Penn State Fined $60M, Banned From Bowls, Wins From 1998 On Vacated

Jul 23, 2012
Originally published on July 23, 2012 4:19 pm

Saying that the punishment is "warranted by the conspiracy of silence" among Penn State University's top leadership that turned a blind eye to former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky's sexual abuse of young boys, the NCAA just announced sanctions on the school that include:

-- A $60 million fine. The money will go into an endowment fund to support programs around the nation that assist victims of sexual abuse, NCAA President Mark Emmert said.

-- A ban on participation in post-season football bowl games for four years.

-- A reduction in the number of football scholarships from 25 to 15 for four years.

-- The vacating of all the football team's wins for the years 1998-2011. It was in 1998 that university officials first heard that Sandusky might be sexually abusing young boys.

The school, Emmert said, had allowed its athletic culture to go "horribly awry." And without naming former head coach Joe Paterno, Emmert said the school had allowed one person to become too powerful.

Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep and NPR's Tom Goldman talked about Penn State and the sanctions earlier today.

Update at 3:30 p.m. ET. Emmert Says Penn State Needs To Worry About Fixing Its Culture, Not Going To A Bowl Game:

Earlier this afternoon, All Things Considered host Robert Siegel asked Emmert why — if the NCAA didn't want to impose the death penalty because that would punish too many people, including players, who had nothing to do with Sandusky's crimes or any coverup of them — it is denying current players the chance to go to bowl games?

That sanction is "certainly meant to have a punitive impact on the institution," Emmert said, not the players. And the message it should send, he added, is that "for the next four or five years, Penn State, don't worry about going to the Rose Bowl; worry about getting your culture right."

Much more from Robert's conversation with Emmert is due on today's All Things Considered. Click here to find an NPR station that broadcasts or streams the show. Later, we'll add the as-broadcast version of the interview to the top of this post.

Update at 2:45 p.m. ET. NCAA Says Death Penalty "Was Not Severe Enough."

On its website, the athletic association says:

"The NCAA sanctions on Penn State, taken in sum, far exceed the severity of shutting down a program for a year or two. Our sanctions address the cultural change necessary at Penn State. What some refer to as the death penalty was not severe enough."

As for the vacated wins, the NCAA says:

"All wins are removed from the NCAA's official records. Wins attributed to the coach of a team whose penalties are vacated will also be expunged. Opposing teams are not granted wins."

Update at 11 a.m. ET. Big Ten Says Penn State Can't Share In Bowl Revenue, Costing It About $13 Million:

"Because Penn State will be ineligible for bowl games for the next four years, it will therefore be ineligible to receive its share of Big Ten Conference bowl revenues over those same four years," the athletic conference just announced. "That money, estimated to be approximately $13 million, will be donated to established charitable organizations in Big Ten communities dedicated to the protection of children."

Update at 10:40 a.m. ET. Penn State Officials React.

University President Rodney Erickson: "Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the victims of Mr. Sandusky and all other victims of child abuse. ... Against this backdrop, Penn State accepts the penalties and corrective actions announced today by the NCAA. With today's announcement and the action it requires of us, the university takes a significant step forward."

Football coach Bill O'Brien (who was hired after last season): " I will do everything in my power to not only comply, but help guide the university forward to become a national leader in ethics, compliance and operational excellence."

Update at 10:30 a.m. ET. More Crippling Than A "Death Penalty?"

Though the university did not get the NCAA's so-called death penalty, which would have banned the football team from competing for at least one season, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says the punishments are likely to have an even "more crippling effect" because of their length and severity. Barring Penn State from postseason play for four years, for example, may make it difficult to recruit top players. And current players will be allowed to transfer to other schools without having to wait to compete again.

Update at 10 a.m. ET. Big Ten To Announce Its Penalties.

"The Big Ten will also sanction Penn State," ESPN says. "The conference has called an 11 a.m. ET news conference to announce to league-related penalties."

Update at 9:35 a.m. ET. Paterno Is No Longer Division I Record Holder:

As USA Today points out, just before his firing last November, Paterno had set the record for most wins as a Division I football coach — with 409. Wiping away the wins from 1998-2011 removes 111 victories from his record, the newspaper says. So, "the loss of victories means Joe Paterno is no longer college football's winningest coach." (Note at 10:55 a.m. ET: USA Today has corrected its report to say the penalty erases 111 wins, not 112."

ESPN adds that:

"With the wins from 1998-2011 vacated, Paterno drops from 409 wins to 298, dropping him from first to 12th on the winningest NCAA football coach list. Penn State will also have six bowl wins and two conference championships erased."

Update at 9:25 a.m ET. Penn State Will Not Challenge Penalties, Emmert Says:

Asked if he expects the school will file an appeal, Emmert just told reporters that Penn State has signed an agreement accepting the punishments.

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More now with Dr. Mark Emmert, the president of the NCAA and formerly president of the University of Washington. Welcome to the program.

MARK EMMERT: Thank you for having me.

SIEGEL: Let me ask you first, why didn't you impose what they call the death penalty and shut down the Penn State football program for a year or so?

EMMERT: Well, we - and by we I mean myself and our executive committee and the Division I board of directors - certainly explored that option and considered it very seriously. But in the end, we concluded that the suspension of program, the so-called death penalty, was in many ways too blunt an instrument. It had a very large impact on a lot of people who have very little or nothing at all to do with this case, and similarly, we were recognizing the very good work that's been done by Penn State's new chairwoman of the board and its new president to be as open and forthright as they've been throughout this process.

And when we looked at it over an extended period of time, we realized what we wanted was a series of penalties that were tightly focused that also would provide the opportunity for the university to change its culture, to get better...


EMMERT: improve upon its current circumstance, and that's the package of sanctions that we came up with.

SIEGEL: You've spoken of the culture at Penn State. Isn't it fair to say that the notion that the culture of football trumps other academic concerns at American universities, that isn't confined to Penn State? Wouldn't you say that that's true of many schools with big football programs?

EMMERT: Well, of course. And this has obviously been part of the dynamic tension of college sports for more than a century. It's one of the reasons that the NCAA was formed over 100 years ago, and it is something that universities and their communities have always sought to balance. And the message of this cautionary tale for the rest of higher education, of course, is that we simply can't allow football or other athletic programs to become such a dominant force that they overwhelm the values of the academy and the values that we all want to adhere to.

SIEGEL: Dr. Emmert, why is it that the NCAA only steps in after Ohio State football players sell their jerseys for tattoos and the coach says he didn't know, or after it turns out that USC boosters were paying a star player and now after what's happened at Penn State? Shouldn't there be, by now, some systemic reform of college football so that these things might be prevented rather than merely remedied?

EMMERT: Well, we certainly work very hard at that, and indeed, we are right now in the midst of a very large-scale reform in all of our dimensions of regulation and supervision of college athletics. This past fall, we put in place new academic standards to make sure that our student athletes are being successful as students and indeed they fit the definition of a student as well as an athlete. We are going to in actually just a little over a week vote on a new model for our enforcement process and our penalty structure and our adjudication system. And we will probably by January have completely rewritten the Division I rulebook, which is a ponderous document with many regulations in it that are downright silly and that distract from the core values of the NCAA. So we have always, as the association in its 100 years, sought to be more preventative than punitive. We nonetheless are constantly in the process of trying to keep up with the developments that occur in college sport, and our new reforms, I think, are going to be a very, very big step in that direction.

SIEGEL: You mentioned that one reason for not imposing the death penalty was not punishing young people in the football program for the misdeeds of past administrators and coaches. The family of Joe Paterno issued a statement calling the NCAA sanctions a panicked response that punishes Penn State students. In fact, doesn't barring their participating in bowl games or televised games, doesn't that punish students on the football team?

EMMERT: Well, it's certainly meant to have a punitive impact on the institution. But what we're trying to say is, look, for the next four or five years, Penn State, don't worry about going to the Rose Bowl, worry about getting your culture right, worry about finding the right balance between academics and athletics and reintegrating your athletic program into the full body of the university. This needs to be about more than just trying to get to a bowl game but about having athletics find its rightful place in the academy.

SIEGEL: But those concerns sound perfectly appropriate to lots of universities where there hasn't been felonious behavior by a former member of the coaching staff. Why not bring those same pressures to bear on the - who knows how many other universities where football is king?

EMMERT: Well, you know, the fact that football in of itself is very popular and very successful doesn't mean that the institution is doing anything wrong or egregious. You know, in this particular case, most everyone agrees that this was as egregious a behavior as anyone's seen in an NCAA case because of the nature, of course, of the criminal acts, which the NCAA has nothing to do with.

We focus so much attention on cases like this and then, when you look at the behavior that's outlined in the Freeh report around that criminal conduct, this case rises far and above most all of the other cases that we've seen. And the fact that football is popular or basketball is popular at an institution and, indeed, that a coach is held in very, very high regard doesn't necessarily mean anything wrong is going on there, but it certainly does mean that the people in those university environments need to be very, very attentive to not letting the athletic tail wag the academic dog.

SIEGEL: Dr. Emmert, thank you very much for talking with us.

EMMERT: My pleasure.

SIEGEL: That's Mark Emmert, president of the NCAA, talking with us from Indianapolis about today's sanctions against Penn State University. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.