The decision to penalize Penn State University (PSU) has confused many, because over time the NCAA has always used violations or infractions by those connected to the programs of NCAA schools or lack of institutional control as the foundation for penalizing NCAA member schools. The violations were always related to athletes and/or extra benefits.
That all changed with this decision by the NCAA executive committee, which gave NCAA President Mark Emmert and Ed Ray, chairman of the NCAA Executive Committee, sweeping power to penalize PSU.
They have gone where the NCAA had never gone before, recognizing that PSU essentially allowed Jerry Sandusky, a creep-monster convicted of 45 criminal counts of child sexual abuse, to hover around the program for years while harming innocent young children, ignoring his repeated acts.
The school, deciding to protect the powerful PSU football program with its legendary coach, chose to cover up the crimes committed by Sandusky.
Now you know why so many live today in fear of the NCAA. Sometimes it has been accused of wrecking careers and punishing the innocent. In my view, not this time.
They did not give PSU the death penalty, but what they did puts the program into a coma. Penn State was fined $60 million and placed on a four-year ban from post-season play. The school must vacate all victories dating back from 1998 through 2011.
The innocent current student PSU athletes are penalized big time.
Ten initial and 20 total scholarships are lost for four years. And, PSU must establish cultural changes in the program and institute an athletic integrity agreement. It was announced on July 9 that PSU had raised $208 million in donations, the second highest total ever despite the child sexual abuse convictions of Sandusky.
PSU hired former FBI director Louis Freeh to conduct an internal investigation into the conduct and/or actions of the university’s athletic program over the same period that Sandusky was employed or allowed on campus around the athletic program. His findings were stunning and the single foundation for PSU’s decision just over the weekend to finally remove Joe Paterno’s statue from campus honoring the late PSU head football coach.
The NCAA did not in this case conduct their own investigation; they agreed with PSU that the Freeh report findings would serve as the foundation on which they would render their decision. His findings established that many times PSU and Paterno had probable cause to suspect or know that Sandusky was victimizing children, and they ignored it.
The innocent current PSU student athletes are penalized big time. If they choose, they can transfer to other NCAA schools without penalty and do not have to wait a year.
So many people defend Paterno as this naïve legend who did not know that Sandusky, his assistant and defensive coordinator on two National Championship teams, was a monster, a pedophile feasting on children.
But it was Paterno’s job and responsibility as head coach to know. By protecting his coach, he allowed horrible crimes to continue causing great pain to many victims, and the program just kept rolling along. It’s so sad that all this happened, because culturally the power of the PSU program was bulletproof.
I remember when my son, Larry, Jr., was recruited by Penn State how excited and honored I was. The great Joe Paterno wanted my son. However, I told my sons, both Larry, Jr. and Marcus, to not make the same mistake I made when I was in college at Indiana State: Don’t listen or allow a coach recruiting you to convince you to change your position.
In Larry’s case, he is a natural receiver. Paterno wanted Larry, Jr., because of his size, to be a linebacker. PSU, because of Sandusky, was known as “Linebacker U.” Larry, Jr. told Paterno respectfully no and accepted a scholarship to Pittsburgh, where he played for Head Coach Walt Harris as a Panther receiver and nearly won the Heisman Trophy in 2003.
Thank God Larry, Jr. chose Pittsburgh.
Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, and on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm; he also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2), and you can follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to email@example.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.