Did the NCAA go too far with sanctions against Penn State Football?

By Austin Ford, Staff Writer

August 18, 2012

Before I go any further I want to make sure that it is noted that in no way, shape, or form do I condone the actions and horrors Jerry Sandusky inflicted upon innocent boys’ lives. Furthermore, the cover-up by high-ranking officials at Penn State University (Joe Paterno, Graham Spanier, Tim Curley, Gary Schultz) has left me with a taste of utter disdain for these gentleman, especially Paterno for whom I held in the highest regard.

However, my personal feelings for those immediately involved in the situation does not deter from my belief that the NCAA, in its infinite wisdom, punished thousands upon thousands of individuals that had no connection whatsoever with the Penn State sexual abuse scandal. Students, faculty, administration members, and hundreds of past, present and future student athletes of PSU will feel the repercussions of what the NCAA has done for years to come.

Parts of what the NCAA handed-down as punishment for the PSU scandal are justified. The four-year postseason ban, the four-year scholarship reduction, as well as placing the athletic department of PSU on probation for five years, are all sanctions I found to be reasonable and warranted.

Punishing the PSU athletic department and more specifically the football program places the blame and responsibility on the right individuals, seeing as Paterno and Curley, in addition to Sandusky, all had ties to the football program at Penn State.

Sanctions, such as the scholarship reduction and bowl ban, also had to be made by the NCAA and I applaud them for doing so. Their actions were swift and definite, a combination that is rarely seen when the NCAA deals with a case of such magnitude and attention.

Where I believe the NCAA went too far was in taking away the 112 wins that occurred between 1998 and 2011, as well as laying down a $60 million fine against Penn State University. These two rulings are where the NCAA enlisted the theory of “punishing many for the faults of a few,” meaning that they used the actions of four members of the PSU hierarchy, and deemed it necessary to punish hundreds of thousands of people in the PSU community.

Vacating 112 wins did more than just permanently delete a number from a record book. By taking away those victories, the NCAA negated the efforts of Butkus Award winners, LaVar Arrington and Paul Posluszny, of Maxwell Award winner Larry Johnson, as well as hundreds of other young men that put on the dark blue and white during the years from 1998 to 2011.

Sure, Joe Paterno was the coach during those 14 seasons, but he was not the one lifting weights every day, running wind sprints during practice and fighting tooth and nail on the gridiron to accomplish, not just a victory on the scoreboard, but a victory of heart and determination. To tell hundreds of men, past and present, that their hard work and dedication was for naught is simply wrong and unjustified.

By fining Penn State University $60 million, which is what the NCAA deemed as the equivalent to the average revenue the football program draws in annually, the boundary of what is acceptable and excessive punishment was crossed. That $60 million figure provides funding for much more than just football and athletics at PSU; professors are hired, classes become available to students, and scholarships are awarded to underprivileged individuals through that money. Losing that kind of money means professors are cut, classes cease to exist and students lose out on opportunities to learn and grow in a field of their choice. The money means much more than just football for Penn State University and any university for that matter.

The NCAA went too far and overstepped their ruling boundaries in the Penn State scandal, punishing many for the crimes of a few. While it was the actions of Sandusky, Paterno, Spanier, Schulz and Curley that provided for the true letdown and downfall of PSU, the actions by the NCAA did nothing more than pile on unnecessary punishment.