NCAA piles on

Here is the column I wrote that appeared in today’s paper regarding the sanctions levied by the NCAA on Penn State’s football program Monday.


So let me get this straight.

All Penn State victories are vacated starting in 1998, the same year that Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar decided not to press charges against Jerry Sandusky? The game at Ohio State in 2000 when freshman defensive back Adam Taliaferro broke his neck and nearly died didn’t really happen? And Joe Paterno’s last game, when Illinois placekicker Derek Dimke missed the game-tying field goal as time expired didn’t give Paterno his 409th victory, the most by any coach in Division I history?

According to the NCAA, the answer to all of those questions is a resounding “yes” after it levied unprecedented penalties against Penn State in the latest blow to State College from the Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

The sanctions did not bring Penn State to its knees. Instead, it beheaded the Nittany Lions for more than a decade.

No bowl game or Big Ten title game appearances for four years, a reduction in scholarships to 65 per season starting in 2014 for four seasons, only 15 scholarships available for incoming players starting in 2013, $60 million in fines and 112 victories from 1998-2011 vacated.

So why does this cripple Penn State? If you follow recruiting, you know that one bad class causes ripple effects for at least three seasons. Don’t think so? Look at Penn State’s recruiting classes in 1999 and 2000 and then you’ll see four losing seasons in five years.

And while I’m asking questions, here are a few more:

What irrefutable evidence does the NCAA have to make these decisions? How are the people directly involved in this mess being punished by the NCAA? What in the world did Mike Mauti, Silas Redd or Donovan Smith have to do with this to feel the wrath of NCAA President Mark Emmert? The answers are none, they’re not and nothing, but we live in a world where everyone is chastised for the actions — or inactions, in this case — of a few.

And don’t fool yourself into thinking that these penalties will only affect the football program.

Penn State’s men’s basketball team has already seen its top commitment, 6-foot-7 forward Brandon Austin from Philadelphia, de-commit Sunday. Teams like gymnastics, soccer and field hockey, all of which are funded by football, will suffer in every way a sports program can.

And forget about sports for a minute. The businesses in State College that depend on the 110,000 people who pack Beaver Stadium six or seven times each fall will see their livelihoods take a direct hit.

But, what about the children?

Does punishing the football program, other Penn State sports teams and the State College community make Sandusky’s crimes disappear? Will the victims sleep better knowing that the Nittany Lions will now become the doormat of Division I football? Can those victims walk with their heads held high since Paterno now has the eighth most wins of any coach in Division I instead of the most?

Well, at least now Penn State can focus on academics instead of football, right? It already was, since it is one of the nation’s top research institutions, has one of the best business programs in the country and, oh yeah, had a football team that consistently had one of the best graduation rates of any school over the past 46 years.

I must be a Penn State fan, right? You got it. I’ve been rooting for the Nittany Lions since 1986 and graduated from that fine university in 2002, but that has nothing to do with how I feel. In the end, children were abused. That is unacceptable and something that will always be with those victims. It could have been, and should have been, stopped a long time ago, but we know that now with hindsight.

What did the sanctions given to Penn State by the NCAA achieve? Absolutely nothing, unless you’re all right with negatively affecting the lives of people who had nothing to do with any of these tragic events.

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