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NCAA sanctions hold school accountable

July 24, 2012
The Herald-Star

Mark Emmert, president of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, said that Monday's sanctions handed down against Penn State were "needed to reflect our goals of providing cultural change."

We hope that those who run the university and fans of the university's athletic programs in general and football team in particular take those words to heart.

The sanctions -- fines of $60 million, a ban from post-season play for four years, a reduction in scholarships to 65 from the standard 85 for four years, a five-year probation for the football team and a decision to vacate 112 wins recorded from 1998 to 2011 - are just the latest fallout in the sordid Jerry Sandusky affair.

Sandusky, a longtime assistant with the Penn State program, was convicted on June 22 on 45 counts of child sexual abuse, some of which occurred on school property. A 267-page report prepared by Louis J. Freeh, the former director of the FBI, indicated that the predator could have been stopped many years ago if any one of several Penn State officials had chosen to act.

Among those officials cited in the report was former coach Joe Paterno, who died of lung cancer earlier this year.

The penalties are steep, among the most severe the NCAA has ever handed down. Their affect on the school's football program will be immediate, and will surely be felt for years to come. The Big Ten, for instance, said that Penn State will not share in conference bowl revenue for the next four years, which could amount to as much as a $13 million hit. The conference said that money will be allocated to established charitable organizations in Big Ten communities dedicated to the protection of children. And, the NCAA has not ruled out additional penalties.

In any situation as terrible as the Penn State case is, there is bound to be collateral damage. In this case, that includes the players, coaches and others associated with the football team who will not have the chance to compete for a conference championship or play in a bowl game. While every member of the team has been declared, in essence, a free agent by the NCAA, many will have a hard time finding another place to go to this year, with preseason workouts scheduled to begin shortly and most schools having already handed out their allotment of scholarships.

As for next year and the remaining years covered by the penalty, it would seem to be hard to believe that a player who has the skills to play in the upper tier of college football would choose to attend a university that could not participate in postseason play for a large portion of that player's career.

In all, it would appear to add up to a devastating set of penalties which many experts are predicting will take the school's football program at least a decade to recover from.

What will take even longer to recover is the school's reputation. Up until the scandal hit and in some cases long after -- the school and its fans had stated that Penn State held its athletes and sports programs to a higher standard than other schools. While few outside the enclave of the university's home of State College, Pa., ever were completely true believers, that reputation has been forever tainted, sullied to the point that nothing, not even the removal of the statue dedicated to Paterno's career, can erase.

In the end, the NCAA chose to hold the university accountable for the actions of its officials, men who truly believed they and their university were better served by looking the other way and empowering a pedophile to freely seek out new victims.

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