The Penn State football program won’t be relevant again until the third decade of the 21st century after it got hit with the most severe long-term punishment in the history of the NCAA.
NCAA President Mark Emmert bypassed the normal bureaucratic snares. No formal investigations, no review process, no appeals. After Penn State’s own internal (yet independent) Freeh Report unveiled widespread knowledge and concealment within the athletic department of Jerry Sandusky’s molestation of children, Emmert had heard all he needed to hear. Action needed to be taken.
Monday, Emmert announced that the Penn State football program would face:
- A four-year postseason bowl ban (including the Big Ten Championship Game and the playoffs beginning in 2014)
- A loss of 10 football scholarships a year for four years (Division I schools are normally allowed 85 scholarship players at a time, and may recruit up to 25 scholarship players per year.)
- The waiving of the Division I transfer restriction for all current players (including the incoming class of 2012), meaning that players can change universities without sitting out one year
- A $60 million fine, which must be paid from football revenues, to establish an endowment to help victims of child sexual abuse
- The vacating of every Penn State football victory since 1998 – the year of Sandusky’s first reported molestation on the campus – a total of 111 wins removed from the record books
It’s arguably the most devastating punishment issued by the NCAA since 1987, when it shut down the football program at Southern Methodist University for a season and a half in response to the university using booster money to pay players. SMU football has never been the same, and the sanctions are now known as the “death penalty.”
The only reason I use the qualifier “arguably,” is because some argue the actions against Penn State are even more damaging because of their duration. It’s not important, but I disagree. SMU’s postseason ban was briefer, but the program lost more scholarships, had all kinds of recruiting restrictions, and didn’t even play football for an entire year. No revenues; no player development; no nothing. It’s not the same punishment, but it will set Penn State back at least eight years (the first time the team will be able to field a full team of post-sanction players is 2020) and that’s a heavy blow.
Today, the conversation is not over the merits of the sanctions – the judicial process has found Sandusky guilty and the Freeh Report has found Penn State administrators, including head coach Joe Paterno, complicit. Rather, it is the fairness of the punishment that inspires debate.