NCAA Punishes Penn State
Image by Tim Shaffer / Reuters
INDIANAPOLIS - The NCAA handed down severe punishments to Penn State on Monday in the wake of a sex abuse scandal, including a $60 million fine, a four-year bowl ban and the vacating of all football wins from 1998-2011.
Also, the football program's scholarship allowance have been reduced from 25 to 15 per year for four years.
The NCAA, led by president Mark Emmert, called the school's behavior "egregious." Emmert said the school has "shaken our confidence" and that the sanctions "reflect the magnitude" of the school's actions.
The NCAA announcement a day after Penn State took down its famed statue of Joe Paterno, six months to the day since his death from lung cancer. The university said leaving it up would be a "recurring wound" for Sandusky's victims. An accomplished defensive coordinator, Sandusky was convicted of molesting young boys over more than a decade.
NCAA president Mark Emmert put the Penn State matter on the fast track. Other cases that were strictly about violating the NCAA rulebook have dragged on for months and even years. There was no sign that the infractions committee so familiar to college sports fans was involved this time around as Emmert moved quickly, no doubt aided by the July 12 release of the report by former FBI director Louis Freeh and what it said about Paterno and the rest of the Penn State leadership.
The investigation focused partly on university officials' decision not to go to child-welfare authorities in 2001 after a coaching assistant told Paterno that he had seen Sandusky sexually abusing a boy in the locker room showers. Penn State officials already knew about a previous allegation against Sandusky by that time, from 1998.
The leaders, the report said, "repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky's child abuse from authorities, the university's board of trustees, the Penn State community and the public at large."
Sandusky is awaiting sentencing after being convicted last month of sexually abusing 10 boys over 15 years.
Emmert had warned Penn State last fall that the NCAA would be examining the "exercise of institutional control" within the athletic department, and said it was clear that "deceitful and dishonest behavior" could be considered a violation of ethics rules. So, too, could a failure to exhibit moral values or adhere to ethics guidelines.
The Freeh report also said school had "decentralized and uneven" oversight of compliance issues — laws, regulations, policies and procedures — as required by the NCAA.
Recent major scandals, such as improper payments to the family of Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush while he was at Southern California, and players at Ohio State trading memorabilia for cash and tattoos, have resulted in bowl bans and the loss of scholarships.
Current NCAA rules limit the so-called "death penalty" to colleges already on probation that commit another major violation. That was the case when SMU had its program suspended in the mid-80s, the last time the punishment was imposed on a major college football program.
NCAA leaders have indicated in recent months they are willing to return to harsher penalties for the worst offenses.
"This is completely different than an impermissible benefits scandal like (what) happened at SMU, or anything else we've dealt with. This is as systemic a cultural problem as it is a football problem. There have been people that said this wasn't a football scandal," Emmert told PBS recently. "It was that but much more. And we'll have to figure out exactly what the right penalties are. I don't know that past precedent makes particularly good sense in this case because it's really an unprecedented problem."
As Penn State awaited its fate, construction workers removed the larger-than-life monument of its Hall of Fame coach. The Paterno family released a statement criticizing Penn State's decision to remove the statue, saying it was made in haste and before all the facts about Paterno's role in the Sandusky scandal were known.
The bronze statue, weighing more than 900 pounds, was erected in 2001 in honor of Paterno's record-setting 324th Division I coaching victory and his "contributions to the university." Penn State President Rodney Erickson said he decided the sculpture had to come down because it "has become a source of division and an obstacle to healing."