Penn State Football: Mark Emmert Right to Leave Death Penalty on the Table

Adam JacobiBig Ten Football Lead WriterJuly 17, 2012

WASHINGTON - MARCH 17:  NCAA President Mark Emmert address the media during a press conference before the second round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Verizon Center on March 17, 2011 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

There's been no shortage of people wondering what the NCAA has in store for Penn State in the wake of this awful scandal that started with Jerry Sandusky and grew to include several administrators and Joe Paterno.

The correct answer at this point is, "If the NCAA doesn't know, then neither do we," but all the same, it's good to at least ask someone at the NCAA.

To that end, PBS talk show host Tavis Smiley* had NCAA president Mark Emmert on his show recently, and Emmert did not sound like a man who had any interest in protecting Penn State.

Watch an excerpt here, via

I've never seen anything as egregious as this in terms of just overall conduct and behavior inside a university and hope never to see it again. What the appropriate penalties are, if there are determinations of violations, we'll have to decide. We'll hold in abeyance all of those decisions until we've actually decided what we want to do with the actual charges should there be any. And I don't want to take anything off the table.

Emmert's right: This is unprecedented behavior by school and athletic officials—or, at the very least, we hope it is.

So the only way that precedent from the NCAA is going to play a factor is by looking at how the Penn State scandal differs from any previous scandal, SMU included. And Emmert says straight out that what makes this PSU scandal different is the systemic, egregious nature of it.

When Emmert says, "It was much more than a football scandal," one has to believe that he is leaving open the possibility of punishing much more than the football program. "Much more than the football program" in this instance starts at the athletic program, and if that sounds unprecedented, remember: Emmert already took precedent off the table.

We linked it yesterday, but it's worth reiterating: NCAA compliance blogger John Infante mapped out a blueprint for the NCAA to strip Penn State of its entire membership at the next convention, and it is eminently reasonable.

So, in reading Infante's comments and hearing Emmert talk about the unprecedented nature of the scandal and the NCAA's unwavering resolve, one has to believe Penn State is in major, major trouble.

Would a massive penalty involving football program suspension be ideal for the Big Ten? No, absolutely not. It would be a logistical nightmare; you can't just fill a mid-October date right before the season.

But you know what? Taking a punishment in a case like this off the table because it's not fair to other Big Ten teams' schedules is about as morally sound as Joe Paterno waiting a few days to inform Graham Spanier and the others about Mike McQueary's report because he didn't want to ruin their weekend.

Emmert's got it right: Leave everything on the table, take your time in evaluating the case, and do what's right. Period.

*We like Tavis Smiley, by the way. That's a guy without a single sacred cow.