NCAA sanctions stun PSU
By Debra Erdley
Published: Monday, July 23, 2012, 9:18 a.m.
The NCAA issued a devastating blow to Penn State and its once-revered football program on Monday, fining the university $60 million, banning the team from bowl games for four years, eliminating 40 football scholarships over four years and erasing all of the late head coach Joe Paterno's record-setting wins since 1998.
NCAA President Mark Emmert called former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky's child sex-abuse scandal, which prompted the sanctions, “an unprecedented, painful chapter in the history of intercollegiate athletics.”
The agency that polices collegiate sports imposed the penalties based on an investigative report accusing Paterno and university leaders of failing to act on allegations against Sandusky, 68, whom a jury convicted of sexually abusing 10 boys over 15 years.
“For the next several years now, Penn State can focus on the work of rebuilding its athletic culture, not the next bowl game,” Emmert said.
The NCAA placed Penn State on probation for five years and will appoint an ethics integrity monitor to report to the association as well as to Penn State and the university's trustees.
The university will not contest the sanctions.
“With today's announcement and the action it requires of us, the university takes a significant step forward,” said President Rodney Erickson, who replaced Graham Spanier when trustees removed him and Paterno from their posts in November.
Emmert praised Erickson and Board of Trustees chair Karen Peetz for working to reform a “football-first culture” run amok.
Some students and alumni rejected the NCAA's findings and actions as unfair.
“I don't think the players and the people who support (football) and bring in the money had anything to do with it,” said incoming freshman Kendra Benner of nearby Bellefonte.
Spokesmen for the Penn State Football Lettermen's Club assailed Emmert's comments about the university's lack of balance between athletics and academics.
“We will not allow Dr. Emmert's careless remarks to tarnish the legacy of Penn State Football. The academic standards and the well-documented historic graduation rates at Penn State far exceed the standards set forth by his organization,” the group said in a statement.
Members of the football team were quiet as they filed out of the Lasch Football Building after a team meeting.
“I don't know what (NCAA's) intentions were, but if it was to decimate a program and put a school into very tight budget constraints, they succeeded,” said Ryan Bagwell, a 2002 graduate who works as a web developer in Wisconsin.
Penn State's fine, to be paid in $12 million increments over five years, will go into endowments to support programs to battle child sexual abuse, NCAA officials said.
“This total of $60 million can never reduce the pain suffered by victims, but will help provide them hope and healing,” Erickson said.
The association said the university, which funds 29 varsity sports from football profits of about $60 million a year, must not penalize other sports to pay its fines. University officials would not discuss how they intend to pay the fines.
Emmert said the NCAA will permit Penn State athletes to transfer and compete for other schools this year or keep scholarships if they don't play.
Head football coach Bill O'Brien said he is committed to rebuilding.
“I knew when I accepted the position that there would be tough times ahead,” said O'Brien, who replaced Paterno.
The sanctions came a day after Penn State removed a statue of Paterno from outside Beaver Stadium. The iconic coach, who died in January, also lost his status as the winningest in Division I football when the NCAA erased 14 years of football wins.
Paterno's family and the alumni group Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship blasted the NCAA for relying on the investigative report by Freeh Group International Solutions, which the university hired to review how it handled Sandusky.
“Punishing past, present and future students of the university because of Sandusky's crimes does not serve justice,” the Paterno family's statement read.
The NCAA typically conducts independent investigations before ruling.
The investigation, led by former FBI Director Louis Freeh, concluded that Paterno, Spanier, former athletic director Tim Curley and retired vice president Gary Schultz concealed allegations against Sandusky for years and failed to take actions that might have halted him from preying on young boys.
The Freeh report also prompted the Big Ten Conference Council of Presidents and Chancellors to begin work on a new standards manual for schools in the conference.
“We recognize that what occurred at Penn State University is a consequence of the concentration of power that can result from a successful athletic program and the failure of institutional leadership to maintain institutional control,” said conference council spokesman Scott Chipman.
The Big Ten will devote Penn State's share of bowl proceeds over the next four years — estimated at $13 million — to endowments to address the issue in and around Big Ten schools.
“It's a very appropriate way to use the fines. It acknowledges the breadth of harm that child sexual abuse does,” said Kristen Houser, vice president of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape.
Gov. Tom Corbett, who started the Sandusky investigation in 2009 when he was attorney general, wants assurance that Penn State will not tap tax dollars.
“We have taken a monster off the streets, and while we will never be able to repair the injury done to these children, we must repair the damage to this university,” Corbett said, adding that accepting the NCAA penalties is part of the process of healing what he called “a world-class university.”
Section 10 of the Freeh report found that the school's athletic department was regarded as “an island” where employees lived by their own rules.
The NCAA ordered Penn State to follow the report's recommendations, which include revising the structure of the athletic department; conducting national searches for coaches; evaluating security protocols to protect people using facilities; ensuring that new athletic department employees comply with university-wide training mandates; and providing ongoing training in ethics, leadership and reporting requirements.
“It's going to be very interesting to see Penn State's commitment to these victims now that they have again publicly acknowledged reprehensible facts in the consequences of the NCAA sanctions,” said Joel Feller, a member of the legal team that is representing three of the victims who testified at Sandusky's trial last month.
“Penn State has for the second time accepted as fact that their behavior was outrageous and shocking,” said Feller's co-counsel Matt Casey.
Staff writer Scott Brown contributed to this report. Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7996 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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