On Monday morning the NCAA set a historic precedent in the world of college sports. They dropped the hammer on Penn State. They fined them $60 Million dollars, gave them a four-year postseason ban, docked them 10 scholarships per year, forced them to vacate all wins from 1998-2011 (making it so Joe Paterno is no longer the winningest coach in college football and Bobby Bowden has now reclaimed the title), put them on a five-year probation, and is allowing any current or incoming player to transfer without having to sit out a year to play. The Big Ten Conference later chimed in that Penn State was ineligible for the Conference Championship game for four years, and that they will be fined what their approximate bowl game revenue would have been for those four years as well (about $13 Million per year).
These are huge punishments that have been dropped on Penn State, but don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, this is not as bad as the Death Penalty; it’s close, but not quite. It took SMU 22 years to make it back to a bowl game after the Death Penalty was handed to them, and they had to cancel a second season on their own because they could not field a competitive team. Once the bowl ban is lifted, Penn State will be back playing in the postseason right away. Even though players can transfer anywhere they want right now, not everyone on scholarship will; with the Death Penalty, every single player on scholarship would have left and as history has shown, would have set the program back decades. The NCAA wants you to believe that forcing the University of Penn State to vacate wins was to attack them, but that was a specific action to take Joe Paterno out of the top of their record books, and send him down to 8th all-time (originally reported as 12th, has since been recalculated by ESPN to 8th).
I want to also make this clear, I am not here to defend what Joe Paterno or the Penn State officials did. I am completely fine with them taking down Paterno’s statue and things such as this. BUT, I am completely against the NCAA acting in cases where they have not done their own investigation and in cases where they technically have no rules against it. They officially declared that if they think you have done something bad, even if there is no specific NCAA violation for it, they can throw the book at you if they want. This has been an egregious action on their part.
This is not to say that I think Penn State should be off scot-free in favor of football, but the NCAA has now punished coaches and players that had literally nothing to do with what occurred. Jerry Sandusky stopped coaching in 1999, which means of the 13 seasons of vacated wins, 11 teams never had Sandusky on staff. Yet, the wins were still vacated, why? Because these were the years that Joe Paterno spent covering up what had happened earlier. I agree that protecting Joe Paterno’s win record is not more important than protecting innocent children, but this penalty hurts the football players that worked hard for those wins and specifically Joe Paterno, more than it helps those victims. NCAA President Mark Emmert talked about integrity and the values of the NCAA, yet their actions are so wildly inconsistent, it became blatantly obvious that he is completely and utterly full of crap. This is not an NCAA issue, this is a legal issue, and the NCAA has overstepped their bounds. The NCAA proved that they can be influenced by the mass media and by the views of popular culture. People have cried out for the NCAA to give Penn State NCAA sanctions even though no violations have technically occurred.
After the Freeh Report, the NCAA took one week to deliberate and decided on a punishment for a University that still does not technically have an NCAA violation on record (although what happened was obviously far worse). The NCAA took 11 months to levy punishment on Ohio State; violations that involved players accepting money, selling memorabilia and accepting improper benefits. The NCAA determined that this did not express a lack of institutional control, which is strange, because it seems like the exact definition of a lack of institutional control.
On August 16th, 2011, a University of Miami booster Nevin Shapiro, who is currently incarcerated for a failed Ponzi Scheme, admitted to giving impermissible benefits to 72 football players over the course of eight years, all the while the University was already on probation for violations in other sports such as Baseball. On top of this, this past week, the U’s head coach Al Golden reported that they had more NCAA violations when a Shapiro Associate helped them recruit and effectively broke NCAA rules. Yet, this investigation has been going on for a year, with MORE issues arising and there has still not been a ruling or a completed investigation.
The University of North Carolina was just given a one-year bowl ban in March and was docked 15 scholarships after an investigation that went on for a year and a half regarding various NCAA violations, such as improper benefits and academic infractions. Want to hear an even bigger joke? The NCAA spent four years investigation the University of Southern California regarding allegations that Reggie Bush and OJ Mayo were payed to play their respective sports. They spent roughly 7.5 years investigating actual NCAA violations on these four cases, and it will probably be more once the U’s situation is squared away, and only gave them a slap on the wrist. But, for Penn State, they feel that one week was necessary to decide what sanctions should be handed out, and that they feel the need to drop the hammer on said University. My question, where is the consistency?
The NCAA claimed that even though they knew that Cam Newton’s father, Cecil, was shopping him to Mississippi State for $150,000 that they let Cam continue to play and be eligible for Auburn (and win the Heisman trophy and National Championship) because there was nothing in the rule books stating that your parents could not shop you around to other Universities. Did I miss the part where there is an NCAA violation for what Penn State is doing? Nope, in this case the NCAA has enacted “special jurisdiction,” effectively ruining any shot for consistency ever. This “special jurisdiction” is literally the definition of selective enforcement. Why is the NCAA toothless when their rules are actually violated, but when there is a public uproar, they suddenly decide to bare their fangs and try to tear apart a University that still does not technically have an NCAA violation.
The NCAA is a joke of a governing body and it is making itself look even worse; they have zero credibility at this point. This incident has done nothing but prove they are a completely incompetent group that wants to impress the media and be seen in a positive light by the public. Why else would they focus on disciplining Penn State, when they have other investigations currently open? Why else would they take four years to investigate USC, but levy “ground breaking” punishments to Penn State after a week, with ZERO in-house investigation? The NCAA drags its feet investigating violations that do not cause an uproar. They make excuses like they do not have subpoena power to interview the proper people, and yet, how is the Freeh Report the basis for your sanctions? Little known fact, the Freeh group/commission did not have subpoena power either. This is not to say that what they reported was not true, this is just to further point out the lack of consistency expressed by the NCAA.
The NCAA has overstepped its bounds and has set a new and dangerous precedent here. They have now declared that they can punish anyone that they see fit, even if they have done nothing wrong under their current rules. The new “special jurisdiction” is literally like opening Pandora’s box for college athletics, it is even more so like it, because NCAA President Mark Emmert specifically stated that he “thinks this is a special situation and isn’t like opening Pandora’s box.” The NCAA President does not even fully grasp what he and the committee have done.
Does Penn State deserve some sort of punishment? Obviously. But in reality, a four-year bowl ban, taking away 10 scholarships per year and forcing Penn State to vacate 111 wins is not going to help those victims sleep at night. It isn’t going to help them get to relive their childhood. It isn’t going to give them their innocence back. So why punish the kids that are currently on the football team? They’ve done nothing wrong. If you want to truly punish the University, take legal action in the court of law; sue the University until they cry Uncle. Sure this may not make life better for the people involved, but this situation belongs in the courts; the proper place to levy punishment in a situation as dark, disgusting and corrupt as this. If the Federal and State Governments cannot make up rules as they go along, why can the NCAA? The NCAA took a square peg, jammed it into a round hole, and twisted their rules to attempt to justify their ridiculous actions. The NCAA should have stepped aside and stood firm, but instead they felt the public pressure, and collapsed like a house of cards.