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Penn State sanctions 'watershed moment' for NCAA

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The National Collegiate Athletic Association's swift and severe punishment of Penn State University over a sexual abuse scandal is a bold departure from its normal operating procedure.

The Indianapolis-based organization on Monday vacated 14 years of Penn State football victories and announced a "historically unprecedented" series of sanctions, including a $60 million fine and four-year postseason ban. NCAA executives cited a "conspiracy of silence" that allowed former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky to continue molesting young boys for years, sometimes on university property.

The NCAA fast-tracked penalties rather than go through the usual series of in-house investigations, university responses and hearings.

"It's a watershed moment for the NCAA," Pat Forde, a national sports columnist for Yahoo Sports, said shortly after the announcement. "It's far outside the organization's normal way of doing business."

The question: Does the move send a message about how the governing body of college sports will operate in the future?

Not necessarily, said NCAA President Mark Emmert.

"This is a statement about this case," Emmert said, when asked whether the Penn State penalties would quiet talk of a toothless NCAA. "The facts of this case are utterly unacceptable."

But Ed Ray, the organization's executive committee president, went a step further: "The message is the presidents and chancellors are in charge," he said.

Every college and university needs a "gut check" on the balance between athletics and education, said Ray, who also is president of Oregon State University.

Forde said he initially wasn't a big fan of the NCAA getting involved in the Penn State mess. But after hearing Emmert and Ray explain their decisions, Forde said the "penalties fit the crimes."

He called the mix of punitive and corrective actions both "reasonable" and "bold."

But Richard Sheehan, a business professor at the University of Notre Dame whose areas of study include the economics of sports, said the penalties set a dangerous precedent for NCAA involvement in school-level issues.

He's not sold that the NCAA made its case for intervention.

"My concern isn't with the sanctions per se but with who's pulling the trigger," Sheehan said. "Where do you draw the line where the NCAA has the right and ability to get involved and where it doesn't?"

Sheehan suggested Penn State could have made its own announcement that it had agreed to accept sanctions in an overture toward healing and rebuilding. But he figures the NCAA jumped in quickly for good reason: "We're going to cut off your arm before you have a chance to slap yourself on the wrist," he said.

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

Emmert earlier had 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.

An investigation headed by former FBI Director Louis Freeh and made public July 12 said that Penn State officials kept what they knew from police and other authorities for years, enabling the abuse to go on.

Sandusky was found guilty in June of sexually abusing young boys, sometimes on campus. The Freeh report found that Paterno, who died in January, and several other top officials at Penn State stayed quiet for years about accusations against Sandusky.

Emmert on Monday blamed the silence on a "too big to fail" football culture at Penn State that put winning and "hero worship" ahead of the institution's core values.

He said action by the NCAA was a foregone conclusion; the questions were over details.

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.

The NCAA said that any current or incoming football players are free to immediately transfer and compete at another school.

"That the NCAA needed to act in this case was never seriously debated," Emmert said in response to a question from ESPN's Rece Davis. "This case strikes at the heart of what intercollegiate athletics are about."

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 sending the football team to the sidelines. That punishment is for teams that commit a major violation while already being sanctioned.

Penn State already has 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 Associated Press and Bloomberg News contributed to this story.

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  • @Cinzio
    Really...just shut it down. that easy? Look, Sandusky is in jail and will die there. Paterno is dead, and everyone else at the top is gone and there may be more charges for them down the road. People who yell 'shut it down' don't have a clue what the program means to the community and the innocent. The stadium is in the middle of nowhere. a lot of people jobs depend on having games. these people are innocent. Restaurants, stadium workers, hotel owners and staff, the list is a whole lot longer than you want to read. People who think that shutting it down is as simple as that need to look at the big picture.
  • Too much TV
    Congratulations to the prosecutors of Sgr. Sandusky, and proving Beyond a reasonable doubt that he is guilty of these reprehensible crimes. The agents and prosecutors of the Attorney General’s Office, as well as the Pennsylvania State Police, also deserve a great deal of credit for the verdict. Great job! Now let's support these survivors and shut down the football program for awhile until this mess is cleaned up. The elitists who protect these monsters will be caught! Mr. Freeh mentioned Penn State janitors who saw Sandusky molesting a boy in the shower. One, a Korean War vetern, called the scene "the worst thing I ever saw." Nevertheless, he and the other janitors decided not to report it. They didn't want to get fired. "If that's the culture on the bottom," Freeh said, "God help the culture on the top." Yes. A thousand times yes!!! And God help the channel-changing culture in the middle, who look the other way and minimize the horrific consequences of this new idea that "morality can't be legislated". It is about time to to shut this football program down and put kids first and send the correct message to the rest of the world. Now we all know what predators look like even if they play Santa Clause at Christmastime and receive the philanthropist of the year award. No excuses for any sports league.
  • @RICK
    Rick - You are whats becoming of this socialist nation....trying to place the blame on something else instead of where it needs to be, on the individual. Of course you think its the movie industry, or the parents, or the gun store that sold the weapons, or the bullet manufacturer, on and on and on. Ever stop and think that maybe this guy was screwed up enough that no matter what movie he watched or video game he played that he was going to be the murderer he is. This goes back way before violent movies were being shown and there were always criminals with bad intentions. But you can keep finding blame. I'm sure you think Sandusky did what he did because of some outside influence.
  • Note to Joe
    Actually, if you read the entire NCAA Sanction, the student atheletes at Penn State are very well cared for within this sanction. First, any athlete can leave Penn State to attend any other school and immediately be eligible to play Division 1 football. In addition, any student athlete wishing to remain at Penn State and not play football for Penn State, will retain his full scholarship for the remainder of his studies at Penn State. As for the $60 Million Dollar fine, it will hardly impact any sports programming at Penn State. The fine is to be paid over a five year period, and I double that ticket sales for football games will be impacted. Not going to Post Season Bowl Games may or may not impact the flow of money from Post Season Bowl Game Payouts, which are shared by all teams in the conference. I will be interested to see if the Big 10 permits Penn State to share in the proceeds from Post Season Tournaments that other universities attend. The interim football coach appears to be impacted by the four-year post season freeze, since his contract is heavily weighted toward post season acheivements. As for the students within the general student body, I believe they will suddenly get their university back. When football and a coach are elevated to a status that is god-like, and a sports program is deemed to be larger than the university that was founded on the principles of higher education, then the Board of Trustees has failed the students, not the NCAA. Joe Paterno was a facilitator not a head football coach. The decision to reduce Paterno's winning record by 111 games was made by the NCAA, which I view to be a strong message, not for the students, but rather a message that perhaps Joe Paterno failed the student body by looking away when pressured by a school administration to keep Jerry Sandusky under control. Penn State University will survive this tragic event, and as for the football program, well it remains a game from which tens of thousands of students received no benefit prior to selecting a university of higher education, and I predict those students will continue to receive a valued education, in spit of a football program that was kidnapped by a pedophile and a weak head football coach.
  • Terry?
    The penalties seem directed at the current students and particularly the student athletes now that they have lost 80 scholarships. The players and fans did nothing wrong yet are being punished. The criminals are getting theirs thru the legal system. I would like to know how the NCAA came up with these dollar figures. Seems a lot of the NCAA board members had it out for the Penn State
  • Penn State
    I agree with harsh punishments for the evil doers of PS.I do feel that stripping JP of the victories are not hurting JP: he is dead. It is hurting the many athletes who worked so hard and dedicated themselves to their team and school. Why should we hurt more innocent individuals? I don't understand this.
  • Message for Rick
    You need to spend more time at the library and less time listening to sound bites on the radio and/or television. The movie industry has every right to produce movies, and it is the general public that has the opportunity to either support or not support a given film. As for Penn State Football, clearly the Head Football Coach, the Athletic Director, and the President of the University were facilitators for Jerry Sandusky. Over three million email messages were reviewed during the investigation, and the punishment does fit the crimes committed by senior management and coaches at the university. Frankly, I was expecting the death penalty for the football program at Penn State.
  • More important sanctions
    The people in that movie theatre in Colorado were harmed far more both physically and emotionally. The more meaningful sanctions would be levied by the movie industry against studios who produce ever more violent films, the violence from which creeps deeper and deeper into society. THAT is a far more important issue than the overblown interest in what the ncaa does or doesn't do. Yes, the shooter is ultimately to blame, just as here Sandusky is ultimately to blame, but if Penn State is to be punished, so should the movie industry.
    • Ironic
      Isn't it ironic that the top 2 teams in the 1982-83 football national championship standings received the death penalty and now the virtual death penalty. SMU and Penn State aren't as dissimilar as they were portrayed 30 years ago.

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