Following up to an earlier post, in which I rightfully criticized the NCAA for throwing the book unnecessarily at CalTech because of bureaucracy, I will compliment the NCAA for mostly getting their act together with Penn State.
This morning the NCAA lowered the boom on Penn State for having a poor administrative culture. In my previous article, I discussed why the Death Penalty was unlikely for Penn State … because of the nearly irreparable damage that it would cause to the other schools of the (approximately) Big 10. Instead, the NCAA got a bit creative, and got it right:
1. $60 million fine to the school. That is not a chump change fine for an athletic department. What we will need to see is if the school does the right thing and culls that from the football program, or if it lets that fine affect other sports.
2. A four year ban on conference championships and bowls. This not only hurts the school in terms of publicity and money that hcould be won in bowl appearances, but because coaches are often measured by their ability to make bowls and win them, this will make it virtually impossible for the program to hire a quality coach for the next four years … putting off rebuilding that much longer. Needless to say this will also severely hamper recruiting for at least two years.
3. Reduction in football scholarships from 25-per-year to 15-per-year for four years. Given the other punishments, this is not such a big deal because Penn State is going to have a monster of a time recruiting, it is not like a number of top recruits will be using those scholarships. But since that Bowl ban will hamper recruiting for at least two years, this will make it more difficult for the full four.
4. Penn State officially forfeits all football games from 1998-2011. Vacating wins is often times the lamest punishment, because while the NCAA will not list those schools wins, most outside publications refuse to acknowledge the punishment, or at worse will asterisk the wins (especially in the case of a National Champion). This time, however, this decision has one purpose and one alone: it will remove the last 14 seasons of wins for Joe Paterno, who up until today had been the winningest coach in NCAA football history. That record will now be permanently stripped, so this punishment is really one that is directed toward one man, or more to the point, that man’s legacy, as the price for his silence.
5. The part of the NCAA punishment that I am proudest about is that they have given all of Penn State’s current players release to play elsewhere without having to sit out one year. You can bet that as I write this, coaches and recruiters from several major college programs have already contacted Penn State’s top players to offer them available scholarships to play in their programs. The non-scholarship players were already free to transfer to any program who would take them. Many will undoubtedly stick around because football was not their primary goal, and they are still appreciative of the world class education that Penn State offers; an education that might in the long run be better now that the athletic department’s power at the school has taken a hit comparable to the Lusitania.
The beauty of this punishment is that Penn State will be forced to play. The death penalty in many ways harmed the wrong people while giving the program some quiet time to rebuild. Now, Penn State will be forced to put a severely undermanned and understaffed team on the field every single week,and their fans, those who show up, will be forced to see their precious team beaten into Bolivian (as Mike Tyson would say) for a couple of years to come. For a program that is used to winning and winning, this will be like a form of slow torture; the football team wearing an invisible scarlet A for “Abuse” every week they go out and lose.
The most important lesson that comes from this. Penn State refused to take action, primarily for two reasons:
1. misplaced loyalty to a longtime staff member who was in a protected position (the football program).
2. the school wanted to avoid scandal that they saw as damaging.
If nothing else, the lesson taught is that these two reasons are not reasons to avoid stopping staff members who act in an unquestionably inappropriate manner. I don’t care how many national championships your team has won, if a member of the staff is taking advantage of kids, that person has to be dealt with. There can be no sacred cows in this case. The second point is the most ludicrous: if you think you are saving the school from scandal, the scandal from that + the cover up is multiplied. Had Penn State taken action 15 years ago, I doubt their reputation would have even taken a hit. Joe Paterno could have been viewed very heroically turning in a trusted colleague for this. Instead, everyone’s reputations have been reduced to the punch line of some bawdy joke that will be popular in frat houses for a few years, and then eventually forgotten about altogether.
I would say this is a sad end for those who were in charge, but they collectively brought this down on themselves.