DFTBA Sports: Penn State


July 23rd, 2012: the day that the past, present, and future of Penn State football was irrevocably changed. In the wake of the child abuse scandal, involving assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, that rocked both the university and, indeed, the entire United States, NCAA President Mark Emmert announced a wholly unprecedented list of punishments for the university. Although nothing could be done to reverse the actions of Sandusky, the NCAA, as the national governing body for collegiate athletics, felt that it was necessary for measures to be taken to ensure that the molestation of children, as well as the inaction of figures such as head coach Joe Paterno, did not go unpunished, and that nothing of the sort would ever happen again.  Emmert was quoted saying, “Football will never again be placed ahead of educating, nurturing, and protecting young people

Firstly, Penn State University was fined $60 million, the equivalent of the profit that would’ve resulted from the school’s football program in a given year. The money will now go towards charities dedicated to the fight against child abuse. It was important that the NCAA punish not just the football program, but also the university itself. This helps reinforce the fact that there was a seriously harmful culture present in the school; that football is the priority, over all else. Hopefully this money can go some way towards helping victims recover, or stop any incidents happening in the first place. It would be prudent for Penn State to donate more than the required amount, putting some of the funds into raising awareness. They have an opportunity here to become one of the major players in the fight against child abuse; simply complying and paying up what is required is not enough.

Secondly, all of the football team’s wins from 1998 to 2011 were nullified. This was done due to the part that head coach Joe Paterno played in covering up the transgressions of Sandusky. This sanction by the NCAA seems futile, not being immediately obvious how it aids the victims. However, it was crucial that they not allow Paterno to remain the football icon that he was prior to all this. He was the all-time win leader, with 409, but the vacating of fourteen years of wins lowered him to twelfth place on the list. This is the NCAA’s way of showing that although Paterno was seemingly above the law at Penn State, his heroic status, both on-campus and nationwide, should count for naught when such allegations are presented.

Thirdly, the portion of the punishments focused on the future of the football program. Penn State received a four-year postseason ban, meaning that regardless of their win-loss record, they may not participate in any bowl games, including the National Championship game. While many would argue that this is unjustly fair on current players, who had nothing to do what the incidents for which they’re being punished, I would argue that it is fair. It is more of a punishment for the university, as they will receive neither the monetary profits nor the boost to their university’s reputation such games would provide. Meanwhile, any players that have the talent to play in the NFL will not lose out on that opportunity due to the inability to play in the postseason. The final sanction may affect that opportunity though: the football team will lose twenty scholarships for each of the next four years. This means that instead of being able to attract the very best players coming out of high school with the promise of a free ride in university, the team will instead have to rely more or walk-on players, regular students who pay for their education but regularly must go through try-outs to have a chance of making the team. As a result, Penn State will be losing almost the equivalent of an entire roster of quality players. This is potentially even more crippling a punishment than that given to MSU, whose team was banned for a year, which eventually resulted in them failing to register a winning record for twenty years.

In the end, the penalties imposed by the NCAA on Penn State are harsh, but just. While some of them do not affect child abuse victims directly, they show that the attitude shown by those at the university, that football comes first, is absolutely intolerable. I believe that these sanctions will result in child abuse and any other egregious crimes being dealt with more fervently and directly, and if all that costs is the performance of a football team, then all the better.



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