NCAA President Mark Emmert took the stand in Indianapolis and handed down crippling sanctions against Penn State. Were they fair? More importantly, will they achieve the stated objectives?
Penn State’s penalties include:
- $60 Million fine to be put in an endowment for programs to prevent child sexual abuse and help victims of abuse. The sum is roughly equal to a year’s revenue from football. None of this money can be taken from the athletic program, nor can it come from academic programs.
- Four year post-season ban.
- Loss of 10 scholarships per year for four years (40 total), plus a cap at 65 scholarships per year (20 fewer than usual).
- 5 years probation.
- Forfeit all wins from 1998 through 2011.
In addition, Penn State must adhere to recommendations made in the Freeh Report and put together a compliance office that will be charged with seeing to those changes and changing the culture at Penn State. This new office will have to report to the NCAA and the Big Ten on their progress quarterly while they are on probation.
Players will be allowed to transfer and play at their new college immediately. Athletes that choose to stay at Penn State can keep their financial aid whether or not they play football, as long as they retain all other eligibility (such as grades).
Football is no longer king…at least at Penn State
Emmert made it clear in his address that sport – specifically football – cannot trump the academic purpose of the college experience. Sport cannot trump doing what is right. Football cannot be outweigh the truth. Athletics cannot hold higher value than protecting innocent children.
The message was delivered – at least to Penn State.
It has to be said that no amount of money, no loss of scholarships, no bowl bans and no forfeiture of victories will ever give back these kids’ innocence. Nothing that the NCAA could have done (even delivering the “death penalty”, had they chosen to do so) would have made this horrifying situation right.
This kind of evil can’t be undone.
However, if the intent of the NCAA was to remove football as king at Penn State, they accomplished their goal. At least for the foreseeable future, the football program has been crippled.
The bowl ban is one thing, and it’s a big thing in its own right. Young players looking forward to putting on the Nittany Lion uniform for the first time will never know what it’s like to play in a bowl game; that is, if they decide to stay at Penn State. Would-be recruits will have to think long and hard about just how much they want to play for a Big Ten title because it’s not going to happen for a while.
Recruiting is going to be awfully hard just on that front alone.
Then throw in the loss of scholarships.
Normally, a team can bring in up to 25 recruits per year. Penn State is reduced to 15. For the next four years, they’ll have to be very selective as to whom they offer scholarships. Typically, you can only count on than half of incoming scholarship players to pan out. They either don’t live up to the hype or leave the team for one reason or another.
When you have 25 scholarship players, you still walk away with roughly 12 that end up sticking around and being good enough to be consistent contributors. Drop that number to 15 and you can ill afford to have seven or eight wash out.
Penn State has their back against the wall if they plan on staying competitive in any way.
What’s more, the forfeiture of all wins from 1998-2011 ends the reign of Joe Paterno as the king of college football. As the sun rose on this Monday morning, Joe Paterno had the most wins of any Division I football coach at 409. By the time breakfast was over, 111 of those wins were expunged from his record, leaving him at 298.
While few may really care about the number of wins Joe Paterno ultimately has after his name on some record book, it sends the message that a man accused of enabling a child molester will not sit atop the mountain of all-time great football coaches. The legacy of Penn State’s most beloved figure is not only tarnished, it’s shattered.
A Lot of Money is Lost
The breakdown on Penn State’s financial responsibility is equal to $12 million per year for the next five years. That may sound like a drop in the bucket compared to the full revenue generated at a university the size of Penn State.
However, toss on top of that the announcement by the Big Ten that Penn State will not be able to collect their share of bowl revenue while serving their post-season ban. That comes up to roughly $13 million per year for the next four years.
So, in total, Penn State is forfeiting approximately $112 million (the Big Ten bowl revenue will go to charity).
This money can’t come at the expense of other athletics. Football funds a good portion of the “non-revenue” sports – sports that don’t have a big enough following to generate enough money to cover scholarships, travel, equipment, etc.
It also can’t come at the expense of academic programs. Obviously, football’s sins cannot be borne by the very academics that are the soul of the institution.
Where will this money come from? How will Penn State continue to fund their other athletic ventures without it?
Those are hard questions, but questions that will have to be answered.
The Big Question is Whether or Not Other Schools Take Notice
Obviously, the sanctions handed down to Penn State will be discussed, debated and dissected for quite a while yet. For some, the penalties are too much considering the fact that the monster who committed the crimes is already in custody and the men who enabled him are no longer at Penn State.
For others, it’s not nearly enough considering the severity of the crimes committed. In truth, nothing will ever be enough to make up for that.
Whether the penalties are enough, not enough or too much isn’t the real issue. The issue is, was the message delivered outside the halls of Penn State University? Will these penalties convince other schools to take a hard look at just how important football has become at their institutions? Will they convince them to make changes that ensure this kind of thing won’t happen there?
College football is more than big business. It’s a national pastime. That’s how it has been for decades.
In just a couple of years, the BCS system will give way to a four-team playoff for the national title. Bidding wars between television networks will be fierce as they battle for the rights to air the biggest games of the season. Money will change hands faster than a running back in open field.
College football could become bigger than ever.
Will other institutions heed the warning leveled with these sanctions? Or, will the lure of money and prestige convince others to keep their head in the sand while unspeakable atrocities occur right under their noses?
The NCAA unilaterally handed down crippling punishments on Penn State. Using the Freeh Report and Jerry Sandusky’s criminal trial as their investigative tools and basis for their ruling, the NCAA all but obliterated Nittany Lion football for several years.
This isn’t just a four year ban on bowl games. It will likely take much longer than that for Penn State to rebuild.
It isn’t just a four year handicap on recruiting. It will likely take much longer than that to convince top-notch recruits that Penn State can be the national program it once was.
It isn’t just a year’s worth of money, a negation of losses or a stint on probation. It’s a near-mortal wound on a program that is still reeling from the whirlwind of allegations and indictments that have come down like an avalanche in the night.
Penn State has their verdict. It was a crippling blow to a once proud football program. Will others hear the thunder?