It was recently announced that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is planning on suing the NCAA in response to the penalties levied against the university following the allegations against former defensive line football coach Jerry Sandusky. Sandusky was convicted on 45 of 48 counts of child molestation (among other things) and will be spending the next 30-60 years in prison. Once the allegations and their subsequent cover-up came to light, the president of Pennsylvania State University was fired, head football coach Joe Paterno was fired, and it was feared that the NCAA would enact the “death penalty” on the school’s football program—preventing them from playing.
The school cooperated with the NCAA investigation in hopes of avoiding the “death penalty” of the fifth most prosperous football program in the country and was instead levied a $60 million fine, a four-year postseason ban, the loss of 10 scholarships per year for four years, and all wins were vacated from 1998-2011. The state is now suing the NCAA in response, arguing that the penalties are excessive. I agree. The NCAA sanctions didn’t punish anyone who actually did something wrong—they punished the innocent students.
I think the vacating of wins is the most pointless out of all the punishments. The games that PSU won were played fair and square. Penn State didn’t cheat, like the football players at Southern Methodist University did in 1986 or the Kentucky basketball players did in 1989, which both received severe sanctions from the NCAA. Those wins were earned fairly, and there’s no way the players could have known about the heinous actions of a defensive line coach who retired in 1999. Sandusky didn’t throw those touchdowns—or even coach them. Neither did Joe Paterno. Players on the team did—and those players are now having their hard work and sacrifices erased.
The $60 million fine is also excessive and pointless, and now it’s coming to light that all of that money isn’t likely going to be spent on Pennsylvania charities. This is a misstep on the part of the NCAA. The victims were all from Pennsylvania, and Penn State is paying the fine. Penn State should not be responsible for paying for child abuse protection in states like California and Maine. The money should stay in Pennsylvania. This is a no-brainer.
No amount of money can undo the horrible acts that Sandusky committed, and Penn State students and alumni have already done a fantastic job raising money to help out children’s charities. The money isn’t going to just come from thin air—especially with the loss of bowl revenue. It’s also not coming from taxes or tuition. This means that programs are going to be cut to pay for this fine—whether they’re from athletics, or academics, or somewhere else. Cutting programs is mainly going to impact students who were between the ages of five and eight when Sandusky was last employed as a coach at the school. That’s not right.
The NCAA acted inappropriately in the Penn State case. The NCAA should primarily be concerned with fairness in athletics and the student athlete’s welfare. Granted, I’m not endorsing Penn State’s handling of this case either—the cover up was disgusting and upsetting. However, the school dealt with it. Everyone who was involved with the cover up is either fired, in prison, or dead, and they don’t have to deal with the repercussions of the NCAA sanctions. By limiting scholarships and demanding money from the school, the NCAA is not acting in the best interest of the student athletes, or the students.
It’s key to differentiate that while the employees of Penn State violated several criminal laws in this case, they did not violate any NCAA rules. Players weren’t paid or allowed to skip classes in this situation. It’s not within the NCAA’s sphere of influence to punish PSU on this issue. It’s stupid to punish an 18-year-old who’s dreamt of playing football for Penn State his entire life by denying him a bowl game or scholarship for the acts committed by someone else when he was five years old. People should be outraged at the NCAA. This isn’t justice. This is just cruel. I hope real justice can be served at the outcome of this case.
Christine Rousselle | Providence College | @CRousselle