Penn State, Jerry Sandusky, NCAA Sanctions and the “Death Penalty”

I suppose I should preface this with the fact that I know there are bigger things involved here. Those things are being handled in a court of law and are just about to wrap up. Hopefully, Jerry Sandusky is found guilty (yes, I believe he’s guilty) and sentenced to many, many years in prison.

That is the extent of Jerry Sandusky trial coverage here on VBR. The guys at Onward State are doing a great job if you want details from the trial. I’d be in over my head trying to discuss that stuff.

Quite a few people have asked me over the last 6 months about Penn State and the NCAA. Mostly people from outside of the PSU loop. “What’s going on with the NCAA investigation?” “Do you think there will be sanctions?” “Do you think Penn State will get the ‘death penalty?'”

The what?

The “death penalty” generally refers to SMU’s penalty, which cost them an entire season of football, as well as the home games of a second season, 55 scholarships over 4 years, 4 assistant coaches, a ban on off-campus recruiting and other penalties. Why? SMU was exposed for a decade’s worth of violations including paying players to commit as well as paying them while on campus. These are as severe as you can get, as far as NCAA violations go.

Paying players and recruits directly affects the on-field performance and is essentially cheating, in its purest form.

What Jerry Sandusky has been accused of is much, much worse. Legally. He is facing over 50 charges and some 500 years of jail time. Nothing he is accused of will result in NCAA violations. At least, it shouldn’t. Nothing Sandusky did, however terrible the offenses are, affected the on-field product. No cheating or tampering of any kind is involved.

But what if he did it on Penn State property? That’s awful and disgusting. Is it an NCAA violation? If so, who is responsible for it? It’s not the football team. I repeat. It’s not the football team. The athletic director granted Sandusky entry to the facilities. Will the NCAA bring penalties on the entire athletic department because an ex-coach was allowed on campus? Doubtful. Regardless of what he was doing there.

What if the AD (Curley), Police Chief (Shultz) and the President (Spanier) knew about Sandusky’s crimes and even covered it up, as it appears may be the case? Now we might have something. I was asked last week by a hopeful Ohio State fan: “Isn’t that the definition of lack of institutional control?” Probably not, because they didn’t have THIS situation in mind when they wrote the rule, I assure you. Still, a cover-up from administrators is a big deal. Legally. I’m not sure that the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) has any real jurisdiction in the matter. It’s not a cover up of players breaking rules or skipping class or doing drugs. I’m not positive it’s athletically related.

Of course, the NCAA has proved to be difficult to predict with their rulings, but I’m not sure where they’d begin. There are sure to be charges doled out, following the Sandusky verdict. Curley and Shultz have already been charged and Spanier may face some of charges of his own. Is that something that the National Collegiate Athletic Association can/will concern themselves with?

Even if the NCAA wants to bring penalties on Penn State athletics, where do they begin? As I said, this is not a football crime, regardless of how it has been portrayed. If a penalty comes, it has to be big. It has to be everybody from women’s basketball, to wrestling to baseball and fencing. A hockey team that doesn’t yet exist would be penalized. Will the NCAA punish hundreds of athletes because of the wrong-doings of an administration? Has there ever been an NCAA punishment that didn’t involve a single athlete committing a single infraction?

I wouldn’t want to be in the shoes of the NCAA decision makers but if I were, I think I’d let the legal process play out and move on to athletics. As you know, I prefer to not get in over my head.


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