The NCAA's Penn State punishment: Too harsh?

The university's storied football program may have a hard time recovering from the penalties imposed on Monday over the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal

Penn State students react to the NCAA punishment which includes a $60 million fine and a four-year ban from post-season bowl games.
(Image credit: AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

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."

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