Sanctions coming for Penn State

Valley so low: Penn State and Nebraska observed a moment of silence before their game Nov. 12. Ex-Lions assistant Jerry Sandusky had been arrested on Nov. 5. DAVID SWANSON / Staff
Valley so low: Penn State and Nebraska observed a moment of silence before their game Nov. 12. Ex-Lions assistant Jerry Sandusky had been arrested on Nov. 5. DAVID SWANSON / Staff (photographer)
Posted: July 24, 2012

In an unprecedented use of its authority, the NCAA will announce Monday a devastating series of "corrective and punitive" sanctions against Pennsylvania State University, the latest fallout for the school in the Jerry Sandusky child sexual-abuse scandal.

Penn State is bracing for one of the most severe penalties levied against a college sports program, and is reportedly expected to be hit with record financial penalties.

Sanctions are not expected to include a "death penalty" that would keep the Nittany Lions completely off the football field for a season.

Barely more than a week after the Freeh Report commissioned by Penn State determined top university administrators and athletic officials had "failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children" victimized by Sandusky, the NCAA announced Sunday it would sanction Penn State.

According to ESPN, the penalties by the college sports governing body are expected to be "harsh," including scholarship reductions for the football team and a multi-season ban on postseason bowl appearances.

CBSSports.com reported the most unprecedented part of the sanctions, and the most eye-popping, will be that Penn State also will be fined $30 million to $60 million, with the money to go toward an endowment for children's causes.

"I don't think the NCAA is interested in making Penn State look good," one lawyer who specializes in NCAA cases said of why a donation to charities would be termed a fine. "I think they want to look strong on this."

The announcement comes on the heels of Penn State's removing the statue of late football coach Joe Paterno Sunday from outside Beaver Stadium.

The anticipated punishment is believed to be new territory for the NCAA, sanctioning a school without going through its own committee on infractions or even launching a full investigation, instead responding to details released in the Freeh Report.

"I don't know that past precedent makes particularly good sense in this case because it's really an unprecedented problem," NCAA president Mark Emmert said on PBS last week.

Emmert and Ed Ray, chairman of the NCAA executive committee and president of Oregon State University, will announce the sanctions Monday at a 9 a.m. news conference at NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis.

There are no indications the sanctions will directly impact sports other than football in regard to scholarship reductions or postseason appearances. It "shouldn't," one source said. It is not known whether there are any restrictions on Penn State's appearing on television.

"This is completely different than an impermissible-benefits scandal like [what] happened at [Southern Methodist University], or anything else we've dealt with. This is as systemic a cultural problem as it is a football problem. There have been people that said this wasn't a football scandal," Emmert told PBS last week.

He added, "It was more than a football scandal, much more than a football scandal. It was that, but much more. And we'll have to figure out exactly what the right penalties are."

There has been no hearing by an NCAA committee on infractions, the standard procedure when investigating NCAA violations, no indication the committee on infractions has even been informed. It is not known how much independent investigating, if any, the NCAA has done separate from criminal investigations and the Freeh report.

"Without following the current process with an investigation, I am certain that the penalties have already been agreed to by PSU," said Ohio University sports management professor David Ridpath, a former athletic administrator in charge of compliance.

Sports attorney Michael Buckner, an NCAA compliance specialist, wrote on his firm's website that "the NCAA has charted an unprecedented, and perhaps unconstitutional, course of action, by not adhering to existing enforcement processes and procedures."

"This is unique and this kind of power has never been tested or tried," a former chairman of the NCAA committee on infractions told ESPN. "It's unprecedented to have this extensive power. This has nothing to do with the purpose of the infractions process. Nevertheless, somehow [the NCAA president and executive board] have taken it on themselves to be a commissioner and to penalize a school for improper conduct."

In November, Emmert said the national governing body would look into whether bylaws had been broken.

"The NCAA is actively monitoring developments and assessing appropriate steps moving forward," Emmert said then. "The NCAA will defer in the immediate term to law enforcement officials since this situation involved alleged crimes. As the facts are established through the justice system, we will determine whether Association bylaws have been violated and act accordingly."

Criminal investigations are ongoing in the cases of former Penn State administrators. But evidence uncovered in the Freeh report, specifically e-mails among top Penn State administrators, presumably will be brought up by the NCAA.

One NCAA bylaw, 2.4, focuses on "principles of sportsmanship and ethical conduct," and calls for "intercollegiate athletics to promote the character development of participants. . . . These values should be manifest not only in athletics participation but also in the broad spectrum of activities affecting the athletics program." This broad bylaw typically has been used to regulate behavior such as trash-talking during a game.

Former Nittany Lions player Adam Taliaferro, now a member of the school's board of trustees, tweeted Sunday afternoon, "Whatever is decided - I hope such decision are made 2 support the victims and promote healing 4 ALL affected - and not to just simply punish PSU."

Former Penn State great Franco Harris, an ardent and consistent defender of Joe Paterno, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: "It's sad that we have the type of leadership that is really not leading and is following. Penn State does not deserve this."

Current Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin tweeted, "The hotter the fire, the stronger the steel."

It was just the latest day of upheaval for the entire Penn State football community.

"I don't really know how it will go down," said Brett Brackett, a 2010 Penn State captain, at Eagles training camp. Current Nittany Lions players, he said, "are out there working hard, and unfortunately it has nothing to do with them, but some things need to be happening for what happened."

Brackett added, "If it does come down on them, it's going to be unfortunate, but you have to pay your consequences at some time, too."


Contact Mike Jensen at 215-854-4489 or mjensen@phillynews.com. Follow @Jensenoffcampus on Twitter.

Staff writer Jeff McLane contributed to this article.

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