It wasn’t the death penalty, but by the time the NCAA sanctions take full effect, Penn State athletics may be on life support
In an unprecedented show of strength and speed, NCAA officials dropped the bomb on the Nittany Lions football program this morning in the wake of the child sex scandal investigation by former FBI head Louis Freeh. The Freeh Report alleges that top Penn State officials, including the late Joe Paterno, engaged in a long term cover-up of child sex allegations directed at former PSU assistant football coach, Jerry Sandusky. Sandusky was fould guilty on 47 counts involving sexual abuse of minors.
In an announcement this morning by NCAA Association President Mark Emmert, the football program was stripped of 40 scholarships over four years, a post season bowl ban for the same four year period, and $60 million in fines. Current players will be permitted to transfer without penalty to other schools to finish their careers. Penn State will also be stripped of all wins from 1998 through 2011. The loss of wins drops Paterno from the top of the list of winning college football coaches down to fourth place. Penn State officials have already signed and agreement with the NCAA accepting to penalties and promising not to appeal.
The NCAA issued the following press release today:
By perpetuating a “football first” culture that ultimately enabled serial child sexual abuse to occur, The Pennsylvania State University leadership failed to value and uphold institutional integrity, resulting in a breach of the NCAA constitution and rules. The NCAA Division I Board of Directors and NCAA Executive Committee directed Association President Mark Emmert to examine the circumstances and determine appropriate action in consultation with these presidential bodies.
“As we evaluated the situation, the victims affected by Jerry Sandusky and the efforts by many to conceal his crimes informed our actions,” said Emmert. “At our core, we are educators. Penn State leadership lost sight of that.”
According to the NCAA conclusions and sanctions, the Freeh Report “presents an unprecedented failure of institutional integrity leading to a culture in which a football program was held in higher esteem than the values of the institution, the values of the NCAA, the values of higher education, and most disturbingly the values of human decency.”
As a result, the NCAA imposed a $60 million sanction on the university, 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.
The sanctions also include a four-year football postseason ban and a vacation of all wins from 1998 through 2011. The career record of former head football coach Joe Paterno will reflect these vacated records. Penn State must also reduce 10 initial and 20 total scholarships each year for a four-year period. In addition, the NCAA reserves the right to impose additional sanctions on involved individuals at the conclusion of any criminal proceedings.
The NCAA recognizes that student-athletes are not responsible for these events and worked to minimize the impact of its sanctions on current and incoming football student-athletes. Any entering or returning student-athlete will be allowed to immediately transfer and compete at another school. Further, any football student-athletes who remain at the university may retain their scholarships, regardless of whether they compete on the team.
To further integrate the athletics department into the university, Penn State will be required to enter into an “Athletics Integrity Agreement” with the NCAA. It also must adopt all Freeh Report recommendations and appoint an independent, NCAA-selected Athletics Integrity Monitor, who will oversee compliance with the agreement.
Effective immediately, the university faces five years of probation. Specifically, the university is subject to more severe penalties if it does not adhere to these requirements or violates NCAA rules in any sport during this time period.
“There has been much speculation on whether or not the NCAA has the authority to impose any type of penalty related to Penn State,” said Ed Ray, Executive Committee chair and Oregon State president. “This egregious behavior not only goes against our rules and constitution, but also against our values.”
Because Penn State accepted the Freeh Report factual findings, which the university itself commissioned, the NCAA determined traditional investigative proceedings would be redundant and unnecessary.
“We cannot look to NCAA history to determine how to handle circumstances so disturbing, shocking and disappointing,” said Emmert. “As the individuals charged with governing college sports, we have a responsibility to act. These events should serve as a call to every single school and athletics department to take an honest look at its campus environment and eradicate the ‘sports are king’ mindset that can so dramatically cloud the judgment of educators.”
Penn State fully cooperated with the NCAA on this examination of the issues and took decisive action in removing individuals in leadership who were culpable.
“The actions already taken by the new Penn State Board of Trustees chair Karen Peetz and Penn State President Rodney Erickson have demonstrated a strong desire and determination to take the steps necessary for Penn State to right these severe wrongs,” said Emmert.