Today the NCAA laid down its sanctions against Penn State for its employee’s alleged involvement in the cover-up of multiple cases of sexual abuse perpetrated by convicted child molester Jerry Sandusky (from NCAA.com).
NCAA President Mark Emmert announced sanctions that included a $60 million fine which will be used to support sexual abuse victims and prevention programs, a four year postseason ban, lost scholarships, and the forfeit of all wins from 1998 to 2011.
Other sanctions include a five year period where an “Athletics Integrity Monitor” will oversee the change in culture at Penn State, and an integrity contract that will have to followed going forward.
According to Emmert these sanctions are intended to be both punitive and preventative for Penn State, but it’s hard not to wonder how the actual effects of these sanctions will support that statement.
The $60 million is equal to one year of Penn State Football’s gross revenue and is a clear public relations move on behalf of the NCAA as an apology for the events that took place.
The four year postseason ban and the lost scholarships are intended as a message to Penn State and schools around the nation that football can in fact be taken away from them. Although, its largest impact is arguably that it inflicts punishment on a group of people who had absolutely nothing to do with the crimes that were committed.
And finally, by vacating more than 100 wins that took place between 1998 and 2011 under head coach Joe Paterno, they are sending a warning to other coaches and teams across the NCAA, and again a message to the public that they will not tolerate sexual misconduct within their association.
In my opinion, the stripping of wins under Paterno serves more as a public relations move than an actual preventative action across the NCAA. After all, the person committing the crime usually doesn’t think they’ll ever get caught.
In addition, I believe the NCAA is focused so squarely on the belief that the power of the football program is what aided the cover-up that they fail to make any acknowledgment that the demands of the running such a program might hinder a coach’s or athletic director’s ability to realize or accept that a problem like the one that occurred at Penn State is really as big as it could be, or that it even exists at all.
In reality the most frightening realization from this tragedy is that if it can happen at Penn State, if it can happen under Joe Paterno a beloved and prestigious coach who was the model of integrity and all that was right in college football for 45 years, it could happen anywhere.
In light of that thought one again has to wonder if the sanctions put in place will truly have enough of a preventative effect going forward to effectively prevent other tragedies like this from happening in the future.
Mark Emmert and the NCAA didn’t miss the boat completely though. The placement of an “Athletics Integrity Monitor” as it was referred to by Emmert, into the Penn State athletics department has the potential to be a strong deterrent and safety regulator inside the program as long as it’s handled correctly.
The issue I have with this is that the position, which I’ve nearly scratched a hole through my head wondering why it wasn’t already a permanent part of campus safety across the NCAA, will be mandatory only at Penn State itself, and only for the next five years.
Why? And why not make this a permanent mandatory position regulated and selected by the NCAA, and funded by the individual schools as a condition of athletic participation? In other words, why not actually improve the safety of youth connected to the entire NCAA for the foreseeable future?
If the NCAA and the public truly believe the crimes committed were preventable then they must be willing to take real action towards true prevention going forward. They must push for an “Athletics Integrity Monitor” position to be used as a mandatory check and balance inside every school that allows minors onto their campus or into programs that are run or supported by their employees in any capacity regardless of what might be uncovered.
Otherwise, we must accept that we too are not doing everything in our power to prevent future tragedies like the one we so readily and unwaveringly held the late Joe Paterno responsible for failing to prevent.