A worst-case scenario for Penn State football fans became reality today, as the NCAA hammered the university’s football program with sanctions that will effectively set the program back years and have an impact that likely will be felt for decades.
NCAA President Mark Emmert announced this morning that the university is being fined $60 million, banned from the postseason for four years, and cut 10 scholarships this year and 20 total scholarships each year for a four-year period. The university is also forced to vacate all of its football wins dating back to 1998.
Someone on a messageboard this morning said it best: “This is the 21st Century death sentence.”
The NCAA hasn’t handed down a death sentence to a major football program since the 1980s, when SMU was hit hard over recruiting violations. But as a source told ESPN Sunday, the sanctions to be levied by the NCAA might make the death penalty preferable to Penn State. And indeed that was the case.
The scholarship reductions mean that PSU’s roster will effectively be limited to 65 scholarship players. And the four-year bowl ban means any of its current players will be free to transfer to other schools without penalty. (Make no mistake: coaches around the country with scholarships to spare are already on the phone.)
And the NCAA’s penalties has the full support of the Big Ten Conference, which levied its own sanctions — banning Penn State from the conference’s championship game for the next four years and seizing the school’s share of Big Ten bowl revenues (about $13 million) to go to charitable organizations dedicated to the protection of children.
It all adds up to a very dark day for Penn State football and its fans, as one of the nation’s premier Div. I football programs has been relegated to little more than a Div. II program.
It will take years for Penn State to crawl out from under the weight of these sanctions.
And that’s just as it should have been. Penn State maliciously covered up the rape of children in order to protect its football program. Now its football program has paid a supreme price for those actions.
Had it been one or two of the school’s officials who were involved in the coverup, the situation would have been arguably different. But with every top-level administrator with oversight of the football program involved, it’s hard to argue that the actions were the actions of individuals and not the actions of the university itself.
Perhaps the most satisfying part of the NCAA’s punishment is the vacated wins. One day after Penn State removed Joe Paterno’s statue from campus, he has now been stripped of 111 wins. He goes from college football’s all-time winningest coach to just No. 12 on that list, while former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden takes over the top spot for Div. I wins.
I always admired Paterno and always felt it would be a sad day for college football when he stepped aside. As it turned out, his reputation was destroyed and he certainly didn’t deserve to be recognized as the sport’s winningest coach.
Ironically, as ESPN Radio reported this morning, the vacated wins mean that Paterno’s last win came in 1997 against Wisconsin. His starting quarterback that day was Mike McQueary, the graduate assistant who would catch Jerry Sandusky raping a kid four years later and report it to his superiors.
One has to wonder what Jerry Sandusky is thinking right now. The university employed him for nearly a half-century, afforded him a luxurious lifestyle, and its head coach entrusted him as a friend. Through his actions, he destroyed Paterno’s legacy and has crumbled the empire that Paterno and Penn State spent more than 40 years building. (Penn State was the 2nd-richest college football program in America in 2010; obviously that status will change greatly.) He also destroyed the game of football as legions of Penn State fans know it.