Full disclosure – I hate the NCAA because of its heavy-handed action against my alma mater’s mascot, The Fighting Sioux.
The NCAA hit Penn State about as hard as it could today. Much of the talk on ESPN throughout the day was whether the NCAA sanctions were worse than the Death Penalty, and more than a few pundits thought they were. The sanctions are as follows:
- Fine Penn State $60 million to support various programs dealing with the issue of sexual abuse of children.
- Vacate all Penn State football wins between 1998 and 2011.
- Free all Penn State athletes to immediately transfer to another program.
- Ban Penn State from participating in bowl games for four years.
- Take away 10 scholarships a year for four years.
The only football team to receive a Death Penalty was SMU in 1987-1988. According to the pundits, the Penn State penalties may be worse than the SMU Death Penalty because SMU could start rebuilding after two years, while Penn State will have to endure four years of playing football with one hand tied behind its back.
According to news reports, the president of Penn State, Rodney Erickson, accepted the NCAA sanctions without any negotiations, and some people aren’t happy about that. For example, an article in USA Today was titled, “Penn State trustee: School ‘rolled over and played dead’ to NCAA.”
The Paterno family issued a statement that seems to agree with the “rolled over” characterization, but states it in a more dispassionate way:
- “Sexual abuse is reprehensible, especially when it involves children, and no one starting with Joe Paterno condones or minimizes it. The horrific acts committed by Jerry Sandusky shock the conscience of every decent human being. How Sandusky was able to get away with his crimes for so long has yet to be fully understood, despite the claims and assertions of the Freeh report.
- “The release of the Freeh report has triggered an avalanche of vitriol, condemnation and posthumous punishment on Joe Paterno. The NCAA has now become the latest party to accept the report as the final word on the Sandusky scandal. 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.
- “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 point of due process is to protect against this sort of reflexive action. Joe Paterno was never interviewed by the University or the Freeh Group. His counsel has not been able to interview key witnesses as they are represented by counsel related to ongoing litigation. We have had no access to the records reviewed by the Freeh group. The NCAA never contacted our family or our legal counsel. And the fact that several parties have pending trials that could produce evidence and testimony relevant to this matter has been totally discounted.
- “Unfortunately all of these facts have been ignored by the NCAA, the Freeh Group and the University.”
I have previously called this a rush to judgment without knowing all of the facts. We know that Sandusky is guilty of sexual abuse of multiple children and that a grand jury investigating this matter, after getting testimony from Paterno, Schultz, Spanier, and Curley decided to indict only Schultz and Curley. And we have Freeh’s report, which is essentially an indictment based on written records, but with no testimony from Schultz or Curley because they are subject to a criminal prosecution.
NCAA investigations provide for due process, but the NCAA decided that the exigencies of this case militated in favor of ignoring its standard processes in favor of NCAA president Mark Emmert playing God. That sounds a lot like the charge against the Penn State president – i.e., he was playing God in accepting the NCAA sanctions instead of consulting with his Board of Trustees, who often have a lot more investment in their schools than do the mercenary presidents.
Isn’t it ironic that the lynch mob is accusing Joe Paterno of playing God at Penn State for years, and then they string him up because he refused to play God when the Sandusky allegation for brought to him by McQueary? Meanwhile Emmert and Erickson seem to have decided that due process needs to give way to their loftier objective of putting this ugliness behind them. Why worry about justice.
Incidentally, Bobby Bowden, the new #1 major-college football coach and someone never known to be particularly reflective or eloquent, commented about his new status – “I am thankful, but I know how many (wins) I got and how many Joe got.”
Incidentally, a former Penn State quarterback was interviewed on ESPN earlier today and he noted that the NCAA may take away all of their wins, but it can’t take away his double-major degree and all the other degrees that were earned by Joe’s student-athletes while playing winning football.