agreement with you on the death penalty, until I saw a discussion on the economic toll this would take on hotel/motel operators, vendors, etc. in the area…..I wanted the university to hurt for this, not the surrounding business community. For this reason, and this alone, I think not going to the “death penalty” was justified…..

Heisenberg

July 23rd, 2012
11:22 am

Janitors would have been protected under whistle blower statutes. Maybe they were not smart enough to know that or they would have had a job other than janitor.

Another question is : Will this change the culture at Ohio State, USC, Alabama, LSU, & others? I doubt it.

PMC

July 23rd, 2012
11:22 am

Why take them back to 1998? Why not investigate and see if he knew back to 1972. I mean the guy started the Second Mile in what 1978?

eaglenationrising

July 23rd, 2012
11:24 am

@ gomdawg: Georgia has been very slow in recruiting top players within the state. Georgia will go after the Penn State players. The problem with Mark Richt and his staff is that they will go after players long after many other top programs reach out to them. We should be all over Silas Redd (Penn State running back). This kid should be connected with Herschel Walker IMMEDIATELY. If we have 3-4 open scholarships, we should be all over Redd and a few “experienced” linemen. These kids gravitate to top programs.

LeadBlocker

July 23rd, 2012
11:24 am

UGA’s new str & conditining coahc, is form Penn St, so he might know a lot of the kids who mighT transfer to UGA.

We have about 20 scholarships available.

GTBob

July 23rd, 2012
11:25 am

You glorify Mark Emmert way too much in this blog. He laid the hammer down on Penn State because they were an easy target and an easy chance for them to assert their authority. It was all a dog and pony show that the NCAA had no business being involved in. Penn State deserved harsh things to happen, but not by a corrupt third party organization who was just trying to make headlines in the papers.

Buckeye

July 23rd, 2012
11:25 am

And remember this, if you are ever caught covering up years of child rape, don’t ever lie about tatoos.

rivercard

July 23rd, 2012
11:25 am

So an organization that has been taking advantage of/exploiting kids for years is now the great defender . Hilarious and ridiculous.

Some of the last desperate gasps of a soon to be irrelevant(hopefully) group of leechers.

That being said I still believe PSU should have voluntarily shut things down for awhile. I can’t imagine being a fan or player this year and trying to be enthusiastic about it. The stench needs time to clear.

RLJ

July 23rd, 2012
11:26 am

The death penalty would have been merciful. This is damaging for a long time to come.

Tide Rising

July 23rd, 2012
11:27 am

Its not quite as bad as the death penalty but nearly as bad. Losing 40 schollys means they are screwed for the better part of a decade. If it was me I would rather get the pain over with and have gotten the death penalty for this upcoming season with no transfers without a 1 year sit for the players and reduced schollys of 20 schollys for 3 years as opposed to 40 over 4 years. You would at least get to keep most of your players since not a lot of them would transfer knowing they would just have to sit out a year anyway.

In the case of SMU they were allowed to transfer to another school without having to sit out a year. In the case of Penn State a lot of sophomores and jrs probably would have just stayed and finished out their careers rather than transfer and sit out a year.

A scholly reduction of 20 you can still recover from and field average teams that can even get to 6-6 or 7-5 and go bowling within 3-4 years and then build for the future. But 40 schollys over 4 years means you are screwed for a long, long time. Penn State will not be competitive again until the 2020s.