NCAA’s Handling Of Penn State

While many are applauding NCAA president Mark Emmert for quick action in handing Penn State the most severe penalty in the organization’s history, others are questioning whether the NCAA should have gone outside its bylaws and become involved in criminal matters.

Nobody questions the seriousness of the tragic events surrounding pedophilia at Penn State, or that the actions of several administrators at the school were so inadequate as to warrant charges. It is debatable whether the NCAA has grossly exceeded its brief by punishing the school to the tune of $60 million, banning it from post-season play for four years, stripping it of 10 scholarships per year and 20 at any one time, and allowing players to transfer and play immediately. It also vacates all wins from 1998 through 2011, and puts the school on probation for five years.

The penalties that eviscerate the program are the combination of the post-season ban and the loss of scholarships. If these penalties had an effect on any of the guilty parties, they would be understandable. But Jerry Sandusky has been convicted and will die in jail, Joe Paterno is dead, Graham Spanier has been fired, VP Gary Schultz and AD Tim Curley face criminal charges relating to the coverup and will never work at Penn State again. So none of the people who were involved will be punished, and all of the people who will be punished are completely innocent of any wrongdoing.

And this is supposed to strike anyone as fair or just?

The NCAA has serious issues regarding its effectiveness and mission. It is a parasite organization that creates nothing by itself, but feeds on its member institutions that provide all of its revenues. There have been whisperings in recent years that it may have outlived its usefulness, that a presidential commission could do the same job at lower cost.

So did this punishment stem from Emmert’s lifelong conviction about academic excellence?

Hardly. As chancellor of Louisiana State University when he fired football coach Gerry Di Nardo and replaced him with Nick Saban after Di Nardo had posted the highest graduation rate in program history, Emmert made the comment that as LSU football goes, so goes the university. But now he has $1.6 million reasons to change his tune and justify his organization’s existence. But he is good at the politics. He convinced current PSU president Rodney Erickson to accept the penalties through a consent decree and avoid a four-year death penalty. Erickson should have said the matter will be resolved at higher levels, with the Justice Department and the Department of Education, told the NCAA to do whatever it would and challenged it in court. The result could not be much worse, and possibly it would have been much better. It may at least have served to clarify the extent of the NCAA reach and purpose.