The Farm Club presents: State Your Case, PSU Edition

July 24, 2012

College Football

Growing up as a college football fan in the state of Michigan, the chances are that you will eventually end up declaring your allegiances to either Michigan State University or the University of Michigan. In so doing, you’re also programmed to despise the other Michigan school. It’s inevitable. You’ll also end up, if you take the Michigan route, despising Ohio State (though most casual Ann Arbor supporters don’t know why anymore).

Few sights in college football compare to a sold-out Beaver Stadium

However, there is a general feeling of brotherhood within the Big Ten. Outside of conference play, it’s common place to root on your fellow conference rivals, specifically in their respective bowl games. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had the utmost respect for Penn State University. Their dedication to class, sportsmanship, and tradition was surpassed by very few other schools. At least, this is what the general public was led to believe.

The focused time period of the Freeh Report on the Penn State scandal starts at 1998: The same time in my life I started to understand the game of football. The façade of their pure class, pertaining to my judgment over the span of my life, was just that – a façade. A façade that was covering up one of the ugliest university football scandals of all time.

It was yesterday that the NCAA punished Penn State University for their involvement in the covering up of serial child rape. Here at The Farm Club, we let our emotions simmer down a bit before writing a reactionary piece, since decisions and opinions based on pure reactionary emotions aren’t normally the best way to go about things. Once everyone calmed down a bit, and let everything that’s happened over the last few months sink in, I then asked a few of our writers three blanketing questions pertaining to the NCAA’s decision. Each writer was asked the same questions, and each writer gave their answers, which follow.

“Are the penalties against Penn State too harsh or too lenient? Should the death penalty have been given?

Is the NCAA punishing the right people?

In your personal best case scenario, how would you handle it if you were in Mark Emmert’s position?”


Stefan Jagot:

The question amongst those in the sporting world will always be did the NCAA have proper jurisdiction in levying sanctions against Penn State University. However, due to the concession of the penalties by the university we will truly never know the answer to that question.

When observing these penalties we must ask if they truly do two things;

1. Help the recovery of the true victims, the children.

2. Set a precedent that deters a cover-up of this nature from ever happening again.

The majority consensus of the nation (myself included) views the $60 million fine as appropriate. Especially when the money will not touch the hands of the NCAA or PSU, but rather “external programs preventing child sexual abuse or assisting victims…” This is essential to the recovery process, money that will hopefully go into a lifetime of therapy, and/or any service these victims will need. Could it have been more? Yes. Is this financially crippling? No, due mainly to the 5 installments of $12 million dollars annually which will certainly ease the monetary burden. The NCAA by allowing the football program to receive revenue along with fundraising is a statement in itself that they do not want to finically ruin PSU. But again this is a substantial amount to secure the healing process for the victims.

Could YOU do Mark Emmert’s job better?

The NCAA in my opinion handled this with the recruitment and Bowl Game sanctions, assuring that PSU will not field a winning team for at least the next 10-15 years.

This is to me is an ultimate deterrent for similar events ever to happen again.

The former PSU administrators blatantly put winning football games ahead of the livelihood of the children, and these punishments ensure that winning will be close to impossible for a long time.

If PSU is even able to land recruits amidst these sanctions they will not be Bowl eligible, or Big Ten Championship for four years. This wipes out a ton of potential recruits right there. The school was already losing recruiting battles to MSU, U of M, and OSU. Now they are decimated. Even when the penalties are over the wounds will still be fresh, and for many young athletes the choice to play for PSU will never cross their minds.

Yes, USC has been able to survive this, but I remind you they also appealed which allowed them to secure recruits in the meantime, PSU will not do the same, and will face the consequences immediately.

The school has already lost two recruits due to the fallout of NCAA, and more are likely in the upcoming days.

Still there are players currently on the PSU squad who have pledged their allegiance to the school.

The cover-up of these heinous crimes was done to protect the program and the institution. In obvious hindsight the punishments that would have been given had this been uncovered immediately would have been dramatically less than these.

It is naïve to say that another Jerry Sandusky-like event will never happen again, it is just the sad reality of life. However through the appropriate measures taken by Mark Emmert and the NCAA, an institutional cover-up of this disgusting of nature will never happen again.

Brian Young:

To me, even the “death penalty” wouldn’t have been far enough in this case. Penn State showed a callous indifference towards the well being of children in the name of winning football games, and being allowed to play football after that effectively validates the actions taken. Even after every person involved in the cover up has left the university, an example needed to be made. I just don’t think the NCAA truly did that. This isn’t a slap on the wrist by any means, but they’re still going to play and make money off football without interruption, which I believe is unjust.

As far as the question of whether or not the right people are being punished, the answer is yes and no. Like I said before, there had to be some sort of example made. Paterno losing 111 victories was absolutely the right choice. Now, every time someone examines Paterno’s name in the record books, the asterisk will be a reminder of exactly what took place at Penn State for 13+ years. Punishing the university as a whole should prevent such an occurrence from ever happening again, and offering amnesty for any players wanting to transfer was the right thing to do. Is it unfortunate that the people actively engaged in covering up for Sandusky are now out of the reach of the NCAA? Absolutely. But that doesn’t mean the university deserves a pass.

If I was handing out sanctions for the NCAA, Penn State would be allowed to play out the year, but would be banned from the post season. This would allow seniors who had waited four years to graduate from Penn State to be given that opportunity. Half of all revenue made from this football season would have to go to endowment programs preventing sexual abuse, in addition to the $60 million fine. In 2013, however, the program would be shut down, and all players would be allowed to transfer penalty free to a school of their choosing, and scholarship players would have their scholarships covered by the NCAA. Those who chose to stay at Penn State at this point, and who qualified academically, would be offered academic scholarships. In 2015 the school could choose to resume football operations, and recruit for the 2016 season, at which point scholarships would be capped at 65 until 2018, and Penn State would be banned from post season play until 2019.

Penn State: A school clearly still full of tradition.

Michael Gazdik:

Are any penalties harsh enough to give to a child molester? Morally, many of us, including myself, struggle with the answer to this question. Such a horrific crime truly has no equal in punishment, as it takes something as innocent and naïve as a child and forces him into an adult world, forever marking the perception and thought process of the victim. Assuredly Jerry Sandusky will receive his punishment from the court of mankind and God, but as of yesterday’s news, I must say in my view the NCAA has laid down a punishment befitting of Pennsylvania State University’s role in the crimes committed. The $60 million over five years is unprecedented, but can be overcome easily with the expected rise in alumni donations and through private loans if need be. The destruction of Joe Paterno’s legacy had to be done. The man turned away as his friend had sex with children. Penn State hasn’t won a game since 1997 now. The killer isn’t even the four year ban from postseason play or the limiting of scholarships. The real assault on PSU’s ability to continue to field a competitive team in the tough Big Ten conference is the fact that every mother of a talented high school athlete will think twice about, if not blatantly tell their son to pursue other offers. The death penalty was given months ago; these punishments are the much needed nails in the coffin of the unprecedented corruption we have seen in this football program once heralded as one of the cleanest and most well respected in the world of college sports.

The NCAA’s sanctions on Penn State are definitely hurting more than those responsible. I don’t think anyone, whether for or against the severity of the punishments could argue anything other than that fact. But, how could the NCAA adequately punish the university and football program without doing so? The postseason ban takes revenue from the school by the millions. The scholarship limits do as well. Every player who was involved in the wins or bowl games still have those memories and we all know who worked to win those games. The ones affected that had no fault in the matter are the current student-athletes. And for that, Penn State should apologize to those students. The actions and in-action of their leaders led to these reactions from the NCAA. In short: I believe that these types of punishments were absolutely necessary by the NCAA. The students that will be unfortunately affected should turn to Penn State for answers and restitution, not the NCAA.

Mark Emmert, in my view and as I have stated before, adequately punished Penn State for its role in the crimes committed by Jerry Sandusky. However, I believe if I was in his place, I would have potentially worked for even tougher sanctions on the program. The post season ban was fine and the necessary donations to unaffiliated programs working to prevent child sexual abuse and assisting victims was my favorite touch on the ruling. But, if it were up to me, the one thing I would make tougher and really hurt the football program at Penn State would be to disallow scholarships entirely for the four year period. If Penn State was made to play like an Ivy League university for four years, not one program in college sports would ever take the NCAA lightly. Any wrongdoings within a program would most likely be snuffed out by its leaders and internal members for the sake of the program. Bad publicity wouldn’t be the worst thing that could happen to a football program ever again.

Jack Crawley:

Right off the bat I want to say this: I couldn’t be happier that Penn State received such harsh penalties. This whole situation is so incredibly sad, twisted, and disgusting and they deserve the worst punishment imaginable outside of the death penalty…and the only reason I say that they don’t deserve the death penalty is because that would punish the football players too much and they certainly do not deserve that.

The football players weren’t the ones raping children or trying to help cover it up. In fact, I think the best of the penalties handed down is that all current football players can transfer without punishment or restriction. Let them flee Penn State and never look back, leaving their corrupt football program and university administration in the dust.
I wanted to make sure my opinion on the fairness of the penalties was clear before I get into the core of my beliefs on this punishment: Hypocrisy. The NCAA is the most hypocritical organization on this planet. Should they have taken action? Yes. Should they have taken swift, unforgiving action? Hell yes. But the fact of the matter is, this action was only taken because of public pressure and the notoriety of the case at hand.
Where was the NCAA when two unconfirmed Michigan State basketball players allegedly raped a girl in their dorm room? Nowhere. The only reason those players are unconfirmed and the actions are strictly allegations is because the job the university and police did covering the situation up. It pains me to lobby for punishment at MSU as a student there, but seriously…from what I’ve heard, there was some pretty substantial evidence against the two players involved and everybody just stood by…including the NCAA , which was completely silent about all of this.

The NCAA handed out moderately tough penalties to Baylor’s men’s basketball program…for a MURDER SCANDAL. In 2003, Baylor basketball player Patrick Dennehy was murdered by his teammate Carlton Dotson. A very long investigation ensued after Dennehy’s disappearance and it was eventually found that Dotson had murdered him, but the whole thing was a mess. Coach Dave Bliss was found to have paid for player’s tuition among many other terrible things that surrounded the program. The university was punished, but certainly not on par with what was handed down at Penn State.

Players on the University of Montana’s football team are currently at the center of an alleged gang rape controversy. I won’t pretend to know all of the details surrounding that, but the NCAA better be ready to step in there should any of those allegations hold up.
The NCAA has now put itself in a position where it must act in the wake of these kinds of scandals, even against their big money, big exposure programs. As hypocritical as the NCAA comes off after all of this, I do applaud them for the penalties; it’s about time. But they better be ready to act the next time around. This is the same organization that levies fines and punishments on programs for giving athletes a spread for their bagel. (I wish I was joking…seriously. Look it up.) If such tedious things as bagel spread are punished, it’s time to get a lot more serious. Step up to the plate, NCAA.

Eric Ratkowski:

This is essentially worse than the death penalty. Instead of losing a team for a year and having to rebuild, Penn State will essentially be a 1-AA program until 2020. Nobody is going to come to a school that won’t be actually competing for everything for literally the entire time they are there. Penn State had to be punished, but I am not sure under what grounds the NCAA had to do this. This wasn’t a cheating problem; this was a major cover up which did not effect on the field play. To take Joe Pa’s wins away is asinine. Bobby Bowden will never admit to being the all-time winningest coach because JOE PATERNO HAD MORE WINS. Basically what you are telling the athletes who were not involved that what they worked so hard for when they bled the blue and white is that they worked for nothing. How is that fair? The only thing that I actually agree with is letting players transfer without sitting out a year since their careers would be over at Penn State.

No. This is where I have a major problem with the ruling. Who exactly does this help? Of those who deserve the most punishment one is dead, two are in prison and two are indicted. The kids who were affected do not see any retribution, the players who worked for those wins TECHNICALLY lost everything and a university who is trying to remake its image is set back 10 years. What will become of the 60million? The NCAA did not exactly release a plan and that terrifies me.

I would force Penn State football to exist as a nonprofit organization. Pat Forde hits my idea pretty much on the head:
“Penn State would best be served by playing football this fall as a non-profit entity. Every penny of profit over expense should be turned over to help victims of child sexual abuse in the State College, Pa., area, or to fund research into what makes (and could unmake) a pedophile. The loss of profit should not be taken out of the budgets of non-revenue sports, either – whatever belt-tightening would occur from losing tens of millions of dollars in revenue must come out of the football program itself. I’d like to see Penn State challenge its Big Ten and Division I cohorts to follow its lead and make major donations to the same cause or a similar one in their communities.”

The future of Penn State isn’t crushed and some progress is made. Nothing will ever help those who were affected but knowing that steps are being taken to prevent this from happening to their sons and daughters will help them sleep at night. Use the money to be productive. Punishing students and current administration that didn’t have anything to do with it does not make much sense. Penn State had to be punished so I would keep a 2 year bowl ban and loss of scholarships but not completely cripple the program.

The sick, twisted person who started it all.

Shane Viars:

The debate or whether or not the NCAA should, and has the ability to place sanctions in Penn State as a consequence of the administrative cover-up of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal is, on the surface, a tricky one. There are those who argue that since nothing of this sort was laid out directly in any sort of NCAA rules, means that it is outside of the jurisdiction of the governing body of collegiate sports. The other side argues that this cover-up falls under the umbrella of a ‘lack of institutional control,’ demonstrated by the athletic department, as well as the entire board of leadership at the university.

Without trying to make it sound like I am making light of the situation, I really doubt that when the NCAA was making its rulebook, someone stood up and asked, “Hey, if the entire administration let’s a pedophile sexually abuse children in the athletic buildings, shouldn’t we be able to do something about that?” This is what I point out to those who say that since the NCAA doesn’t explicitly state this is a rules violation. There are plenty of cases where a specific instance isn’t covered in some sort of rule outline, but because the ability to make further decisions on a case by case basis is covered in another provision, it allows the organization to rule on each of these special circumstances, and this is why I believe the institutional control clause exists in the NCAA rulebook.

The very first part of the principles of institutional control states, “’Control’ is defined in common sense terms,” and this is what I believe to be the strongest case in support of the NCAA levying sanctions on PSU. Although there is a measure stating that a violation made by a member of the athletic department is not based on a lack of institutional control, it is only if certain criteria are met, one of which states, “if, on learning that a violation has occurred, the institution takes swift action.”

Swift action. The exact opposite that was carried out by the administration of Penn State. They allowed a monster to abuse children in their facilities for well over a decade. They knowingly endangered every child involved in Sandusky’s charity. They did this, according to police reports, so that the news would not bring shame to the school and the football program.

The NCAA has handed down many penalties to schools in violation of their rules, ranging from loss of scholarships, ineligibility for bowl games, to a complete shutdown of a program. Southern Methodist University received the ‘death penalty’ for a year for paying its players after violating probation for several other rules violations. The word coming down is that the NCAA will not impose the death penalty on Penn State, but I truly believe that this is the wisest course of action. Allow the current crop of football players at the school to transfer without having to sit out for a year, and find every single person who had any knowledge of Sandusky’s activities and fire them from the program. Once the program has been purged of any person involved, then allow the school to once more have a football program.

This may seem like an extreme reaction, but it is an extreme situation. There is no precedent for this type of decision, but I believe firmly that the actions, or inactions as it were, of anyone tied to the Sandusky case from Joe Paterno all the way up to the administrators of the university, would allow for the precedent to be set. Human rights violations should allow for the NCAA to step in, and this is very clearly what the issue at hand is. These despicable acts were allowed to continue by the hand of the football program administrators, in order for the football program to be allowed to continue. It only seems fitting that the punishment for this thought process is to hurt the one thing they were trying to protect instead of children, football.

Your opinion matters, too. We promise.

Having read our discussion, and our various opinions on the matter, what do you as readers think? Feel free to answer the same questions posed to our writers in the comment section. No need to be shy, ladies and gentlemen.

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