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Penn State University and its prestigious football program will still remain legendary after Mark Emmert, NCAA president announced on July 24, the sanctions levied against the university’s football program for former Defensive Coordinator, Jerry Sandusky’s heinous crimes of sexual assault on young boys. However, the Nittany Lions will not be an iconic legend remembered for great college football, played at an elite level boasting a coach who piles up the wins. No longer will people hear Penn State University’s name and instantly think of the most powerful man at the school and perhaps in the state, Joe Paterno. Their image forever tainted, their reputation threatening to be irreversible, Penn State’s legend now consists of child abusers, cover up stories, and misguided moral compasses. The conviction of Sandusky in June on more than 40 counts of child sex abuse has given a sense of justification to many, but the case has left such a devastating wound, Penn State may never heal.
The NCAA has handed Penn State one of the harshest penalties in college history. The Nittany Lions are not eligible for postseason play for four years and they lose 20 scholarships for four years amongst other penalties. According to a story on espn.go.com, the university could either agree to the sanctions being levied against them, or they risk the “death penalty” for four years, so school officials agreed. The death penalty is just that, the death of a program for an entire season.
"We had our backs to the wall on this," Penn State president Rodney Erickson told the Centre Daily Times of Pennsylvania in an interview later Monday, saying the school accepted the penalties to avoid the so-called "death penalty" that could have resulted in the suspension of the football program for at least one year. "We did what we thought was necessary to save the program" (espn.go.com)
The NCAA and all the schools that participate in college athletics know how detrimental the death penalty can be. The NCAA has only handed down one death penalty decision. In the 1970s-80s, the Southern Methodist University Mustangs went from one of the most mediocre teams in college football to one of the most miraculous. The world began to become suspicious of how SMU could land so many blue-chip recruits.
“…the NCAA investigation revealed that in 1985 and 1986, 13 players had been paid a total of $61,000 from a slush fund provided by a booster. Payments ranged from $50 to $725 per month and had started only a month after SMU had been handed its latest probation. The Times Herald later identified the booster as Dallas real-estate developer Sherwood Blount, Jr., who played for the Mustangs from 1969 to 1971 (though according to Parker, other boosters were almost certainly involved). The players had received a total of $47,000 during the 1985-86 school year. Eight of those players were paid an additional $14,000 from September to December 1986. The slush fund was due to be discontinued when the 13 players had all left the school. These payments were made with the full knowledge and approval of athletic department staff. According to the Morning News, Hitch knew about the existence of a slush fund as early as 1981 and was involved in the decision to continue the payments even after SMU was placed on probation in 1985. The Morning News also said Collins knew certain players were being paid, but did not know who they were“. (source)
Just like SMU, Penn State has been handed down sanctions by the NCAA that could very well signify the end of their football program. Recruiting has already suffered at Penn State with players leaving the program already. Tight end Kevin Haplea is transferring to Florida State, QB Rob Bolden is headed to LSU, Linebacker Khairi Fortt is transferring to California and Defensive Tackle Jamil Pollard is headed to Rutgers.
Penn State may not have been administered the “death penalty” by the NCAA, but their program will probably be crippled like it has been. SMU was dealt the “death penalty” and they’ve only had one winning season since then, so the extent of damage the penalty can levy on a program, we’ve witnessed, can be detrimental. Sandusky’s heinous crimes committed on the university’s grounds could have the same effects of a “death penalty.” A great, and once honorable man in Paterno, lead the Nittany Lions for decades. He wrote a great story to a successful Penn State football program. Unfortunately, at the end of his career, he wrote another story that was horrific and he will always be remembered for it.
- The 1987 season was canceled; only conditioning drills were permitted during the 1987 calendar year.
- All home games in 1988 were canceled. SMU was allowed to play their seven regularly scheduled away games so that other institutions would not be financially affected.
- The team's existing probation was extended until 1990. Its existing ban from bowl games and live television was extended to 1989.
- SMU lost 55 new scholarship positions over 4 years.
- SMU was required to ensure that Owen and eight other boosters previously banned from contact with the program were in fact banned, or else face further punishment.
- The team was allowed to hire only five full-time assistant coaches, instead of the typical nine.
- No off-campus recruiting was permitted until August 1988, and no paid visits could be made to campus by potential recruits until the start of the 1988-89 school year
Penn State Sanctions
- $60 million fine
- Vacating of wins from 1998-2011 (112 wins)*
- Four-year postseason ban
- Four-year scholarship reduction (10 initial; 20 total)
- Players may transfer and play immediately at other schools
- Athletic department on probation for five years
* Joe Paterno record now 298-136-3; fifth on FBS all-time list
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