The recent choice by the NCAA to reduce the sanctions on Penn State is a good start to correct a huge wrong. They are going to start giving five football scholarships a year back to the football program. There is no denying that what Jerry Sandusky did was horrendous, but the amount of sanctions that were laid onto the Nittany Lion program was insane.
The NCAA originally charged the university $60 million, vacated all of Penn State’s wins from 1998-2011, took away 15 scholarships a year, bringing the total down to 70, and banned Penn State from the postseason for five years. I say the NCAA needs to totally revoke the scholarship reduction and post-season ban altogether, and let this team begin anew.
Right after the sanctions were declared, the NCAA vacated all of the wins of Joe Paterno from 1998 to 2011, a total of 111 wins. This stained the legacy of Paterno, who died a few months after he was fired. The problem with this is that Sandusky only served on the staff until the end of the 1999 season, so why not punish the team by taking away all the wins starting from when he began coaching at Penn State in 1969 until he retired in 1999? Under the current penalty, the vacated wins are seen as a shot at Paterno.
The $60 million that the university is paying is going into a fund that is helping victims of sexual abuse across the country, which is a good practice. But, when you take that fine and add it to the already falling attendance rates at games and the loss of bowl, television and sponsor money, the fine will add up to be a lot more than $60 million and it will hurt that athletic department seriously. The fine is taking away from money that the athletic program could be using to repair the damage that Sandusky did to the program.
Now, trying to rebuild a team when you have 15 less scholarships a year to work with is difficult, but when you add that the sanctions that allowed former players to transfer to any school and play immediately, it became nearly impossible. Now, because of the reduced sanctions, the football program is getting five more scholarships per year until the 2015 season. This will make it easier to get the team competitive again. Nittany Lions head coach Bill O’Brien’s job shouldn’t have had to be that hard to begin with.
Being competitive brings up another point, what player wants to go to a school where he has absolutely no chance to compete for a national — or even a conference — championship? That might have been the deepest stab to the heart of the Penn State program. Trying to recruit on a limited scholarship basis is one thing, but trying to recruit and appeal to teenagers who want to be champions is a different story.
This begs a huge point, why is the NCAA trying to punish a program and affect a program for the foreseeable future because of the actions of a few individuals? The NCAA has shown too much rule over the last decade, like banning whole teams from the post-season because individual players wanted tattoos. These sanctions are just part of the NCAA trying to show its power, letting every other program know that they can be made an example of.
The problem that led to the scandal at Penn State was in the chain of command and the lack of punishment that they dealt out. All the NCAA had to do was punish all those responsible, which they did. Every coach and faculty member that was involved in this scandal is gone, with most of them also facing criminal charges. So now all the NCAA is doing with their unreasonably stiff penalties is punishing innocent players, coaches and fans. If they wanted to cause the same amount of damage to innocent people they could have instituted the death penalty on the program and shut the football team down for a year or two.
The NCAA took a program on the heels of the biggest scandals in NCAA history, turned it upside down, shook the talent out of it, fined it a ridiculous amount and set it out of sight for five years. Was that fair for them to do to a whole program because of the heinous actions of one sick individual? Was it fair for them to send this program to back to the dark ages? No, it absolutely was not. The NCAA is finally starting to fix its own screwup, and hopefully — for the football program, the fans and the university’s sake — the mistake doesn’t do permanent damage to the program.