The NCAA's plan to reduce the penalties surrounding Penn State football has moved from a March rumor reported by ESPN's Gene Wojciechowski to a reality, as shown in the NCAA's press release. From the release:
Beginning next academic year (2014-15), five additional initial scholarships will be restored to the university’s football team. This amount will continue to increase until they reach the full allocation of 25 initial in 2015-16 and 85 total football scholarships in 2016-17.
As Your Best 11 pointed out when the move was rumored, this is a positive step for the school and the NCAA on the macro level. Penn State is working to prove it is improving its responsibility, erecting checks, balances and protocol to stop future problems and, ultimately, rehabilitating the actual core.
Yet, at the micro level, for the individual players at Penn State, or that hope to play at Penn State, the NCAA continues to be out of touch. The issue with the current players and staff goes right back to the original fact that the NCAA had no business stepping into this situation in the first place.
Despite the "moral authority" that Jim Delany claimed the organization possessed, or the easy public relations win for the NCAA, the truth is handing down sanctions was out of the NCAA's scope of operations. That point was true before the Freeh Report, it was true after the report was released and following news of gradual reductions, the point still remains valid.
In extracting the pound of flesh from Penn State football through the sanctions and a bowl ban, the NCAA did not work on rehabilitation, rather it was a punitive push to sate the masses and save face. All the while, hobbling coach Bill O'Brien, and his players, in the process.
Restoring five scholarships with good behavior is a nice play in terms of incentive and monitoring the progress of Penn State off the field. However, it remains the restoration of scholarships that should not have been taken in the first place. It was a "punish football move" to teach the school that football is not that important.
And now, the school gets to "earn its football back" with good behavior. Tough to see how football is not first to the NCAA when it is being used as the incentive and currency in which the organization deals. The NCAA punishes by taking away what it feels matters the most, then restores that same thing to award positive behavior.
So, over a year removed from the initial ruling, the NCAA still is trying to do the job of the Department of Education, while using football as currency. Giving back scholarships for good behavior is nice, on the large scale, to show progress toward a goal, but for the individual players and staff, they still must deal with the fallout of the NCAA inserting itself somewhere it should not have been in the first place.