Penn State: NCAA Needs to Stay Out of Mess Surrounding Jerry Sandusky Scandal

Michael Felder@InTheBleachersNational CFB Lead WriterJuly 2, 2012

BELLEFONTE, PA - JUNE 22:  Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky arrives at his child sex abuse trial at the Centre County Courthouse on June 22, 2012 in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. Today the jury will start its second day of deliberations in the sexual abuse trial of former Penn State assistant football coach, Jerry Sandusky who is charged with 51 criminal counts of sexual abuse on 10 boys over a 15-year period.  (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Talk of the NCAA giving Penn State football the "death penalty" started last November as allegations and information surfaced with respect to Jerry Sandusky and the scandal that had been perpetrated in State College, Pa. The talk quieted as Sandusky went to trial and was convicted on almost every count of child abuse brought against him.

However, with the recent surfacing of emails between athletic director Tim Curley, vice president Gary Schultz and president Graham Spanier, folks are back thumping the NCAA drum.

Stefanie Loh of The Patriot-News talks about NCAA involvement from a measured standpoint with Toledo sports law professor Geoffrey Rapp. Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports doesn't bother with moderating his response: He calls for Mark Emmert to give the school swift justice. Clay Travis of Outkick the Coverage goes full bore on the "shut them down" train.

The push needs to stop. Plain and simple, these are not the waters that the NCAA should be wading into in a way to exercise its power, stretch its legs and appease popular opinion. We are all disgusted by the actions and the cover-up of the actions. No decent person is sitting back hoping anyone involved in this gross situation escapes unscathed.

The NCAA is a group of mall cops. They're security guards. Actually, better stated, Mark Emmert and his staff are the HOA officers of the neighborhood that affiliated programs reside in. They make the rules about fence height, driveway width, street parking, lawn mowing and garage sales. They impose fines and penalties when voluntary members in the neighborhood organization don't comply. 

What they do not do is handle real, actual, true-to-life crime.

That's what police are for.

In the case of Penn State, that's what federal and state investigators are for. That's what the Department of Education is for. That is not what the NCAA is for.

The NCAA does not lord over legal matters. It never has, and it should not start now. Truth be told, the organization has a tough enough time handling its own manual of petty rules, baseless regulations and mindless drivel. The fact that people want an understaffed, largely tipster-driven organization to operate in a space where real-life crime is involved is mind-boggling.

Look, we all want the parties involved to pay. We all want the cover-up to come to light and guilty parties to come to justice.

However, giving the NCAA the power to make a ruling based upon the flimsy catch-all ethics clause is dangerous ground to cross. It is a precedent that should never be set, regardless of how disgusting the situation in State College is.

Granting the NCAA the power to intervene in legal matters and penalize based upon that conduct is asking for it to expand its scope, and as we try to chop the NCAA rulebook down, expanding its scope is quite counterproductive.

Now, as Geoffrey Rapp, the sports law professor, points out, the idea of institutional control is one where perhaps the NCAA could find an "in" of sorts in an effort to appease those clamoring for action:

If the coach has the final say, that’s against NCAA rules. The president has to be in charge of athletics, not the other way around. 

If they were trying to put something in place, and [Joe] Paterno stopped it, that’s a big problem.

It sounds nice, except, as president Graham Spanier says in his email, he changed his own mind at Paterno's convincing. Certainly it is Paterno telling him what he wants to hear, but it is also President Spanier not doing his job—being convinced out of doing his job.

That's a choice. People are presented with choices all the time. When you're in charge, you have to make the right choice, and Spanier did not. He opted to side with Paterno. He opted to bury the information that would stop the monster that was Sandusky. That's the choice he made.

For those of you who are worried that Penn State will go unpunished, I implore you to do some reading. The Jeanne Clery Act is most certainly in play where Penn State is concerned. We're talking about federal funding and federal fines, all being investigated by legitimate federal investigators, not NCAA Joe Schmoes. 

Penn State is in clear violation of the Clery Act, and in a big way. Unlike schools we've seen in recent history who violated the law by not recording the reported crimes in their log and posting publicly, Penn State is guilty of not only failing to maintain a record but failing to report the crimes when notified of the acts.

There is no equal justice for the victims of the crimes. Only time and therapy can heal their wounds, and even then "heal" is likely not the right word to describe the day-to-day coping.

Screaming about a bowl ban or a death penalty is just off base. It would set a dangerous precedent and give power to a group that is truly incapable of handling legitimate wrongdoing.

We, the public, are best served by allowing a tragedy of this magnitude to be handled by those equipped to respond: federal and state investigators and legitimate laws.


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