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Penn State football has been hammered, but what could've the NCAA done better?
I don’t say this often, if ever, but the NCAA did a great job sanctioning Penn State University's massive cover-up of arguably the worst scandal in college football history.
Are there concerns that Mark Emmert overstepped his bounds with this display of unprecedented raw authority? Possibly. But I doubt this type of situation ever rears its ugly head again. At least, that is what I hope. Then again, maybe that is what the NCAA, and the rest of the country, needed. I applaud Penn State and the Big Ten for signing off on this type of swift and corrective measures.
The wound needs to be closed for good.
Eight months of slow-drip child abuse news is essentially over for the innocent Penn State faithful. Yes, civil suits will be served and appropriately settled in favor of the victims. And ideally, those involved in the cover-up will be sent to prison for a long time.
But Monday’s announcement of “unprecedented sanctions” against Penn State football signifies the end of a brutal process for Nittany Lions fans who did nothing wrong through all of this (besides the obvious over-zealous rioting). And hopefully, it means everyone involved, including the abused, can finally attempt to move forward.
We must make sure not to forget the victims in all of this. It will happen too quickly — especially, once football games start. And no, I'm not just talking about those vicitims associated with Jerry Sandusky. I am speaking of the on-going battle against child predators taking place in every American city. This was the exact reason I wrote last week vehemently opposing the Death Penalty.
Which is where my only real issue with the NCAA punishment lies. Here are the penalties facing Penn State and how I would have done it differently:
$60 Million Fine
This was easily my most satisfying arm of the penalties — and also where I would make the most changes. Combined with the $52 million the Big Ten will withhold and subsequently donate, Penn State will eventually contribute $112 million over five years to an endowment which will help fund programs that prevent child sexual abuse and also assist victims of such acts. It should have been $200 millon. Hell, why not $300 million? The Penn State endowment is $1.8 billion and what dollar figure can you place on peace of mind? Or a child’s safety? I would have sacrificed scholarships and bowl bans for as great a monetary contribution to the fight against child molestation as possible. I love the angle here and how it was implemented, but this could have and should have been a much bigger figure.
Four-Year Postseason Ban
I am on board with bowl and Big Ten title bans. I would have made it three years, however. This would allow the incoming freshman class the opportunity to play in a bowl game as a senior. The other sanctions have assured PSU won’t be competing for conference titles anytime soon, so why not give an innocent collection of students athletes one final shot at the postseason as seniors?
Four-Year Scholarship Limitations: 15 per year, 65 overall
This is easily the harshest and most influential of the penalties. Lower level football programs are allowed 63 scholarships and taking 20 away on any given year (down from 85 at any one time) will cripple the ability to build depth and compete at a high level. I would have kept the per year limit at 10 — meaning you can sign a max of 15 per year — but would have reduced the total limit from 20 to 15. This would give PSU a max of 70 scholarships at any given time. The ability to recruit at PSU will already be crushed due to public relations, negative recruiting, postseason bans and more. This team will be, at best, a 3-5 win team for the next four seasons and that will organically cost PSU millions in lost revenue — money that won’t go to the welfare of children. It simply is lost in the ether of potential earnings. I would have lightened this blow a bit if it meant donating more dollars to the fight against child abuse.
Vacating Wins From 1998-2011
Vacating wins, records and awards is by far the weakest action the NCAA can levy against a member institution. It means virtually nothing. You cannot go back and change what took place on the field. We all know who won the 2004 BCS National Championship. We all know who won the Ohio State-Arkansas Sugar Bowl. It doesn’t impact the athletic department’s bottom line and it doesn’t impact recruiting whatsoever. Do you think Hakeem Nicks cares more about his Super Bowl ring or how many catches the NCAA recognizes he posted at North Carolina? Having said this, if it helps just one victim sleep better one night a year because Joe Paterno’s name isn’t sitting atop the NCAA’s record book, then I am fully on board.
Related: Penn State Players: Where Should They Transfer?
Players Are Allowed To Transfer Without Restriction
This one is easily the trickiest and most difficult to pinpoint. Players didn’t sign up for this type of situation and should be allowed to change their career paths if they so choose. That said, I am not comfortable with coaches from 123 other schools having free reign to “recruit” Penn State football players for the next two years. I would have allowed any player to make a one-time decision over the next two months with a deadline of August 30. Until then, players can switch teams all they want free of penalty. But if you make a decision to stay committed to Penn State University by the first weekend of play, then you must adhere to your decision and fall back into line with regular NCAA transfer rules. The players won’t, and shouldn’t have to, protect themselves from the greedy clutches of rival coaches, so the NCAA should have.
Monday’s announcement marks the end of a brutal and terrifying saga that hopefully has changed the arrogant, self-serving, greedy culture that existed in State College. And I can only hope that Emmert’s forceful action gives every major institution — which most certainly includes fans — pause before automatically deifying coaches and players for winning lots of games.
We must demand that this warning shot transcends sports and echoes through every boardroom and hallway of this country.
-by Braden Gall