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Did Penn State Deserve Its NCAA Sanctions?

Max Meyer |
July 23, 2012 | 1:42 p.m. PDT

Staff Writer

Is Penn State football as we once knew it gone forever (Creative Commons/Mike Pettigano)
Is Penn State football as we once knew it gone forever (Creative Commons/Mike Pettigano)
Did the NCAA step out of bounds with the Penn State sanctions? Obviously, the five individuals (Jerry Sandusky, Joe Paterno, Graham Spanier, Gary Schultz and Tim Curley) who committed or covered up one of the most heinous crimes in recent memory deserve the harshest of punishments.

Sandusky will rot in jail for the rest of his life and will be remembered as a monster. Paterno may have escaped the physical punishment due to his passing in January of this year, but his legacy is forever tarnished. Spanier, Schultz and Curley will most likely be facing jail time for covering up these despicable acts. All five names are now disgraced, and their respective reputations are far from reparable.

But why did the NCAA and president Mark Emmert have to punish the individuals who had nothing to do with the crime itself? And how did the NCAA all of a sudden gain the power to dole out punishments to schools who did not commit an athletic violation?

Emmert dished out punishments that several analysts called worse than the death penalty. But did they affect any of the individuals who committed the actual crime? Penn State lost 20 scholarships per season over the next four years, along with having a four-year bowl ban. Also, any of their football players can transfer to other schools without having to sit out for a year. Those three punishments will surely destroy Penn State's football program for several years -- I would even go so far to say that Penn State's football program will never again be the college football power that it once was.

After the many players who will transfer to other college football powerhouses leave, Penn State will be stuck with minimal talent this season. For recruiting, they will be in trouble immediately because of their scholarship limitations and the fact that not a lot of kids will commit to a school where they can't play in a bowl game for most of their college career. And in the long term, why would kids ever want to commit to Penn State? Its tradition is haunting; its future is bleak; and after these punishments, Happy Valley will have turned into Death Valley.

Severely punishing the football program now does not affect any of the guilty individuals. But it severely affects the wrong people.

New head coach Bill O'Brien is now stuck with a limited team and will most likely never be able to even compete with the other Big Ten schools throughout his coaching tenure. Whoever decides not to transfer could see their athletic futures be severely altered by the fact that they will now be playing for a perennial loser.

The students, whose parents are paying several thousands of dollars, will no longer be able to have a remotely decent college football experience (and let's face it, if you're going to Penn State, most are at least partially there for the football).

The school will lose a plethora of potential applicants simply because their football team was buried into the ground. Yet, none of the people who are affiliated with Penn State now ever did anything wrong, yet they are paying fully for what those five individuals did. The NCAA should not have this kind of influence, which has essentially destroyed Penn State as an institution. It went overboard by punishing the wrong people.

The other two punishments the NCAA gave Penn State were a $60 million fine and vacating all of Penn State's wins from 1998-2011. While the massive fine clearly does not punish the ones who deserved it, did vacating the wins do anything? Paterno lost 111 wins over the span, and went from being first in all-time coaching victories to No. 5.

Players like Silas Redd have remained by Paterno post-mortem. But how many will stick around now that bowl-game aspirations are gone (Creative Commons/pennstatelive)?
Players like Silas Redd have remained by Paterno post-mortem. But how many will stick around now that bowl-game aspirations are gone (Creative Commons/pennstatelive)?
I feel that this punishment is worthless for several reasons. One, this really doesn't affect Paterno himself, because he died thinking that he was the all-time leader in wins. Two, Paterno's legacy was already ruined. The NCAA didn't need to strip his wins to make another statement. Lastly, Paterno experienced those victories in person, so vacating them doesn't really take them away. It just makes the statistics "disappear." Also of note: while the NCAA vacated 14 years of wins under Paterno, only two of the years occurred with Sandusky on the staff.

This ruling was also the first time ever that the NCAA got involved with criminal violations committed by athletics personnel rather than athletics violations. While the crimes were atrocious, they did not violate any of the rules in the NCAA handbook. Because of this, the NCAA has now gained even more power to be an arbiter regarding moral code as well. Does the NCAA really need to be involved in the personal lives of athletes and athletic personnel along with their athletic lives? The NCAA took a very dangerous step by getting involved with violations outside of its handbook, and it could prove costly in the future.

July 23, 2012 will be remembered as the day that Penn State football will no longer be a college football power. Yet, because the NCAA punished Penn State so harshly, people are looking at the wrong story. The focus should not be the future of Penn State football, or whether the punishments were fair or not. The story is still helping the victims that were molested by that monster and preventing child abuse so that something so sickening can never happen again. The NCAA shifted the story, punished the wrong people and ruined football for a very long time for the Penn State faithful. NCAA and Mark Emmert, stick to what you know best and don't get involved anymore in criminal actions that don't involve athletic violations.


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