Why Penn State Deserved NCAA Sanctions

By: Bryan Povlinski on July 25, 2012

Since NCAA President Mark Emmert announced the unprecedented sanctions against Penn State the national sports media have produced a countless number of articles on the subject. That probably means another article is not needed, but I wanted to explain why the defense of Penn State and the criticism of the NCAA is completely unwarranted.

There are several overarching themes to most of the articles written about Penn State. I would say that 99% of articles written fell into one of the following categories:

1. The NCAA overstepped its boundaries by punishing Penn State. The crimes Sandusky committed had nothing to do with the NCAA jurisdiction, and no sanctions could ever right the wrong that he caused to those kids. The sanctions innocent people by removing wins from past players and depriving current players a chance to play in a bowl. The sanctions were too punitive in nature to the point where it seemed like the NCAA was just “beating a dead horse.”

2. Penn State deserved all of the sanctions that were handed down and more. Anything the NCAA would have decided would have been acceptable because the crimes that Sandusky commited that the administration failed to address were beyond anything that has ever occurred in collegiate athletics. The NCAA had to make a statement and they delivered.

There are various angles that can be taken, but it really boils down to one of those mindsets. Here’s the problem with mindset #1 – none of those arguments are valid. Let’s take a look at all the arguments that make up the “Penn State did not deserve this” crowd.

“The NCAA did not have the jurisdiction to punish Penn State for criminal acts that will be dealt with by the courts”

Penn State is a member institution of the NCAA. The NCAA has a duty to ensure its member institutions maintain education excellence and that they fit athletics into the overall university experience. Penn State chose to put football over basic human dignity. Sports were not fitting into the university experience – they were becoming the most important part. The NCAA had to send a message that it’s unacceptable to make decisions that put the goal of furthering or maintaining the success of an athletic program ahead of properly dealing with known criminal activity. Penn State lacked institutional control as evidenced in the Freeh Report. That is a punishable offense that the NCAA had to deal with.

“No sanctions could ever right the wrongs that Sandusky caused the kids he victimized”

This is absolutely true, however, it doesn’t mean the correct course of action is to do nothing. The NCAA didn’t fine Penn State $60 million for its own benefit. That money will be going to charities that help prevent child abuse.  You can’t fault the NCAA for coming down harshly when nothing could have made a direct impact to Sandusky’s victims. These sanctions weren’t meant to help the victims. They were meant to penalize Penn State for choosing not to do something that could have directly prevented this harm in the first place.

“The sanctions hurt innocent people like past and current players and that is not fair”

I don’t understand how these sanctions directly hurt past and current players. Does vacating wins really matter to a player after they’ve completed their college career? Does anyone say “What a great career that defensive back had. He went 33-12 during his Penn State career?” No, the players know what happened when they played. They know they won football games. For a technicality to wipe out those wins after the fact – who really cares? The one person that overall won-loss record mattered to was Joe Paterno. He was in the record books as the all-time leader in wins. His actions to help cover up this scandal deserve punishment. That is certainly what he got with this part of the sanctions.

The other notion is that the bowl ban hurts current players. Sure, it might be disappointing to  some that they won’t get to play in a bowl game. However, if that’s what’s important to you then go play somewhere else. There are other universities that would love to add the caliber of player that was recruited to play at Penn State. The NCAA has allowed you to play immediately wherever you go. If you still want to play at Penn State you need to accept the fact that a bowl game is no longer a possibility. That privilege was taken away from Penn State for the actions they committed.

“Penalizing Penn State is like beating a dead horse”

I don’t understand why Penn State would be considered a dead horse. Sure, the image of the university likely took a hit in the eyes of recruits so it’s going to be more difficult than it previously was to get the top talent to come to State College. Penn State would have taken a similar hit if the administration had decided to act when allegations against Sandusky first arose. However, they chose to avoid that kind of negative publicity and covered the entire thing up which led to Sandusky maintaining his access to campus and the football program so that he could continue his sick assault. By choosing to avoid the negative repercussions then, massive penalties against Penn State were well deserved now.

It’s interesting to see the media so divided on a major topic. Hopefully everyone will begin to realize that Penn State deserved what the NCAA handed to them.