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NCAA hammers Penn State with major sanctions

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Penn State football was all but leveled Monday by an National Collegiate Athletic Association ruling that wiped away 14 years of coach Joe Paterno's victories and imposed a mountain of fines and penalties, crippling a program whose pedophile assistant coach spent uncounted years molesting children, sometimes on university property.

The sanctions by the Indianapolis-based governing body of college sports, which capped eight months of turmoil on the central Pennsylvania campus, stopped short of delivering the "death penalty" of shutting down the sport. But the NCAA hit Penn State with $60 million in fines, ordered it out of the postseason for four years, and will cap scholarships at 20 below the normal limit for four years.

Other sanctions include five years of probation, and the NCAA also said that any current or incoming football players are free to immediately transfer and compete at another school.

NCAA President Mark Emmert announced the staggering sanctions at a news conference in Indianapolis. Though the NCAA stopped short of the "death penalty," the punishment is so harsh it's more like a slow-death penalty.

"The sanctions needed to reflect our goals of providing cultural change," Emmert said.

The NCAA ruling holds the university accountable for the failure of those in power to protect children and insists that all areas of the university community are held to the same high standards of honesty and integrity.

"Against this backdrop, Penn State accepts the penalties and corrective actions announced today by the NCAA," Penn State President Rodney Erickson said in a prepared statement. "With today's announcement and the action it requires of us, the University takes a significant step forward."

The Big Ten Conference said Penn State will not be allowed to share in the conference's bowl revenues while it is banned from the postseason by the NCAA. The Big Ten announced its own sanctions against Penn State about two hours after the NCAA handed down its penalties. The NCAA reserved the right to add additional penalties.

Sandusky, a former Penn State defensive coordinator, was found guilty in June of sexually abusing young boys, sometimes on campus. An investigation commissioned by the school and released July 12 found that Paterno, who died in January, and several other top officials at Penn State stayed quiet for years about accusations against Sandusky.

Emmert fast-tracked penalties rather than go through the usual circuitous series of investigations and hearings. The NCAA said the $60 million is equivalent to the annual gross revenue of the football program. The money must be paid into an endowment for external programs preventing child sexual abuse or assisting victims and may not be used to fund such programs at Penn State.

"Football will never again be placed ahead of educating, nurturing and protecting young people," Emmert said.

By vacating 112 Penn State victories from 1998-2011, the sanctions cost Paterno 111 wins. Former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden will now hold the top spot in the NCAA record book with 377 major-college wins. Paterno, who was fired days after Sandusky was charged, will be credited with 298 wins.

The scholarship reductions mean Penn State's roster will be capped at 65 scholarship players beginning in 2014. The normal scholarship limit for major college football programs is 85. Playing with 20 less is devastating to a program that tries to compete at the highest level of the sport.

In comparison, the harsh NCAA sanctions placed upon USC several years ago left the Trojans with only 75 scholarships per year over a three-year period.

The postseason ban is the longest handed out by the NCAA since it gave a four-year ban to Indiana football in 1960 over recruiting violations.

Bill O'Brien, who was hired to replace Paterno, now faces the daunting task of building future teams with severe limitations, and trying to keep current players from fleeing to other schools. Star players such as tailback Silas Redd and linebacker Gerald Hodges are now essentially free agents.

"I knew when I accepted the position that there would be tough times ahead," O'Brien said. "But I am committed for the long term to Penn State and our student athletes."

Penn State's season starts Sept. 1 at home against Ohio University.

The sanctions came a day after the school took down the statue of Paterno that stood outside Beaver Stadium in State College, Pa., and was a rallying point for the coaches' supporters throughout the scandal.

Emmert had earlier said he had "never seen anything as egregious" as the horrific crimes of Sandusky and the cover-up by Paterno and others at the university, including former Penn State President Graham Spanier and athletic director Tim Curley.

The investigation headed by former FBI Director Louis Freeh said that Penn State officials kept what they knew from police and other authorities for years, enabling the abuse to go on.

There had been calls across the nation for Penn State to receive the "death penalty," and Emmert had not ruled out that possibility as late as last week — though Penn State did not fit the criteria for it. That punishment is for teams that commit a major violation while already being sanctioned.

Penn State has already agreed to not fight the sanctions.

Emmert said the university and the NCAA have signed a consent decree, essentially a pact signing off on the penalties.

"This case is obviously incredibly unprecedented in every aspect of it, as are these actions that we're taking today," he said.

The ruling will have an immense effect on the school’s finances. In the fiscal year ending in 2011, Penn State’s athletic department generated $116.1 million in operating revenue and posted a $14.8 million operating profit, according to school records.

Of Penn State’s 29 sports teams, only football and men’s basketball were profitable last year, with football generating an operating profit of $43.8 million on $58.9 million in revenue. The Nittany Lions had a 9-4 record last season.

A shutdown of the football program would have cost Penn State and the surrounding community more than $70 million, according to an economic study commissioned by the university for the 2008-09 school year. That included $51.1 million spent on hotels, souvenirs, food, services and entertainment by out- of-state visitors, which represent about 15 percent of those attending games at Beaver Stadium, which has a capacity of more than 106,500.

Penn State has an endowment of $1.3 billion, the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette reported in March, citing Graham Spanier, who was dismissed as university president in the scandal.

Ellen Staurowsky, a professor of sports management at Drexel University in Philadelphia, said the NCAA was right not to impose the death penalty because it would have financially affected an entire community, not just the football program, and wouldn’t address the multiple accountability failures at the school.

Geoffrey Rapp, a sports law professor at the University of Toledo in Ohio, said Sunday that the death penalty would have been the only punishment that fits Penn State’s crime.

“The failure here was at the highest levels of Penn State’s leadership, and as the Freeh Report indicates, the only solution involves a major change in institutional culture,” Rapp said in an e-mail. “Anything less than a break from football would not address the fundamental cultural shift needed.”

Southern Methodist University’s football program was closed in 1987 after it was found that 13 players received $61,000 from a slush fund provided by a booster. The Dallas-based school was unable to field a team in 1988 and had one winning record over the next 20 years after it returned in 1989, before bowl game appearances in 2009, 2010 and last year.

The NCAA also shut down the University of Kentucky basketball team for the 1952-53 season; the basketball team at the University of Southwestern Louisiana for two seasons from 1973-75; the men’s soccer team at Morehouse College in 2004 and 2005; and the men’s tennis program at MacMurray College for two seasons from 2005-07.

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  • No comparison
    Dragging Ohio State's jersey-gate into this is ridiculous. There is no comparison to the nature, scope or severity of the crime and coverup.
  • And then if they stay there Chris...
    Then they still get a free education, and they can still play football...sorry...there is no downside for the athlete no matter how you try to paint it, they have far more options than most students have...they can play at Penn State and get their education if that is what they want to do, period. Or they can transfer...if they were good enough to make it at Penn State there absolutely will be room for anyone that wants to transfer to another D-1 school...so they have to wait a year, they are somewhere between 18 and 22 years old, they are not 50, this is not unfair, "put your big boy pants on and make a choice son"...the NCAA, when they used to be a bit more worried about whether or not the athlete actually got an education, used to not allow freshmen to play...they had to go to school for a year and were not eligible to play sports till they were sophmores. Now the organization has completely caved in to the big money interests and one and dones in basketball, short timers in other sports are commonplace. I suppose you are going to tell me Marquis Teague and Anthony Davis were worried about the education they were going to get at Kentucky? Please, most of the athletes are not naive at all, ask anyone who coaches at the Divison 1 level, they will be glad to tell you...players know what they are whether they admit it or not...they know the NCAA uses them to make lots of money, and they are banking on using the NCAA to either further their personal athletic ambitions, and/or to get an education, and this decision does nothing to stop anyone who chose Penn State from doing either one. And the fact that only a fraction of them will actually end up in the NFL, NBA, etc. is irrelevant...they do have a chance at a free education regardless...if you want to sympathize with someone, sympathize with the kid who has $60K in sutdent loan debt that is working at Menards because he can't find a job in his field. And of course, sympathize with the victims of Mr. Sandusky. There are no other victims here, not the athletic program, nor the athletes...maybe poor Bill O'Brien, he left a Super Bowl contender to take the head coaches job...oh wait, he is getting a nice check too...never mind.
  • C ya
    Penn State should tell the NCAA they will not pay their fines and will no longer do business with them. Penn State should be an educational institution, not a farm club for the NFL.
  • No Where to Go
    Jim - true, the very best of PSU's football players will be "snapped-up" by other programs, however, most of the players are not likely to be heading to other programs. College camps start in about 1-2 wks and teams will have all 85 scholarships spoken for and if they don't, it's only because a player left at the last minute. Further, many and possibly most Division 1 players would not be attending college if it were not for a football scholarship. The bottom line is this: No scholarship, no way to transfer. Unfortunately, most of these kids are going to be stuck at PSU for at least a year and likely for good.
  • My opinion - they botched it.
    Penn State has a $1.8 Billion dollar endowment. The fine is a drop in the bucket. The wins vacated are in the past. It's just grandstanding by the NCAA. My opinion: Five years of all football revenue being placed in an endowment used to fund child abuse prevention and sex crimes victim services.
  • My opinion - they botched it.
    Penn State has a $1.8 Billion dollar endowment. The fine is a drop in the bucket. The wins vacated are in the past. It's just grandstanding by the NCAA. My opinion: Five years of all football revenue being placed in an endowment used to fund child abuse prevention and sex crimes victim services.
  • Please...
    Charles...I have news for you...the student atheletes are not the naive poor little kids you seem to think they are and this is nothing more than a minor inconvenience to them. They are in fact quite capable of looking out for themselves, and most of the ones that go to a program like Penn State think they are going to be wearing an NFL uniform when they leave there, and that is why they went there in the first place...education is secondary to them, if it matters at all. Any student athelete who wants to can transfer immediately...and guess what? If they are really that serious about their education, and seriously think that Penn State provides the best education that they can possibly get, the NCAA did not shut down the university...they can still go to class and get their degree. I don't feel bad for anyone involved in this whole sordid mess, and especially not the athletes, because they have plenty of options...the kid who is a local and not an athlete and just going to school there is going to get hurt much worse than the athletes. Do you honestly think Urban Meyer and Brady Hoke won't snap up the best recruits that want to transfer? Heck, even Danny Hope and Kevin Wilson might end up with a few good second tier PSU transfers, and if they do, those kids will be the best players on their team...you can get a pretty good education at any of the institutions mentioned. And if you go to OSU, you can get a tattoo and sell a jersey or two and they will still let you play in a bowl game. After all, they do things the right way at OSU just like Joe Pa did at Penn State. Please, save your righteous indignation for the victims here, which were the molest victims...the "student" athletes will be just fine.
    • Got it Right
      First of all, eliminating scholarships is going to directly hit the football program which in turn affects the school's money. the athletes will still get an education by going somewhere else. Sometimes i think people haven't got a clue how things work. People throw out useless comments about affecting an athletes education or hurting the innocent. Life isn't fair and everyone has the ability to transfer. Penn State needed to be punished and they have.
    • PSU vs. IU
      I expect there will be a mass exodus of student athletes from teh Penn State football program following these sanctions. Still, they will likely beat IU when the two teams meet in Not-So-Happy Valley in November.
    • Misdirected anger
      I thoroughly agree that what has happened in deplorable and disgusting. HOWEVER, removing scholarships from the school is punishing students who had NOTHING to do with this whole fiasco and it reduces the number of people who are able to go to Penn State and get an education! Oh, sorry, I mean to play basketball. Leave it to the NCAA to forget that educating people is the priority with a scholarship.

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