Too Much, Too Little, Just Right: The Penn State Punishment

Penn State football was hit with devastating sanctions that put the future of the program in jeopardy.

Yesterday marked what seems to be the end of the most tumultuous time in Penn State history. It was the culmination of the biggest conspiracy in the history of sports. The NCAA, who sat by quietly during the last year, was silent no longer. They finally spoke, and spoke loudly. The question that remains to be answered is were the sanctions levied against Penn State too much. We may have to wait a few years for that answer.

Dr. Ed Ray, NCAA Executive Committee Chairman, and Mark Emmert, President of the NCAA, held a press conference early Monday morning to deliver the blow that we all saw coming throughout the weekend. The punch would only add to the shock waves felt after the removal of the Joe Paterno statue from outside Beaver Stadium which took place early Sunday morning. We all knew Penn State was to be hit with unprecedented sanctions, but it is safe to say, no one knew just how harsh those sanctions would be.

Emmert announced that Penn State would be hit with a $60 million fine that would in turn be donated to charities that deal with the victims of sexual abuse. The school also would see a reduction in scholarships. Penn State must reduce 10 initial scholarships and 20 a year over the next four years. Over that four year time span, Penn State will be barred from all postseason play whether it be the conference title game or a bowl game. The school was also placed on a five year probationary period under which their administrative handling of sports will be under close scrutiny by the NCAA. The most symbolic punishment handed down by the NCAA was the vacating of all Penn State victories from 1998-2011. This penalty removes Paterno from his status as the winningest coach in division one history and erases a number of bowl victories from Penn State’s resume.

NCAA President Mark Emmert announced the sanctions against Penn State in a 9am press conference Monday.

The question that we now face is were these penalties too much. Were they sufficient enough?

I personally have gone back and forth over the last week about this issue. My initial response was that because this was a criminal issue, that created no competitive edge for Penn State, the NCAA should stay away from this. However, my stance changed. The bottom line is, Penn State football is an entity within the NCAA and therefore what they do reflects on the NCAA. The NCAA sought to make an example of Penn State to make sure that something like this would never happen again in college sports. I cannot fault them for that.

It is true, the penalties are harsh. The bowl ban and loss of scholarships will make recruiting a nightmare for Penn State and may create a decade or more long hiatus in terms of competitive football in Happy Valley. The $60 million fine is also steep considering that is one year worth of football revenue and money that usually helps to fund academics and the smaller sports as well. In the end, sometimes harsh penalties are the only things that will suffice. Obviously, Paterno’s legacy is ruined and he is no longer around to defend any of it. His statue is gone. His place atop the record books is gone. His reputation as a man of honor is gone. Penn State chose to disassociate from Paterno by removing the statue, and the NCAA followed suit by removing him from atop their record books.

Penn State officials decided to remove Joe Paterno’s statue outside Beaver Stadium one day before the sanctions were handed down.

Could Penn State have fought these sanctions? Some, encouraged by anger and disbelief, originally said yes. However, reports indicate that the NCAA received Penn State’s consent and did not come to the table in a mood to negotiate. Penn State President Rodney Erickson was given the choice between accepting the sanctions or facing the death penalty for up to four years. He made the only decision he could.

I am still somewhat torn. Sadly, innocent students and student-athletes will be affected by these sanctions. Young men and women, who were young children when these atrocities were committed, will see their school greatly changed due to these penalties. But perhaps these steps are what is necessary to assure that nothing like this ever happens again. Are the penalties unprecedented? Sure, they are. But this circumstance was unprecedented as well.

When I look back on it all, I cannot help but to acknowledge the sad irony of this tragic tale. Graham Spanier, Tim Curley, Gary Schultz and Joe Paterno, all sought to save Penn State football by covering up the sick actions of Jerry Sandusky. Had they brought Sandusky’s crimes to light, they may have been heroes. However, they lied, concealed and hid in an effort to make sure that Saturday afternoon would remain the Sabbath Day in Happy Valley. Those efforts have now come back to haunt the program. All five men are gone from Penn State, but their influence will live on in every young man who cannot live his dream of playing for Penn State because there are not enough scholarships. Their influence will live on in every incoming Penn State freshman who will never get to see their school play in a bowl game. It will live on in the empty space outside Beaver Stadium where Joe once greeted incoming Nittany Lion faithful. It will live on in the NCAA record books. And it will live on in the dark cloud that will forever linger over Penn State football.

2 Responses to Too Much, Too Little, Just Right: The Penn State Punishment

  1. Rudy T says:

    Wasn’t it Stalin that re-wrote the history book and deleted the pictures and name of he predecessor Trotsky? How is it that a group from the NCAA gets to rewrite history, by declaring that PSU “vacate” the victories, does that mean I get my money back for buying a ticket? Does the NCAA return their merchandising revenue and TV revenue from those games ? (Don’t hold your breath).

  2. Pingback: Tom Corbett to Sue NCAA Over Penn State Sanctions: Why Now? « Brotherly Love Sports

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