Penn State Football: In the End Sanctions Are More About Punishment Than Fixing

Michael Felder@InTheBleachersNational CFB Lead WriterJuly 24, 2012

STATE COLLEGE, PA - JULY 23:  A Penn State football player leaves the Mildred and Louis Lasch Football Building following a team meeting soon after the NCAA announced Sanctions on July 23, 2012 in State College, Pennsylvania. As an outcome of the university's mishandling of the allegations of child-sexual abuse by former coach Jerry Sandusky, Penn State was fined $60 million, was stripped of all its football wins from 1998 through 2011, barred from postseason games for four years, and lost 20 total scholarships annually for four seasons. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Monday, as the NCAA released their sanctions on the Penn State football program, there were plenty of folks patting themselves on the back. Plenty of people saying, "About time" and congratulating the NCAA for "doing the right thing."

John Canzano out at The Oregonian called it a fate "far worse than death." While Dennis Dodd at CBS Sports talked about a new chapter opening up as the NCAA stopped the sports first mentality:

The penalties were just, because for the NCAA to do nothing would have signaled business as usual. It would have meant it was beholden itself to that King.

This idea that crippling the Penn State program, not killing it with the death penalty, was the answer is held by many around the nation.

The thought process is that if the NCAA knocks the program down a peg or two the culture of football first—of ignoring protocol to protect an image—would die with Penn State.

The desired result is that folks around the nation are now on notice: sports are not job one.

So what do you do? How do you prove that this is about more than sports? 

Obviously you try to fix the situation, right?

Attempt to install an infrastructure to prevent this from happening again.

You gut the administration.

Install checks and balances to make sure there is a proper procedure and processes for people to rely on in situations such as the one that transpired in State College, Pennsylvania.

Except that's not what happened here.

Here, we have the NCAA ignoring their own processes and protocol to come out on the side of good. They are people who "did the right thing" by coming down on the same side as every decent person out there, the side that thinks child molestation is wrong.

They got a feather in their cap as they sated the angry masses—fans and media alike.

We've talked before about where the NCAA interjects itself. In this case they worked to cite rules and bylaws that were broken, in an effort to prove that this has been their job all along.

There is no point in rehashing what's been done. The NCAA has already decided to enter the uncharted waters. They broke protocol, went off the script and now we've arrived at this point.

The real issue here, as Michael Rosenberg at Sports Illustrated points out, is this idea that taking wins and reducing ability to win somehow will prove to people, Penn State and others, that winning is not important.

I don't care if Penn State wins games or not. But what kind of enterprise is this when an appropriate punishment for enabling a child rapist is to lose football games? Who is putting too much emphasis on winning now, Mr. Emmert?

Certainly, you can point to the fine as proof that it is not "just football" being punished. They are looking to help child abuse victims and raise awareness, that's a true positive. Perhaps, the lone positive.

And yes, I know all about the Athletic Integrity Agreement that the NCAA is forcing Penn State to enter into with both the Big Ten and the NCAA. It is quite the novel concept.

Call me crazy for not wanting to rely on the athletic department of Penn State, the NCAA or any other athletics organization to be the impetus for the infrastructure change that has to come. That's a university issue that people who chase improper benefits and illegal phone calls should not be expected to operate.

That infrastructure change is what the Department of Education is truly going to bring to town with their ruling in the Clery Act: that protocol and procedures for reporting, recording and identifying crimes of this nature should not be left to amateurs.

Rather, the strict monitoring and compliance must come from much higher than the paper tiger that is the NCAA.

Maybe it makes folks feel good to see the NCAA step in.

It most certainly has made Mark Emmert look right swell in many circles as a man of action. He grabbed this proverbial bull by the horns and wrestled Penn State to the ground as the mob cheered on his crusade against child abuse.

In the end the last few days have not been about fixing things.

It has been about extracting the pound of flesh the masses wanted from Penn State, the football pound.

The idea that protocol and processes are important was a lesson we were supposed to learn from the way Penn State ignored them during the scandal.

Yet, the NCAA did the same in working to usher in a swift punishment to prove they mean business.

This situation should not be an opportunity to pile on and prove how sound your core values are by trumpeting for swift penalties.

The opportunity that sits here is one to fix the infrastructure and protocol for the protection of the victims.

Proving that winning is your focus is not how that is done.


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