Meeting of the Minds: Did the punishment “fit” the crime at Penn State?


By now, we all know the news on Penn State: The school has been hit with the most egregious punishment in NCAA history. Mark Emmert spoke, and what we now know is that the school is going to get hit with a $60 million fine, the school has been banned from postseason play for four years, had scholarships reduced by 10 a year for four years and every player on their roster is eligible to transfer immediately.

In a word: Wow. As some speculated, this isn’t the “Death Penalty” per se, but it might actually be worse.

Regardless, in the end, there are so many layers to this subject that we can go with: Should the NCAA have gotten involved in the first place? Was it appropriate to sanction in the first place without an NCAA report? Those are all conversations that are all kind of moot at this point. The fact is, the NCAA did sanction, and they quite literally threw the book at Penn State.

For weeks, we spoke here at Crystal Ball Run both publicly and privately about what the NCAA would do with Penn State, and it seemed like all agreed that if the NCAA were going to get involved, they had to leave no doubt about they stood on the issue. Bowl bans weren’t enough. Neither were scholarship reductions. That’s what you do to a school that broke NCAA rules. What happened at Penn State was one of the most systematic CRIMINAL cover-ups in American history. This wasn’t about free tattoos or agents paying players; this was quite literally about lives being ruined.

So with that, let’s save the argument about whether the NCAA should’ve gotten involved or not for another day and instead focus on what they did do.

Did the NCAA’s punishment of Penn State “fit” the crime?


Of course it doesn’t fit the crime.  Only 400 years of prison can fit the crime, but we already know that.  In short, this is going to destroy Penn State football for the foreseeable future.  There is no light at the end of the tunnel for incoming freshman, and I fully expect the fine work Bill O’Brien did on the recruiting front to go up in a cloud of smoke.

And, as you mentioned, the unilateral power the NCAA gave Mark Emmert to make this decision is another argument for another Meeting of the Minds.  I’m just disappointed they didn’t vacate Penn State’s 6-4 loss to Iowa in 2004.  I sat through that game and can personally attest to it being punishment worse than death.
I think you’re right, and I think we’re all in agreement that no punishment could ever conceivably fit the actual crimes that were committed at Penn State.

So with that, let me rephrase the question: At the end of the day, I do believe the NCAA had to do something. Not because it was their jurisdiction (it isn’t), but because of public backlash. No, you never want the mob to rule, but at the same time this became a story that was so much bigger than football, so much bigger than Penn State, so much bigger than anything we’ve ever covered (or the NCAA has ever handled) that it seemed like just sitting around and letting the football program continue on as usual couldn’t happen.

So to rephrase the question, under the assumption that the NCAA had to do something (if only to squash the public outcry), is this enough? Could more have been done?

Also, would it have been more appropriate to just shut the program down completely?

These are the harshest penalties ever issued by the NCAA.  Far worse than what happened in 1987 to SMU when the program was shut down for two seasons.  Within the context of NCAA infractions, it probably fits.  There’s no doubt that this is the worst situation the NCAA has ever faced.

Really it is hard to make a case for what, really, would be “fitting” for the crime committed. How does one measure, on one hand, the crimes perpetrated by Jerry Sandusky and, on the other, the cover-up that ensued by the once-proud Penn State University? To me, it seems like a case could be made that “not enough was done” no matter what punishment was levied. So did it fit the crime? Let’s make sure we are defining “the crime”: that is, it began with Jerry Sandusky as a football coach, and then followed at how Penn State tolerated his actions to carry on for the next decade. That is as disgusting a “crime” as there could be.

It may not be the “death” penalty but this could be aptly called, the “coma” penalty. Not only do the sanctions from the NCAA put the football program in a comatose state but I am not sure this thing is not over with from a University-wide standpoint. Its public image is marred, yes, however, still left to be spoken to is the gross mismanagement of the Penn State Board of Trustees as well as its deception. Up next is the Big Ten; then I believe the DOE/DOJ will have a say and could reach as far as to whether or not Penn State should even still be accredited. This, as we all know, is well beyond football. When you read the Clery Act, it is hard to imagine more not being done.

By the time it is done, maybe, just maybe, the punishment will “fit” the “crime”.

I think they did as much as they could do without destroying the program completely. They sent a clear message to the other universities and I bet a lot of institutions are looking in the mirror right now.

People want to talk about it not being fair to the student-athletes but if they don’t want to be there then leave, they have a free pass this season. They can go and continue to play football without penalty.

That’s the part that will really hurt the PSU program from a football stance. Besides reducing down to 65 scholarships in the next two seasons, it’s the fact that players can uproot right now & that leaves Bill O’Brien in a really hard situation.

I feel for the people there now, but there had to be something done. Penn State put themselves in this position with the actions of not only athletic but university wide leadership for 14 years, I don’t feel one ounce of sympathy for what they are going through.

The thing that I keep coming back to with all of this is that while Penn State football certainly didn’t create this situation, the program did play a role in perpetuating Jerry Sandusky’s crimes. Like a number of other universities around the country, football was such a central part of Penn State’s identity that the school’s leadership looked the other way to protect the program while Jerry Sandusky was raping young boys.

In that respect, I don’t think Penn St. football “deserves” some penalty to atone for its sins. The idea that a penalty to the football program right some wrongs is absurd.

But I don’t have a problem with decimating Penn St. football in the spirit of denouncing a culture that in some way enabled a monster like Sandusky to sexually abuse young children.

I definitely don’t like how “justice” is being meted out in this case. The NCAA shouldn’t be the one playing executioner, and I view the penalties leveled against PSU as blatant grandstanding. I can’t say the outcome is unjust, though. I’d definitely prefer different means, but the ends seem justified to me.

Simply put, the idea that a football specific punishment is anything beyond grandstanding to satisfy the frothing masses is just people lying to themselves to feel better. This idea that it will change their football first culture is a joke. What’s changing the culture is the exposing of horrors. What’s changing the culture is the clean sweep of the positions of power. What’s changing the culture is the protocol and processes being enacted and monitored by the Department of Education.

But this? This punishment as a culture changing apparatus? The entire punishment is football first, the very culture that people are trying to change. Everyone clamoring for the punishment to crush the football team is busy looking at just the football team. Not the university infrastructure. Not the Department of Education that is in charge of policing this. Not the federal and state governments are that prosecuting the crimes and housing the criminals upon conviction.

No, because people don’t give a shit about anything but the football program. They need that pound of flesh from the football team to make them feel whole. They need Penn State to disappear into oblivion because they don’t have the time or the energy to actually look up the real laws and real issues in this case. If people trust the NCAA to fix anything, they have not been paying attention to the terrible job that the NCAA has been doing with their own, legitimate, on the books rules. Now these same clowns are cheering because, after over a decade of covering up child rape, Penn State can’t go to a bowl game and bet at SBG Global, and also has less scholarships.

 I get the outrage on both sides, but you didn’t even answer the question that was asked…

Which was: So to rephrase the question, under the assumption that the NCAA had to do something (if only to squash the public outcry), is this enough? Could more have been done?

Then I propose to you this question… What if the NCAA had done nothing, just let it all go? Just curious as to what they were supposed to do, just let a member institution to get away with allowing their administrators to get away with covering something like this up?

Sure the individuals will get their day in a court of law and that’s the important thing, but there is an athletic department side of things.

It’s like going to the SEC (Securities & Exchange Commission not the SEC) and saying well we got rid of all the corrupt people so we shouldn’t have to pay for what they did… Bullshit, they’re gonna make you pay because you as an ORGANIZATION failed to do anything about it when it was happening. It was only after you got caught that things went against you.

Had Sandusky not been caught chances are the people that allowed this to be covered up would still be there, no?

Ironically, I’ve got a different take than everyone. I lean mostly with Andrew, but see the points of both Allen and Michael.

Again, under the presumption that something needed to be done, I think the NCAA did about as well as they could. They took away future scholarships (which admittedly I’m not a big fan of), but didn’t take away the opportunities for anyone at Penn State to either finish their careers there (with or without football) or play at a school of their choice, without punishment. Unlike what happened at SMU in 1987, the games will go on, and the innocent players and supporters of the program won’t be punished absolutely. But the context of the games and the meaning behind them will be entirely different.

And as I wrote a little bit at my own site today, what this was really about was helping victims. Boo hoo, Penn State won’t play in the Alamo Bowl next year. Poor school, fans and team. Whatever, life goes on. But the idea that $73 million (including the money taken from the Big Ten bowl affiliation) is now earmarked for the prevention and education of sexual abuse is a major step in the right direction. It doesn’t solve problems, but does hopefully help push this situation into the right direction.

For once, I have no complaints about what the NCAA did.

We’ve said all along that football was secondary and that trying to help the victims any way we could was all that matters.

Today the NCAA proved exactly that.

If Sandusky had not been caught then there would be no NCAA penalty to boast and brag about how great the NCAA did in policing them. So not sure I see the point you’re trying to make there.

As for the SEC analogy; they don’t go out to catch or sanction pedophiles or rapists or drug addicts or people using the services of prostitutes. They pop people for breaking their rules. Same as the NCAA, up until now.

So to answer the “what if the NCAA had done nothing” question; that’s what they were supposed to do. They are not involved in the cover-ups of sexual assault that took place at Iowa. They did not insert themselves into the Notre Dame rape-suicide ordeal. They did not insert themselves into Florida players being arrested or suspended and then the administration lying about injuries so no one knew they were in trouble during game time missed.

This is not their lane. Just because the evils committed were atrocious it does not change what their scope of power is and should be. The NCAA is not the police. They’re an HOA. They have a group of arbitrary, trivial rules that govern competition and eligibility. That’s what they do. They have never dealt in real world matters and now, to quell the public outcry, they’ve made that move into legislating legality and morality.

I think you’re absolutely right about a lot of this, but I guess my question would be: If the Penn State community’s veneration of football enabled this, should we really entrust the university to “do football” responsibly right now?

You can throw Sandusky’s enablers in jail, which is clearly still on the table, but to me, that’s as much a surface solution as focusing strictly on the football program. The school’s administrators failed miserably when Paterno balked at reporting Sandusky, but the reality is that Paterno wouldn’t have had the power that he did if PSU didn’t love football the way it does.

I feel like if something doesn’t happen to the football program, it somehow endorses the idea that this was just a failure of character on the part of Penn State’s leadership. That’s obviously a huge part of this, but some kind of statement has to be made regarding the systemic issues at play for not only PSU, but big-time college sports.

The shitty part of this in my mind is that Penn St.’s new leadership hasn’t done more voluntarily in that regard. And what about the Pennsylvania government? The NCAA shouldn’t be the one doing this.

This “unprecedented punishment” that the NCAA handed down is a load of hooey. It is nothing more than an opiate designed to sate the bloodlusty hunger of the masses who have to see somebody tangibly punished.

I spent a few hours last night going through the current NCAA manual. There is not a thing in those 437 or so pages that covers a situation like this.

I’ve said it before and I will continue to say it: this was a crime that involved people who worked in Penn State’s intercollegiate athletic department and with the football program. In and of itself, it was NOT a violation of NCAA rules.

Dr. Emmert and the folks in Indianapolis, by creating these enumerated powers that were off the books, are going to be exposing thrmselves to a helluva dilemma in the future.

Given, for example, the stuff that went on at the University of Miami, why doesn’t Dr. Emmert just approach Dr. Shalala and start negotiating the punishment for that program?

They have overreached. Big time. What should they have done? Not a damn thing.

Asking the state government to get involved is just asking for even more “grandstanding” than what we’ve already seen, we’ve seen politicians use situations like this to already grandstand. Just look at the backlash from politicians in Missouri over what Gary Pinkel had to say about Joe Paterno. Having said that, I like the idea of the Athletic Integrity thing they are putting in place.

The culture at Penn State is what allowed the whole thing to be covered up in the first place, so ensuring that they do change how things are done at the university level is the most important part of all of this.