The Edmond Sun

Opinion

July 23, 2012

The Tribune-Democrat of Johnstown, Pa.: NCAA sends a stern message

Johnstown, Pa — In administering what was termed both punitive and corrective action, the National Collegiate Athletic Association on Monday correctly slammed Penn State University, through its football program, for “reckless and callous disregard of children.”

We commend the NCAA for its swift and appropriate response to the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Its action comes one month after Sandusky was found guilty of 45 counts related to child sexual assault, and revelations of an independent investigation that several top university officials were aware of Sandusky’s actions but did nothing to stop them. Those officials include former president Graham Spanier and the late coach Joe Paterno.

And if the NCAA’s actions weren’t enough, the Big Ten Conference on Monday doled out its own list of sanctions.

While Penn State avoided the NCAA’s “death penalty,” which would have banned the football program from any competition for at least a season, one could argue that the penalties were in fact much harsher.

Included were:

• A $60 million fine, which is equivalent to the average gross annual revenue of the football program. These funds 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 the university.

• A four-year football postseason ban and five years’ probation.

• Vacation of all wins from 1998 through 2011.

• Loss of 10 initial and 20 total scholarships each year for a four-year period.

• All returning and incoming Penn State football players can transfer and begin play at another school immediately.

Make no mistake, those penalties and sanctions could devastate for the long-term one of the nation’s most revered and lucrative football programs, while also seriously affecting the school’s entire athletic program, which provides opportunities for more than 800 student athletes.

The Big Ten fined the university $13 million and banned it from competing in the football conference championship game for four years. Its top officials also discussed a television ban of games, and even went so far as to discusss expelling Penn State from the conference.

While many Penn State athletes and fans were shocked and angered by Monday’s announcements, university officials apparently weren’t.

President Rodney Erickson said the university accepts the sanctions imposed by the NCAA, calling the action a part of the school’s process of moving forward.

Football coach Bill O’Brien expressed a commitment to stay.

“I knew when I accepted the position that there would be tough times ahead. But I am committed for the long-term to Penn State and our student athletes.”

Those responses by Erickson and O’Brien hopefully will go a long way to calming Nittany Nation, which continues to face pending and forthcoming lawsuits and perhaps even action by the Corbett administration.

Unfortunately, many people — Paterno and football fans particularly — still don’t get it.

On Sunday, while the famous statue of Paterno was being removed from his familiar spot outside the stadium, a woman screamed about the cowardice of president Erickson for having it moved to another location. There also were the yelps of “We are ... Penn State.”

They should instead have been mourning the fate of those afflicted by Sandusky and the inaction of Penn State officials who knew.

In announcing the NCAA’s actions, association president Mark Emmert said that the goal was to inspire a cultural change at the university that embraced “hero worship and winning at all costs.”

Hopefully, it also will send a much-needed message to major colleges and universities across the nation that their missions first and foremost are to educate young people, and not to produce professional athletes.

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