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Penn State Scandal: NCAA Makes Call for Wrong Reasons

July 22, 2012

College Football

Since news of the Jerry Sandusky scandal broke in late 2011, the sports world has watched and waited for NCAA President Mark Emmert’s response.

According to this report at ESPN, the NCAA will announce sanctions against the Nittany Lions football program on Monday, in connection to the Freeh report. Though many have supported some form of NCAA punishment against the program, there has been no precedent for the institution levying sanctions in a case of this magnitude, making this a tricky line to walk by the governing institution.

The NCAA will propose a punishment that includes the loss of bowl game appearances and scholarships, to an extent that will likely cripple the program for some time.

I certainly feel no sympathy for the administrators who allowed Jerry Sandusky to run amok on their campus for so many years.  Frankly, if Penn State were to discontinue its football program and allow players to transfer out or maintain their scholarships as academic, I wouldn’t have any issue.

Still, the top brass of the NCAA isn’t making the correct call to levy sanctions against Penn State in this way.

Though the issue involves key members of the football staff and in the minds of many is a testament to how much power the team wielded, the scandal is ultimately an administrative issue and not a sports one.  Because of this, the NCAA simply doesn’t have jurisdiction over this area.

They also can’t simply rule against a program because “it had too much power and you have to send a message.”  That’s a matter that each school has to deal with in it’s own way.

The NCAA is an organization that governs the standards of fair play in educational athletics, albeit very poorly sometimes.  They are a body that is administrative over sport, not media or administration.

As far as sending a message goes, they have already dropped the ball on far too many issues that have been placed on a batting tee for them.  Not to mention that Emmert has leapfrogged the entire process to rush out a timely decision, while choosing to ignore his own organizations findings for the Freeh report.

Matt Hayes at The Sporting News lists a litany of scandals that the NCAA is still dragging its feet on, including at Miami (FL), North Carolina, and Ohio State.  Most of these cases are scandals involving players, coaches, cover-ups, or administrative deception.

It sounds like several broken down versions of the Penn State saga, but there is one critical difference.  These were school administrators in the athletic department making a non-football related decision at PSU.  Though it was done to protect the football program, it still falls solely on the administration side of the argument.  To some, it’s splitting hairs, but this is critical to the entire case.

Even Nevin Shapiro’s booster issues at Miami were only punishable because of the direct, on-field impact on the football and basketball programs.  At no point was the NCAA able to discipline Miami because the program simply had a connection to Shapiro.  Discipline was levied because Shapiro was paying recruits and players and providing other impermissible benefits.  They weren’t punished because he was implicated in a Ponzi scheme.

For the NCAA to now turn around and bring the hammer against Penn State is akin to the Securities and Exchange Commission blasting Miami over what happened on their campus.  It simply isn’t in their jurisdiction.

That is the line that the NCAA has always been forced to walk.  The governing body of major college athletics doesn’t regulate universities.  It regulates athletic programs at these universities.

The Jerry Sandusky scandal is possibly the most horrific event to have occurred in the history of college athletics.  But the only clause in the rulebook that PSU may have broken is the “lack of institutional control.”  But they already established a precedent with two incidents that Hayes writes about.

1: Ohio State.  Jim Tressel knew all about the impermissible benefits thrown at his players and chose to cover it up.  The NCAA did not hit OSU with a lack of institutional control.

2: Cam Newton at Auburn.  After Cam’s father, Cecil, tried to auction his son off to Mississippi State, the NCAA ruled that they had no jurisdiction because there is no rule that prohibits a parent from trying to sell his son to a school.

There was no lack of institutional control at Penn State.  It was outright corruption through the university’s administration.  And through the precedents that the NCAA has established for itself, in addition to its own rulebook, it has no jurisdiction in this matter.  To act erroneously would be the definition of a lack of institutional control by the NCAA.

And before I close this post out, let it be known that I’m in favor of the maximum punishments available to any and all organizations with authority over this matter.

Closing down the college wouldn’t bring a single tear to my eyes.  But it must be done properly by each organization.  Penn State cannot be allowed to worm or wiggle victories that will help them save face, even in small bits.  It must be done right.

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About mattpocket

I am the Sports Director at 88.3 FM WXOU Radio, out of Oakland University. I am the play-by-play voice of the Oakland Golden Grizzlies. I've been to two NCAA Tournaments, been heard on ESPN, and won 9 Michigan Association of Broadcasters Awards. Follow me on Twitter. @cornerpocket422 You can tune in to The Corner Pocket every Friday from 3-5 pm with my cohost Bryan and Everson and myself, featuring the best guests, such as Dave Birkett, Jim Nill, and Bruce Buffer.

View all posts by mattpocket

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