By Michael Kinney
The Norman Transcript
The NCAA wasn’t playing games Monday. When NCAA president Mark Emmert handed down the penalties for the Penn State football program in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky serial child molestation revelations, they came as close to wiping the program off the map as they could.
The penalties include $60 million sanction, a four-year football postseason ban, a reduction in scholarships and a vacating all wins from 1998 to 2011. When Emmert announced the unprecedented sanctions, you could feel gasp coming out of Penn.
“In the Penn State case, the results were perverse and unconscionable,” Emmert said. “No price the NCAA can levy with repair the damage inflicted by Jerry Sandusky on his victims.”
The 111 victories that have now been wiped clean out of the record books means Joe Paterno is no longer the all-time winningest coach in college football history. His new total of 295 sits him at eighth.
But it’s the Penn State alums who are feeling the sting. As one former player put it on Twitter, “So you’re telling me I lost every game I played in?”
Along with the removal of his statue Saturday has made this a horrible week for the Paterno family, who released a statement after the NCAA made it’s announcement.
“The sanctions announced by the NCAA today defame the legacy and contributions of a great coach and educator without any input from our family or those who knew him best,” the statement read. “That the President, the Athletic Director and the Board of Trustees accepted this unprecedented action by the NCAA without requiring a full due process hearing before the Committee on Infractions is an abdication of their responsibilities and a breach of their fiduciary duties to the University and the 500,000 alumni. Punishing past, present and future students of the University because of Sandusky’s crimes does not serve justice. This is not a fair or thoughtful action; it is a panicked response to the public’s understandable revulsion at what Sandusky did.”
The problem is this was not the NCAA’s territory to step in and hand down such a hard hitting punishment. Everyone who was involved in the abuse and cover up are in prison, dead or awaiting trial and no longer working for PSU. There is no one left to punish with these penalties. The only people being hurt are players and fans and they had nothing to do with the horrible crimes.
As in most cases, the NCAA just wanted to grandstand and put on a show to make look like they had done something.
“Why are PSU fans and players penalized?” former OU coach Barry Switzer tweeted. “What was there violation? Attending PSU? NCAA GOT THIS ONE WRONG!”
The NCAA has opened a Pandora’s box it will regret later. Now, every time a student-athlete, coach or staff member gets in trouble away from the field of competition people will pressure the NCAA to enforce punishment.
Is the NCAA going to give the same reaction to the University of Virginia lacrosse program where a member of the team killed a fellow student? Will they use this new power to step in at Florida A&M where drum major Robert Champion died during a hazing ritual?
Because Sandusky’s crimes were so vile and tragic, there will be very little dissent about the NCAAs actions or their new power. But they have set a dangerous precedent that in the past has been way beyond their jurisdiction and will come back to haunt other programs in the future.