INDIANAPOLIS — The governing body of US college sports all but dismantled one of the most lucrative programs in the country Monday, wiping away 14 years of Penn State football victories and imposing a mountain of fines and penalties for a child sex abuse scandal.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association’s sanctions following the worst scandal in the history of college football stopped short of delivering the “death penalty” — shutting down the sport completely. It actually did everything but kill it.
Jerry Sandusky, a former Penn State assistant coach, was found guilty in June of sexually abusing several young boys, at times on campus, sometimes after finding them through the charity he founded for at-risk youth.
The NCAA action came in the wake of a devastating report asserting that top university officials — including once legendary coach Joe Paterno — buried abuse allegations against Sandusky more than a decade ago. The report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh exposed a powerful “culture of reverence” for Penn State’s football program, once thought to be among the cleanest in the US. The sanctions include the loss of all of Paterno’s victories from 1998-2011.
The NCAA imposed unprecedented fines of $60 million, ordered Penn State to sit out the postseason for four years, capped scholarships at 20 players below the normal limit for four years and placed football on five years’ probation. Current or incoming football players are free to immediately transfer and compete at another school.
Penn State football under Paterno was built on — and thrived upon — the premise that it did things the right way. That it was not a football factory where only wins and losses determined success. Every major college football program tries to send that message, but Penn State built its brand on it.
Paterno’s “Grand Experiment” was about winning with integrity, graduating players and sending men into the world ready to succeed in life, not just football. But he still won a lot — a record-setting 409 victories. The NCAA had never sanctioned, or seriously investigated Penn State. “The sanctions needed to reflect our goals of providing cultural change,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said as he announced the penalties at a news conference in Indianapolis.
The NCAA ruling holds the university accountable for the failure of those in power to protect children and insists that all areas of the university community are held to the same high standards of honesty and integrity.
Paterno’s family said in a statement that the NCAA sanctions defamed his legacy and were a panicked response to the scandal that led to them. The family also said that punishing “past, present and future” students because of Sandusky’s crimes did not serve justice.— AP