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Posts Tagged ‘Joe Paterno’

Yesterday, NCAA President Mark Emmert levied penalties on the Penn State football program resembling the athletic equivalent of the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear meltdown in nearby Harrisburg, PA. The sanctions on Penn State University will include vacating 111 wins from 1998 through 2011, a $60 million fine to be donated to external child abuse prevention programs, a four-year bowl ban and the revocation of 40 scholarships over the same time span. Emmert spoke for nearly 45 minutes at the press conference, delivering a farewell speech to the football program that was not so much a eulogy as it was a scathing condemnation of the newly-minted pariah of the NCAA.

As the NCAA set the plan in motion to annihilate Penn State football, Rodney Erickson was cornered. This past weekend, the NCAA reportedly informed the Penn State University president that he had a choice between multiple years of the death penalty for the football program and a crippling array of sanctions that would extend for four years. Given the choice, Erickson made the correct decision. Penn State games will still sell out. In fact, given the incredible support that the fan base has shown in recent months, demand may even rise. Each home game has a massive economic impact for State College and the surrounding area, and multiple years of an empty Beaver stadium would have wreaked havoc on the university, the town and countless businesses that depend upon revenue derived from football games. According to the Wall Street Journal, Penn State football generated $161.5 million for the state of Pennsylvania in 2009.

Ironically, Emmert criticized Penn State’s “lack of institutional control” while proving that his own organization has exactly the same problem. He ascended to his current post in October of 2010 and immediately sought to shake the traditional notions of the NCAA; weak, ineffective and toothless. A chihuahua at the dog park trying desperately to bark loud enough to convince the big dogs to fear his bite. Emmert wanted so badly to prove that the NCAA had teeth that he violated his own organization’s rules. How’s that for institutional control?

Emmert was convinced that the only way to solve the NCAA’s Napoleon complex was to pull the trigger on this ruthless punishment. The only problem is that the NCAA, by precedent and by its own bylaws, has no authority to punish schools for moral transgressions, however depraved, sinful or Sanduskian they may be. The NCAA is no moral authority on anything. In fact, last time I checked, it was making millions of dollars off of the hard work and talent of the semi-free labor of its “student-athletes.” Emmert claimed to want to “reform” the athletic culture of universities, but instead administered a brand of frontier justice that creates no precedent whatsoever for future cases to be judged against. Penn State would be crucified in the court of public opinion if it decides to fight the sanctions, so Emmert also forced the penalties onto a defenseless public university.

Emmert and the NCAA violated due process and overstepped their legal authority, but the point is that they did not have to. The heinous crimes committed are a Jerry Sandusky problem. They are a Graham Spanier problem, a Tim Curley problem and a Gary Schultz problem. They were also very much a Joe Paterno problem. Sandusky has faced his day of reckoning and been declared fit for society only in the solitary confines of a dark prison cell. Spanier, Curley and Schultz will soon be punished for their own indifference, inaction and as Emmert himself put it, “hero worship” of Joe Paterno. Sandusky’s enablers were in charge of the university when all of this happened, and they failed miserably to protect the dozens of boys that Sandusky molested. But they will be judged, and they will be judged harshly. The NCAA had no place to penalize Penn State’s students, coaches and athletes for the crimes of the Sandusky Society.

I would be willing to bet that Erickson and Penn State would have listened if the NCAA would have requested that they simply donate the $60 million to charities as an act of goodwill. Too bad they didn’t ask. Instead, Emmert channeled his and the NCAA’s inner chihuahua and maimed the football program at Penn State for years to come. Congratulations.

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