PDT Sports Editor
While supporters of Penn State rally in the wake of the NCAA sanctions and others outside the program praise the punishment, still others are left to wonder how these sanctions create precedent and future consequences for college sports.
Count me among the ones wondering about the NCAA’s role in all of this. I can’t disagree with the need for them to act or the severity of the sanctions, but this could change how legal scandals are handled in the perview of the NCAA.
Mark Emmert, NCAA president, brought the hammer down hard on Penn State. He promised when he first took the NCAA’s leadership position in 2010 that hard-line approach would send a message to schools that violate NCAA bylaws.
He repeated that message Tuesday when he and the chancellors bypassed the regular processes of the NCAA and relied on the Freeh report for the investigative backbone to essentially take a wrecking ball to the Penn State program.
The NCAA had to do something. If it stood idle in the face of this tragedy it would appear powerless, heartless, nonchalant about one of its more reputable programs allowing serial sex abuse continue for the sake of preserving a reputation.
But as much as Emmert assured those attending his Monday press conference on the sanctions that this situation was “unique,” the precedent is now set for the NCAA to get involved in the legal issues of their member institutions.
Is that really the NCAA’s place?
Some people thought the sanctions were a fit punishment for Penn State. Others thought it was too little and others, namely Penn State supporters, thought it was too much.
Penn State players are angry because they are paying the price for actions they had no part of. That’s true, but practically every sanction the NCAA levies against a program comes against players and coaches that didn’t have a part to play in the initial violation.
Need examples? Look at USC’s Matt Barkley. He was in middle school when Reggie Bush was accepting extra benefits. Or look up U.S. 23 at Braxton Miller. He was a rising recruit at Huber Heights Wayne when Terrelle Pryor and company were trading trinkets for tattoos.
Of course, this situation is entirely different.
My reaction to the sanctions drew me back to looking at what the NCAA is. It’s an organization that provides the veil of amateurism to college athletics. It’s a scheme operating under the label of “non-profit” exploiting the work of athletes for enormous economic gain and marketability.
Joe Paterno referred to his effort to elevate players to academic excellence as the “Grand Experiment.” Certainly, scholarships provide opportunities to those who would have otherwise not had them, but the financial benefit for scholarship athletes, particularly with football, is rarely on par to the monetary gain each college program reaps from their labor.
So when the NCAA points its sanction cannon at the remaining ashes of the football program in State College, Penn. and blasts away, I am reminded that its motivations aren’t just to preserve academic values as Emmert insisted Monday.
As much as action was needed, the sanctions were a self-serving move by the NCAA to try and remind the world that it exists and remedy its marginalized position in the shadow of the Jerry Sandusky trial and conviction. When speaking of a cover-up that enabled a sexual predator to continue abuse for over a dozen years, the idea of the NCAA’s finger-wagging looks pretty small in comparison to the moral void exhibited by university officials and the lives left ruined by Sandusky.
“If you find yourself in a situation where the athletic culture is taking precedence over the academic culture, then a variety of bad things can occur,” Emmert said Monday.
Hard to argue with that. One can only hope this situation is a truly unique one that will never occupy the sports pages again. Otherwise each program going through the legal process will also suffer the circumvention of a trivial sports organization’s policies in an effort to appear in control and relevant.
In the end, a football program’s future and NCAA precedent is so much smaller than this saga that has left so many victims in its wake.
Hopefully the $60 million Penn State will be sending to “external programs preventing child sexual abuse or assisting victims” will provide immense help to those who need it. And hopefully the NCAA will contribute funds of their own, because whether Emmert and the NCAA want to acknowledge it or not, they played a role in allowing the athletic culture overtake academic culture.
The television contract negotiations for new football playoff aren’t tipping the scales at $6 to 7 billion because of the NCAA’s success at fostering a culture of academic appreciation.
Bob Strickley may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 203, or email@example.com.