When the NCAA made its decision on the Penn State sanctions last month, it set a dangerous precedent for the future. Amid public pressure, they acted hastily and handed down one of the harshest punishments ever received by an athletics program.
The Penn State sanctions were handed down for criminal acts, something the NCAA is very unfamiliar with.
In years past, the role of the NCAA was to monitor on field issues and deal with anything that hurt the integrity and competitiveness of the game. Things such as illegal recruiting, illegal benefits and academic dishonesty used to be all the NCAA dealt with.
Penn State did not break any on-field rules or have any recruiting violations.
The NCAA chose to bypass its own due process and used the Freeh report as the basis of its punishment for Penn State, instead of conducting its own investigation. The fact that they went against their own rules and process creates a major problem in itself. They acted quickly and handed down sanctions that will damage the Penn State program for years to come.
The severity of the sanctions and the manner in which the whole situation was handled will be something the NCAA could regret in the coming years.
Are they going to severely punish every school anytime an issue arises? Does a coach dating a younger staff member and getting into a motorcycle accident with her constitute severe penalties to the football program? Does a major academic cheating scandal warrant the football and basketball programs to be penalized in a manner that will damage the quality of the product for years to come?
These are all issues and questions the NCAA has now set themselves up to have to face.
Before the scandal, Penn State was one of the most storied football programs in the country. A large alumni base and huge contingent of fans also made Penn State a big money maker. Some of that revenue eventually filters through to the NCAA. That money will now decrease as fans start to pay less for Penn State tickets.
Not only is the Penn State football program affected, but other sports programs and academic programs at the university could take a bit of a hit due to loss of football revenue.
In making this decision, the NCAA will now be heading down a slippery slope for years to come. They may have more headaches and questions to answer than they ever bargained for.