Jul 23, 2012

So, the hammer has fallen.

The NCAA officially handed out sanctions to Penn State University today, in the wake of the Freeh report, the taking down of the Paterno statute, and years of what was a complete loss of institutional control.

A $60 million dollar fine — paid in five-$12 million dollar installments — a four-year ban on bowl or playoff games, a vacation of all wins from 1998 through 2011, and a reduction of 10 initial and 20 total scholarships each year over the next four years.  Current Penn State players also have the ability to transfer without any loss of eligibility or imposed penalties.

The reason for the harsh penalties are summed up by NCAA Executive Committee Chair Ed Ray,

The historically unprecedented actions by the NCAA today are warranted by the conspiracy of silence that was maintained at the highest levels of the university in reckless and callous disregard for the children.  There is incredible interest in what will happen to Penn State football.  But, the fundamental story of this horrific chapter should focus on the innocent children and the powerful people who let them down. (via Press Release)

and NCAA President Mark Emmert,

The result can be an erosion of academic values that are replaced by the value of hero worship and winning at all costs.  All involved in intercollegiate athletics must be watchful that programs and individuals do not overwhelm the values of higher education.

In the Penn State case, the results were perverse and unconscionable. No price the NCAA can levy will repair the grievous damage inflicted by Jerry Sandusky on his victims.

However, we can make clear that the culture, actions, and inactions that allowed them to be victimized will not be tolerated in collegiate athletics.

Reckless and callous disregard for children. Perverse and unconscionable actions.  Change the culture, as cultures of this type will not be tolerated in collegiate athletics.

Quite frankly, although everyone is making a big deal about these unprecedented sanctions, they really aren’t enough to change the culture across the college football landscape, nor do they cripple the Penn State program.

According to the Department of Education, Penn State made a $53 million profit in 2011. Now, granted, its highly likely the football program will see a decrease in football related revenue over the next few years, but another $12 million dollars a year is not going to cripple your program when you’re annually making four times that amount…in profit.

As for the four-year ban on bowl or playoff games…lets check on how USC is doing, shall we?  The NCAA barred USC from bowl games for the 2010 and 2011 seasons in the wake of the Reggie Bush scandal.  Inexplicably, or maybe not so much, the school still made nearly $12 million in profit last year.

$12 million dollars. Profit.

Sure, the NCAA’s sanctions hit USC in the pockets, but is that necessarily enough to change the national college football culture? They’re still profitable, for goodness sake.  While Penn State’s penalties are double the length of time, if the program still finds a way to be profitable over the next four years — a thought which isn’t out of the question — what’s really been done?

The loss of scholarships is arguably the most harsh penalty imposed by the NCAA, and even that loss doesn’t sound the death knell for the university.  USC’s penalties included a loss of 10 initial scholarships a year for three years, and a reduction of outstanding scholarships to 75 per year over three years.  This morning, Penn State received a loss of 10 initial scholarships for four years, and a reduction of outstanding scholarships to 65 per year over the next four years.  A hindrance? Definitely.  The end of a program? Certainly not.  USC finished 10-2 last year, even with the loss of scholarships.  While its certainly not fair to compare USC’s team of last year with the number of wins Penn State will accrue over the duration of their sanctions, the point is that it is still possible to win games.  And winning games? That helps to generate ticket sales and other football related revenue.  Furthermore, its not as if PSU hasn’t experienced losing seasons in the past — the team only had one bowl appearance in between the 2000 and 2004 seasons.  Teams are forced to rebuild all of the time, the only difference here is that the drop in talent will be due to NCAA imposed penalties, rather than other factors.

In the end, these penalties, while unprecedented, really don’t help to change a national football culture which historically has been rife with cheating and scandal.  Think about it, Penn State is receiving these penalties after Jerry Sandusky repeatedly committed one of the most heinous acts possible for more than a decade…and no one acted.  He molested defenseless children.  Its hard to even fathom a greater loss of institutional control.  But, when all is said and done, it wouldn’t be unlikely for PSU to continue to turn a profit, even during the punishment.

So, why is anyone going to be worried about illegal boosters?



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