Change in scholarship limits for Penn State a step in right direction

ASSOCIATED PRESS Penn State coach Bill O'Brien will have full scholarship limits sooner than expected.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Penn State coach Bill O'Brien will have full scholarship limits sooner than expected.
Posted: September 26, 2013

HEADLINE: "NCAA Executive Committee to gradually restore Penn State scholarships."

Translation: "We have been making this up all along, and we will continue making it up."

The NCAA is a laughingstock (which is not headline-worthy). When it dropped the hammer on the Penn State football program following Jerry Sandusky's conviction on child abuse charges, it ignored its own procedures, punished the wrong people, and went to lengths to crush the program that no one initially contemplated. They did it because of a need to demonstrate relevance. They overstepped in a historic way.

Now, they are beginning to un-overstep (not a word, granted). The committee, at the advice of former Sen. George Mitchell, the man hired to oversee Penn State's reaction to this whole mess, has essentially dropped a year of the scholarship limitations it imposed. Penn State will be back to the full limit of 85 scholarships by 2016-17. The committee also said it would consider easing the ban on bowl games "depending upon Penn State's continued progress."

Whatever that means.

"While there is more work to be done, Penn State has clearly demonstrated its commitment to restoring integrity in its athletics program," Mitchell said in the NCAA release. "The university has substantially completed the initial implementation of all the Freeh Report recommendations and its obligations to the Athletics Integrity Agreement, so relief from the scholarship reductions is warranted and deserved."

Whatever that means.

Here are the new scholarship limits:

Year Initial Total

2014-15. . . 20 75

2015-16. . . 25 80

2016-17. . . 25 85

2017-18. . . 25 85

Yes, this is edging toward justice - or, at least, away from injustice. This was always a legal matter, not an NCAA matter. That Penn State had a problem with its football/athletics culture was plain. That people paid with their jobs, and had their conduct reviewed by the authorities, and that the university paid through civil lawsuits, seemed the obvious and appropriate remedy. The rest of this was PR and nothing more.

And we can now say, with some certainty, that the NCAA punished the wrong people when it stepped into this matter and did nothing to enhance its reputation either with the public or within the college community.

With that, an adventure in jurisprudence continues. Even as it attempts, belatedly, to right a wrong, all the NCAA has done is highlight its arrogance and its errors.

How long can these people possibly remain in charge?


Email: hofmanr@phillynews.com

On Twitter: @theidlerich

Blog: ph.ly/DNL

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