The NCAA has acted on meting out punishments to Penn State, and the Turkey is here with his comments, criticisms, witticisms, and the usual baloney, malarkey, and bamboozlingly prosaic je ne sais quoi.
First, I want to stress that these are my personal opinions, and as such, they do not reflect the views of the Penn State Alumni Association or the Central Florida Chapter (ok, Katie?). Furthermore, if you are a local news reporter, I do not give interviews, on-camera or otherwise.
I’ll address primarily the punishments, because the corrective measures are mostly reasonable, expected, and straightforward. Fortunately, two of the possible punishment modalities were not applied by the NCAA.
Here’s what the NCAA did not do:
- Impose the so-called “death penalty”. The football program will continue to operate, albeit crippled by other NCAA sanctions. I suppose that the reasoning was that this would affect “innocents” beyond the immediate target, which was Penn State leadership and the football program itself.
- Impose a television broadcasting ban on Penn State games. This would have hit Penn State’s opponents, as well, by denying them the TV revenue for each game they play with Penn State. Again, this could be construed as unintended collateral damage.
- $60 million fine
- Four year postseason ban
- Four year reduction of grants-in-aid
- Five years of probation
- Vacation of wins since 1998
- Waiver of transfer rules and grants-in-aid retention
- Provision for individual penalties
But how will Penn State respond to the sanctions and corrective measures?
They rolled over and played dead. President Rod Erickson, Athletic Director Dave Joyner, and Head Football Coach Bill O’Brien all signed a consent decree agreeing to the penalties. I suppose that fighting it would have been futile, even though there were lots of legal technicalities that might not have survived a challenge. The NCAA bent its own rules to impose these punishments based on the unprecedented nature of the egregious offenses committed by the institution. There will be no appeal. Rod has tacitly admitted guilt on behalf of the institution, accepted his punishment, and agreed to make amends.
Isn’t the punishment just as bad as the “death penalty”?
No. It’s worse. Penn State will lose a year’s football revenue, but the four year postseason ban, the four year reduction in grants-in-aid, and the waiver of transfer rules and grants-in-aid retention will negatively impact the program for perhaps a decade. Without the potential for postseason play, potential top recruits will go elsewhere. To make matters worse, established players will be able to transfer out of the program as they see fit with impunity, while retaining their scholarships. It would not be going too far to expect Penn State to be looted of all its prime talent. Some might stay because their values transcend playing for whomever gives them the best possibility of a bowl game and visibility to the NFL, but there are damned few of those types of characters (i.e., real student-athletes) in college football today.
Give us your long-winded, bombastic Turkey take on each of the sanctions. And try to keep it to a paragraph each, Birdbrain!
OK. I will.
- $60 million fine. The NCAA docked the Nittany Lions a year’s pay. In other words, they assessed a penalty of a year’s football revenues. The fine is to be paid over a five-year period. Ahhhh, you say that the football program is supporting a bunch of other non-revenue or low-revenue sports, so just do some chopping. Nope. The NCAA thought of that, and it’s prohibited. The endowment created by these big bucks will benefit programs preventing child sexual abuse and assisting victims of child sexual abuse, except that it may not be used to fund programs run by the University. Another possible loophole closed by the smarties at the NCAA.
- Four-year postseason ban. Starting with the upcoming season and ending in the 2015 season, Penn State won’t be able to participate in bowl games, conference championships, or playoffs. Four years means no postseason hopes for current recruits and the next couple year’s recruits. Who will want to play with no incentives? It will be like playing for the fun of playing. Does anyone do that anymore? I guess they still have fun at Indiana, right?
- Four-year reduction of grants-in-aid. Penn State is hit horribly hard with this one. We’re not talking about playing for fun or glory here, we’re talking about money. The total number of scholarship so-called student athletes will drop from 85 to 65 for four years starting with the 2014-2015 season and extending to the end of 2017-2018. Instead of initiating a maximum of 25 new scholarships per year, Penn State will be allowed only 15 for the four academic years beginning 2013-2014 and running through 2016-2017. Now, not only will premier recruits not want to commit to Penn State because of the bowl ban, but they won’t be able to commit to Penn State because they ain’t no damn money for them. Welcome to Division III football for the next 7-10 seasons.
- Five years of probation. If Penn State should screw up during this period, they are threatened with “additional, more severe sanctions.” Oy, vey! This program better be damn well squeaky clean for five years. Pussified, almost. An Independent Integrity Monitor (IIM) is to be appointed to make sure of that. Don’t even think of bribing or extorting the IIM to look the other way for even the most minor of rules infractions. This is your prison cell, Penn State. Stay in it and don’t even think of attempting any funny business, or else!
- Vacation of wins since 1998. Vacation? A “win holiday”? I can’t find the appropriate definition of vacation in Webster’s, so it must be legalese. I tried looking in legal dictionaries, too, so let’s consider this a quasi-legal colloquialism meaning, “Screw you, Joe! (May he rest in peace.)” Every football team win from 1998 through 2011 will be considered a loss. This isn’t just mind play. It will be so written in the NCAA record books, the permanent record that follows each team for the rest of its days. It means that Joe Paterno no longer holds the record for the most wins in Division I, as his 409 wins now becomes 298. It also means that Tom Bradley’s only win as head coach is now a loss. This is good news for Eddie Robinson and Bobby Bowden’s supporters, although Bobby still won’t get a win for the 2005 Orange Bowl. This sanction hits directly at Paterno and his record. Removing his statue obviously wasn’t enough for the NCAA. As I thought, it was a token gesture that would be seen for what it was. The “vacation” of wins expunges a major hunk of Paterno’s legendary career, although the penalty encompasses the waning years when the team was mediocre and Paterno couldn’t win big games. (I would have hated to see the two national championships and several undefeated teams go into the dumpster.)
- Waiver of transfer rules and grant-in-aid retention. This is the death blow if ever there was one. There is now nothing to keep players from transferring to wherever they please, like rats off a sinking ship. I predict many defections. Previously, Penn State players who transferred to another FBS school would have to sit out a year, but now they don’t. Furthermore, he gets to keep his football scholarship, even if he doesn’t play football. So, they’re practically encouraging players to bail. Geronimoooooooooooo!
- Individual penalties to be determined. This one is interesting and beneficial, but vague. The NCAA reserves the right to conduct investigations of individuals after the conclusion of any criminal proceedings related to those individuals. Specifically, this would seem to apply to Curley and Schultz, as they’re the only individuals presently awaiting criminal trials. But what could the NCAA do to an individual? I don’t think they can tell the University to revoke their pensions — that seems to be something Jim Delany and the Big Ten think they might be able to do with a minor rule change here and a tweak there. And what about investigating Spanier, who seems to get off the easiest? There are no criminal charges against him at present. Does this mean that he is exempt from additional investigations by the NCAA? One thing is for sure, they won’t be further investigating Paterno, but they hit him as hard as they could without disinterring him (see #5).
I think the word draconian fits nicely in this context. Penn State takes a huge hit in its ability to compete on the football field. That was the obvious intent of the sanctions. The NCAA is at least playing a cover-its-own-ass charade about the vaunted “student-athlete.” They want to broadcast the message that the academy comes first in each member univesity, while football takes a backseat. Penn State, with its highly visible and egregious offenses serves as the whipping boy whose punishment sends a strong message to other programs with lesser offenses lurking just behind their fine veneer, shielded by a layer of ivory tower Omerta. The NCAA damn well knows they’re out there, but the organization cannot go looking for sins at every one of its member schools. The hope is that by sending this clear message, the others stop their questionable practices.
But this Turkey is, as you know, a cynic. I believe that the culture of independence and secrecy is deeply ingrained in most, if not all, universities, and one only has to follow the money to find the skeletons in their closets. Regardless of the strong warning provided by Penn State’s punishment, other institutions and their “entitled” leaders will continue to test the waters. Did SMU’s football “death penalty” at the behest of the NCAA deter Auburn, FSU, Miami, PSU, OSU, USC, etc.? Think about it. Follow the money!
So the Nittany Lions take it on the chin. How will this affect your Saturday afternoons in the fall? Will you still watch Penn State games, even if the team appears to be playing at high school level? Can Bill O’Brien work wonders with the dearth of talent? In fact, will Bill O’Brien even stay at Penn State? If he leaves, who will want to coach the Nittany Lions? Don Jonas?
What are the corrective measures?
Pretty much what you would expect. Clean up your backyard, Penn State, the homeowners’ association is watching closely.
The actions are:
- Adoption of all recommendations presented in Chapter 10 of the Freeh Report.
- Implementation of Athletics Integrity Agreement. This obligates Penn State to comply with Chapter 10, as mentioned above, plus perform the following specific additional actions within 10 days:
- Create a position for and select a Compliance Officer for Athletics.
- Create a Compliance Council consisting of faculty, administrators, and the Compliance Officer, for oversight.
- Create a reporting mechanism and hotline for whistle blowers.
- Designate a coach to certify annually that the program meets all the requirements of the Compliance Council.
- Ensure that the athletics director annually certifies full compliance to the Compliance Council, the board of trustees, and the NCAA.
- Create or update any code of conduct for the athletics department to codify the values of honesty, integrity, and civility.
- Implement a training course for all student-athletes and university employees associated with the athletics department that addresses issues of ethics, integrity, civility, standards of conduct, and reporting of violations. Each individual must certify in writing that he or she has obtained such training.
Any perceived breech of the Athletic Integrity Agreement shall be met with the full force of the NCAA’s artillery, including extending existing sanctions.
- Appointment of an independent Athletics Integrity Monitor (AIM) for a five-year period. This will be a university funded position but it will report to the board of trustees, the Big Ten Conference, and the NCAA. The AIM will prepare a quarterly report of the execution and maintenance of the AIA and will make recommendations of steps deemed necessary to ensure compliance with its terms.
- He or she will be selected by the NCAA.
- He or she will have access to all university facilities, personnel, and non-privileged records, as appropriate.
- He or she will have the authority to employ personnel required to assist in the proper discharge of his or her duties.
It would seem as if the NCAA has covered all bases with respect to shackling Penn State to the rule book and the code of ethics. This, in my opinion is appropriate, but I have to wonder how it will work in practice. Will we see a reduction in the number of off-campus arrests? Boys will be boys, but if they don’t have Papa Joe to protect them, they might think twice about doing something that will automatically get them kicked off the team.
I realize that my tone here should be somber and perhaps, sad, but I actually welcome many of the remedies. The sanctions, well, that’s another story. But in all fairness, I do believe that all universities should be made to comply with at least the rudiments of the corrective measures prescribed above.
I would dearly love to see Penn State actually live up to the “success with honor” dictum for a change, and I would dearly love to see the elimination of watered down academic majors such as kinesiology, sociology, parks and recreation management, black studies, liberal arts, underwater basket weaving (available only at University of Miami and USC), etc., that are there because of stupid athletes who couldn’t keep their grades up if they were in non-fluff majors. Alas, if the NCAA is willing only to set examples using programs that transgress in a highly visible manner and is not willing to reform the whole damn lot of member schools, then we’ll be stuck with the “student-athlete” scam forever and always.
Those who get away with crossing the line will always win the most football games while preparing the majority of their athletes for nothing at all beyond football. The NFL has only 1,440 positions. What happens to the rest of those ill prepared students? Well, there’s the CFL and the AFL, but I’m just sayin’.
I’m rambling about one of my pet peeves — the myth of the student-athlete — so I’ll sign off now. Well, sort of. I have one more thing to say. Paterno family: please, stop the statements in response to any significant finding or action involving the late, lamented Joseph V. Paterno. They’re not swaying anyone from their opinion of the whole thing; people either exonerate or implicate Joe in their own minds and won’t move off their position unless they hear it from Joe himself — and he ain’t talking. Many more of these statements will cause the Paterno family to be likened to O.J. Simpson and his pledge to find “the real killer.”
What’s done is done now. And now, I’m done.