Now That The Penn State Sanctions Have been Levied What is Next?
BY: Dic Humphrey
Monday morning the NCAA announced penalties for Penn State for the situation revolving around Jerry Sandusky since 1998 and the ensuing cover-up. The main points of the penalties involve (A) a $60 million fine, (B) loss of 10 scholarships per year for four years, (C) a ban from bowl games for four years as part of a five-year probation, and (D) all wins dating back to the 1998 season being vacated. After the NCAA announcement, the Big X Conference announced that they would withhold Penn State’s bowl money for four years in which they cannot play in one, and estimated additional financial penalty of approximately $13 million.
The players currently in the program are free to transfer to another school without having to sit out a year. That may sound like a moot point at this time of the year when most schools have all their current scholarships allocated, but the NCAA is contemplating a special provision that those players can transfer and not count toward the scholarship totals of the school that they transfer to. Undoubtedly, recruiters from other schools have descended upon Happy Valley much as they did in 1987 when SMU was assessed the so-called death penalty.
Indeed, the penalties are startling from a number of standpoints. There has always been a suspicion that a few of the big boy teams get special treatment from the NCAA. Infractions are often overlooked and when penalties are assessed, they are lighter. The only time the so-called “Death Penalty” – the shutting down of a program for a period of time – was assessed was against little old SMU, a private school with an undergraduate enrollment of less than 10,000 students. There have been numerous occasions that big boy programs qualified for the Death Penalty with more serious infractions from schools with previous probations, and the Death Penalty was not assessed.
To some degree, this Penn State penalty may be worse than the Death Penalty. First there is the money. The $60 million fine represents approximately one year of income from the football program. When that amount is added to the bowl revenue the school will not be receiving, the total monetary cost will be almost $75 million.
Next there is the bowl ban, which was expanded by the Big X to include the Big X Championship game if Penn State somehow qualified for it. Four years of no bowls is an entire college career for this year’s freshmen. With the proliferation of bowls in this day and time, a bowl game is an annual assumption for a big boy team like Penn State. It’s a penalty that will hinder future recruiting in the near term for sure.
The vacating of the wins reduces Paterno’s win total to 298 from 409. He drops from first to twelfth on the all time wins list of head coaches.
Later in the day Penn State officials announced that they would accept all provisions of the penalty. They admitted they feared receiving the Death Penalty, which they wanted to avoid at all costs.
Penn State will undoubtedly be able to recover from this probation far quicker than SMU did upon receiving the Death Penalty in 1986. SMU literally lost a generation of students as football fans as it took almost 25 years for the program to recover. Penn State being a much larger school with a larger alumni base will be better able to handle the financial issues incurred by this penalty. It has a stronger conference affiliation. On the other hand, it will likely take the better part of a decade to restore the program to the success it has enjoyed in past years.
This penalty breaks new ground in a couple of aspects. First, there is the speed at which the situation was reviewed and the penalties assessed. The NCAA Board gave President Mark Emmert the authority to assess the penalty without the usual judicial process of the infractions committee. He did so in an extremely swift manner. Situations that involve serious violations often take years to resolve, but the Penn State situation has been taken care of in a matter of months. Indeed it was pushed ahead of other cases that have under advisement much longer.
Secondly, this deals with situations that are not direct violations of the NCAA rules and regulations such as improper benefits to players. This penalty really relates to deceitful and dishonest behavior as well as a failure to adhere to ethical and moral values.
With Penn State’s acceptance of the sanctions, the case is likely closed as far as the NCAA side of the equation. The school however will likely be embroiled in the legal system for years over the events that caused today’s announcement.