NCAA Tried and Failed to Damage Penn State Football

Penn State football is back and looks to be heading up. 

The program seemed doomed. Some said that Penn State football would take at least 10 years to recover. NCAA president Mark Emmert levied damaging sanctions on the program during the summer of 2012, sanctions that no other school had seen since SMU in the eighties. The Penn State sanctions were in response to the Jerry Sandusky scandal that had come to light in 2011.

Now, four years later, the program is flourishing. Top recruits continue to come to Happy Valley, and the current Nittany Lions are getting set to face USC in the Rose Bowl.

After the sanctions were announced, Emmert gave his reasoning to Bob Ley of ESPN. 

“What we’re trying to do with these sanctions isn’t just penalize and punish the school,” Emmert said, “but help them reshape that culture so that they never say the culture of hero worship or the culture of sport is ever going to overwhelm our values again.”

Let’s get one thing straight — the crimes that Sandusky committed against children were awful. Thankfully, he’s currently sitting in a prison cell for what he did.

However, to punish a bunch of student athletes in 2012 who had nothing to do with anything was not a choice Emmert and the NCAA had the power to make. None of the crimes committed at Penn State by Sandusky led to a competitive advantage on the field, something that the NCAA is supposed to police. The authorities obviously should have been involved, but Emmert had no business doing anything.

Emmett stated that he wanted to fix Penn State’s football culture and rid it of a hero culture. Yet, even after making that statement, he’s has basically delivered wrist slaps to schools like North Carolina, Louisville, and Baylor.

Academic fraud and countless recruiting violations have basically been overlooked by the NCAA in recent years. Not to mention a major abuse scandal directly involving the Baylor football team.

In the case of Louisville, head coach Rick Pitino, who most in that area would likely refer to as a hero in college basketball, had a major sex scandal going on under his watch. An assistant coach was providing prostitutes to recruits as an attempt to lure them to play for the Cardinals.

To date, there have been no damaging sanctions for any of those programs.

As tough as the sanctions were for Penn State, the Nittany Lions did not have a season under .500 while the sanctions were in place. In fact, during the 2012 season, Bill O’Brien led his “bunch of fighters” to an eight-win season.

James Franklin took over the program in 2014 and put up seven-win seasons for two years before this season’s 11 wins.

Emmett spoke Wednesday at the Learfield Intercollegiate Athletics Forum. ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg shared comments that Emmert made about the current state of the Nittany Lion program.  The president called Penn State’s success “spectacular.”

As if that wasn’t enough, Emmert actually tried to make the case that the sanctions directly led to the current success. “”It was very, very helpful in allowing the team to get back on track, and that’s great,” Emmert remarked.

Put it anyway you want. Penn State made it through the sanctions thanks to the players and the coaches who helped to quickly build the program back up. Also, countless fans connived to show support for the student athletes who were being punished for nothing that they did.

The NCAA thought it was putting an end to Penn State football in 2012. However, 2016 has brought a completely different story. The Nittany Lions are ranked as the No. 5 team in the country and don’t seem to be going away anytime soon.

Make no doubt about it — with the current success and the recruits coming in over the next few year, the future is very bright in Happy Valley.