Within hours on Monday morning, NCAA president Mark Emmert dropped the hammer on Penn State while decrying the “football culture” while his organizations formally approved a bowl game to be sponsored by Buffalo Wild Wings.
The hypocrisy would be funny if it weren’t so sad.
Instead, the NCAA decided on dropping a veritable atomic bomb on Penn State. The 4-year bowl ban and the dramatic reduction in scholarships means that Penn State, according to many, will not be competitive again until 2020.
Who does that punish?
In the Freeh Report, there were four Penn State officials that were called out specifically for their actions. Two of those men face criminal charges. A third, former president Graham Spanier, has already lost his job and may also face criminal charges. The fourth, Joe Paterno, is dead. They have been or will be punished. While vacating wins may remove Paterno’s name atop the record books, it will not affect his legacy – his legacy has already been destroyed by his lack of action.
The current players, contrary to some circulating opinions, escape relatively unharmed. They are free to leave and will keep their scholarships, even if at another school. The coaches are dealt a terrible hand but head coach Bill O’Brien will still make $900,000 for the 2012 football season. The fine, at $60 million, sounds like a tremendous amount but to a university with an endowment of nearly $2 billion and a group of deep-pocketed donors, it is no more than a drop in the bucket.
So who is punished by Penn State not fielding a competitive team for the next decade?
The fans. The alumni. The students.
How is this fair? The fans of Penn State do not deserve this. The fans of Penn State – a vast majority of them – would never have allowed Jerry Sandusky to prey on children for 13 years after the first allegations came to light. Sure, Penn State fans are defending Paterno but, put yourself in their shoes. If your dead grandfather was accused of horrible inaction, you’d likely defend him too. It’s human nature.
None of this explains away why these fans must suffer for the actions of a select few who put themselves above the law.
The punishment handed down to Penn State may have been better received if it were not pursued and doled out in such a sanctimonious manner. The problem at Penn State, clearly, was that Joe Paterno was given absolute power of the university’s actions. The NCAA’s solution? Give NCAA president Mark Emmert absolute power over the punishment.
The new Penn State administration – those who were not involved with the coverup – were literally cornered and forced by the NCAA to sign a consent decree, waving its right to challenge the punishment. Why? Because the NCAA gave Penn State an ultimatium – agree to this or else.
As Emmert grandstanded in front of cameras Monday morning, it was almost nauseating to hear him preach about the value of college athletics and education. The NCAA’s main source of revenue – as in about 95% of it – comes from a nationally televised basketball tournament that forces amateur players to spend up to a month out of the classroom while receiving no financial reward.
In the past two years, we have seen colleges across the country rip up hundreds of years of tradition to switch conferences in the search of the almighty dollar. College football is about to embark on a 4-team playoff that is estimated to bring in $600 million per year – where was Emmert on that one? Or is the “football culture” okay to embrace when it pays your salary?
The decision handed down to Penn State on Monday was not about righting a wrong, because that’s what the courts are doing. It was about vengeance. It was about public relations. It was about the NCAA making a political maneuver to make itself the story.
While decrying the “football culture,” Mark Emmert made a child abuse scandal relate only about football. The feeding frenzy has begun, with some Penn State players already receiving up to 35 offers from other schools. This is the NCAA’s way of punishing football, by exposing its seedy underbelly even further?
The NCAA needed to do this because its time as a relevant organization is over. Or, at least it should be over. College football and college basketball have grown too large with too much money at stake. People do crazy things when hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake.
The NCAA could’ve used this as an opportunity to properly rebuild Penn State football. Give the university a year off from football, let the administration get its house in order and return in 2013 with a new vision of what college football could look like.
Instead, the NCAA decided to make Penn State football terrible for the next decade. How does that solve anything?
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