The NCAA loves to slap around non-revenue-generating members for technical rule violations, as the California Institute of Technology learned earlier this month. But with a few exceptions, top-tier programs are treated differently. Ohio State suffered a year of bowl ineligibility and a temporary loss of some scholarships for impermissible benefits to players. And now Penn State has been allowed to negotiate its own penalties for, as the Freeh report put it, having "failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children" sexually assaulted by an assistant coach.
Perhaps it was too much of a hassle for the NCAA to impose the death penalty on Penn State, which could have objected and demanded due process. More important, suspending Penn State football would have meant significant revenue losses for other NCAA member schools forced to forfeit scheduled games. We certainly couldn't have that!
Some have worried about all the innocent adults who would be harmed if Penn State got the death penalty. But among the students, alumni, faculty, and merchants who promoted and profited from the football culture that nurtured and protected a predator who preyed on children, there are no innocent adults — only enablers.
Both Penn State and the NCAA are promoting the notion that the penalties announced this week are somehow worse than the death penalty. "Could everyone please move along?" they seem to be saying. "Nothing more to see here."
Shockingly, though, these sanctions allow Penn State to play this season according to its regular schedule. Football will continue as before, almost as if nothing had happened.
The same can't be said for the lives of the sexual-abuse victims whom university officials chose to ignore.
Jan C. Ting is a professor of law at Temple University's Beasley School of Law. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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