Penn State Sanctions: NCAA Out of Bounds

Unpublished

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After dictating the heaviest sanctions ever on an athletic program, NCAA President Mark Emmert said, “Our goal is not to be just punitive, but to make sure the university establishes an athletic culture and daily mindset in which football will never again be placed ahead of education, nurturing and protecting young people.”

Now I ask you, Mr. Emmert, can you look parents, administrators, professors and students nationwide in the eye and assure them that every one of the NCAA’s institutions “will never again (place football) ahead of education, nurturing and protecting young people”?

I would submit there are athletic programs and coaches all over the land that would stutter through questioning under oath defending their programs against accusations of putting sports “ahead of education, nurturing and protecting young people.”

Do I believe all athletic programs are guilty of this? No way. Not even close. But to say that sports will “never again” be placed ahead of the ideals and original purposes of university is a bit comical, really.

Has basketball at the University of Kentucky ever been placed “ahead of education, nurturing and protecting young people”? What about college football at Alabama? Florida State? USC? Texas? Oklahoma? Michigan? What about lacrosse at Johns Hopkins? Duke?

At Penn State, there has been a sordid individual allowed to commit insidious crimes against young people. This is no doubt a very serious, sinister situation. However…

What business is it of the NCAA?

Shouldn’t the National Collegiate Association of Athletics stick to athletics? The NCAA should be about fair play, enforcing the rules governing the sports, promoting its institutions and ensuring a level playing field exists for all schools. This is a very serious legal matter. It’s not an athletic matter.

There is no doubt that the athletic program, and football program in particular, at Penn State has outgrown its original, primary purpose at the institution. And many coaches and administrators inside and outside the athletic department were much more interested in protecting themselves, their small kingdoms and their legacies than protecting young boys. There is no denying that and there is absolutely no excuse. There should be punishment. And for the record, I agree that Penn State was prudent in taking down the statue of Joe Paterno. But again, this isn’t a place for the NCAA.

I believe that individuals should be punished severely for their actions — and non-actions — in this case. I would take great care in not rushing to judgment and afford all involved due process. This process needs to be thorough. There are clear laws in this country that were specifically written to deal with such atrocities. Let’s allow the legal system to serve its purpose.

Punishing an institution really doesn’t make sense. After all, who really feels the pain when a university is punished? Administrators? Faculty? Students? Alumni? All of the above. And who in that group really deserves it? Maybe some, but those individuals should be dealt with by the courts.

Perhaps that’s an argument against most NCAA penalties, but this situation seems to cast a different light on the concept of punishing an institution long after those that were at fault are gone. And we’ll save that debate for another day.

Individuals, who exercised questionable, if not criminal, judgment, should be relieved of their jobs. But punishing the entire university?

The Penn State penalties as given by the NCAA:

$60 million fine
I actually like the idea of fines in typical rules violations scenarios. I think it strikes at — or at least near — the heart of why schools are tempted to cheat. However, in this situation, I am concerned about those that actually feel the brunt of the fine. The Penn State athletic department, with the accompanying bowl ban, could struggle to clear $20 million over the next few years. The school will pay this fine over four years, so it all adds up to a lack of revenue to support athletic teams other than the football program. How will the volleyball team travel to games? Will the baseball team have to give up spring break trips to the south because the athletic department can’t afford it? How will the women’s soccer team get its funding?

4-year postseason ban
This is a terrific penalty if the players, coaches and students over the next four years commit some serious violations. How does this punish those involved? If the objective is to break down a university for its lack of institutional control over the past 15 years, the fines are sufficient.

Loss of 40 scholarships
Much like the postseason ban, this cripples a football program. And by crippling the Penn State football program, what else is affected at the university? Other sports in the athletic department.

Forfeiting 112 games
How can this penalty be anything but punitive? And what purpose does this really serve other than to attack Joe Paterno’s legacy? Perhaps that is reason enough, but is that really the NCAA’s place to do that? Former players and opponents will never view any of those games differently. On Oct. 25, 2008, Penn State went into the Horseshoe in Columbus and defeated the Buckeyes, 13-6. Will this action by the NCAA make Terrelle Pryor and Beanie Wells fell any better about that game? Are LSU fans celebrating their 2010 Capital One Bowl victory today? The fact is that none of the Penn State wins that were vacated were ill-gotten wins. There were no performance enhancing drugs. There were no ineligible players. There were no recruiting violations that enticed players to Happy Valley. There are not illegitimate wins here. Now if the NCAA wants to spend resources digging up old records and details in search of some of the aforementioned violations, that’s one thing.

So, what do we do with this tragic situation? There is no doubt that Jerry Sandusky has created a monumental mess for Penn State. He created it. Others exacerbated the problem by their inaction. Each individual connected with the Penn State football program should be under scrutiny, and either prosecuted or cleared. This begs for a thorough investigation of anyone who could have had knowledge of Sandusky’s actions. And any individuals who had knowledge should be dealt with harshly by the legal system. But there is no basis for grandstanding and headline-grabbing sanctions by the NCAA.

This is a legal matter, not an athletics matter.

Charlie Miller (AthlonCharlie)

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