The NCAA slammed Penn State's football program on Monday with an unprecedented series of sanctions as punishment for its leaders' failure to protect boys who were sexually abused by former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. Penn State will have to pay $60 million in fines, with the money going to programs for victims of sexual abuse. The team will be banned from post-season bowl games for four years, and it will have to cut its scholarships to 65 a year by 2014 — 20 fewer than other rival programs. The NCAA also wiped out all of the Nittany Lions' wins dating back 11 years, stripping the team's late legendary coach, Joe Paterno, of his status as the winningest coach in college history on the day after his statue was removed from the entrance to the school's stadium. The penalties are expected to prevent Penn State from rejoining the nation's elite college football programs for years. Is that a fitting punishment?
The NCAA is punishing people who did nothing wrong: Given that the NCAA's rule book prescribes "harsh penalties for comparatively minor violations," says James Joyner at Outside the Beltway, "it's hard to see how they could have done less" given the serious nature of Penn State's misbehavior. The trouble is, Sandusky and the people who covered up his crimes aren't the ones paying here (Paterno is dead, and the former university president has already been fired). "So, the penalties are going to be felt by administrators, coaches, and players who had nothing to do with enabling child rape."
"NCAA hits Penn State with crippling penalties"
If anything, Penn State got off easy: The NCAA dropped the hammer on Penn State, says Chris Dufresne at the Los Angeles Times, but it didn't impose the so-called "death penalty" and shut down the university's football program entirely for a year. Nor did it ban Penn State from TV appearances. "How could the most egregious acts in collegiate history not lead to the most egregious penalties?" If the NCAA is going to bother getting involved at all, it should have gone all the way.
"NCAA acted tough, but by comparison Penn State got off easy"
The only thing that matters is whether the penalties work: Inevitably, some will argue that the punishment is excessive, says Melissa McEwan at Shakesville, while others insist it's inadequate. After all, $60 million is merely one year's worth of the football program's revenue. But the bickering over the severity of the punishment obscures the real question: "Has Penn State learned to shine light on evidence of sexual abuse, or merely learned to bury it even more deeply?"
"Penn State removes JoPa statue; faces fines"