I’m just going to tell you right now, this is a Penn State column. And, in no way do I, nor will I ever, approve of the child sex abuse issues that come with the Penn State scandal. Ever. It’s terrible and vile and I wish that it was eradicated. But, it is an issue that we have to deal with. Got it? Good.
In July 2012, NCAA President Mark Emmert announced unprecedented sanctions against the Penn State Nittany Lions for covering up a multi-year child sex abuse scandal involving several key members of not only Penn State’s football program but their upper echelon of university administration. Former Lions coach Jerry Sandusky was, according to testimony from Mike McQueary, a former PSU graduate assistant, identified as the perpetrator. The fallout included the firings of legendary head coach Joe Paterno, president Graham Spanier and athletic director Tim Curley. In June 2012, Sandusky was found guilty on 48 counts of child sex abuse.
The next month, Louis Freeh, who was commissioned by the university to analyze the scandal, came out with a scathing report that detailed the cover-up and that Penn State had a culture of football first. This opened the door for Emmert. The sanctions included a considerable loss of scholarships, a $60 million fine and a four year post-season bowl ban. This ignited a firestorm of criticism of the NCAA’s jurisdiction.
On Tuesday, Emmert announced that, because of Penn State’s progress towards change, the scholarship punishment (considered to be the most severe) would be reduced and that Penn State can get back all the scholarships lost after the 2014 season.
I, for one, applaud this move by Emmert.
Here’s why: back when the Freeh Report came out, there was a tremendous amount of understandable public outrage at the crimes and the culture at Penn State. So, less than a week after the report, the NCAA handed down their punishments. The problem here, though, is two-fold: 1) the NCAA did not conduct their own investigation, and; 2) the scandal was about criminal issues at Penn State, there were no actual NCAA violations. Thus, the NCAA didn’t really have a place to be handing down sanctions.
In the communicating of messages, there are two different people or groups involved: the sender and the receiver. The message in the Penn State case is simple: the culture of football first needs to change and that those responsible should be punished.
In an effort to send a message and flex the NCAA’s muscle, the body decided that they should be the sender of that message and that Penn State should be punished through by handing down sanctions to those who had almost nothing to do with the crimes, rather than the issue being solved in the justice system.
The move to slowly give Penn State back their lost scholarships is a move to save face for the NCAA. I’m not the only one who has those same criticisms of their move to punish Penn State and the organization, and their decisions have been under intense scrutiny ever since. So, even though Penn State has made progress in changing the culture, this move was not about recognizing that progress; it was about the NCAA trying to walk away with its tail between its legs.
It admitted that it was wrong and I think the NCAA is better for it. Now, if we can just figure out this health care bill.