Why The NCAA Got Involved In the Penn State Child Sex Scandal

The Second Essential Scary Truth

The NCAA had the penultimate say in the Jerry Sandusky Child Sex Abuse Scandal when it levied heavy sanctions against Penn State for not reporting their former assistant coach was raping young boys in their locker room.  The punishments handed down by the NCAA include a fine of $60 million, no bowl appearances for 4 years, a loss of 20 scholarships for the same four-year period and vacating all wins from 1998-2011.

(From ESPN.com)

The NCAA has hit Penn State with a $60 million sanction, a four-year football postseason ban and a vacation of all wins dating to 1998, the organization said Monday morning. The career record of Joe Paterno will reflect these vacated records, the NCAA said.

Penn State also must reduce 10 initial and 20 total scholarships each year for a four-year period.

The NCAA revealed the sanctions as NCAA president Mark Emmert and Ed Ray, the chairman of the NCAA Executive Committee and Oregon State’s president, spoke at a news conference in Indianapolis at the organization’s headquarters.

“In the Penn State case, the results were perverse and unconscionable. No price the NCAA can levy will repair the grievous damage inflicted by Jerry Sandusky on his victims,” Emmert said, referring to the former Penn State defensive coordinator convicted of 45 counts of child sex abuse last month.

The NCAA said the $60 million was equivalent to the average annual revenue of the football program. The NCAA ordered Penn State to pay the penalty funds into an endowment for “external programs preventing child sexual abuse or assisting victims and may not be used to fund such programs at the university.”

“We had our backs to the wall on this,” Penn State president Rodney Erickson told the Centre Daily Times of Pennsylvania in an interview later Monday, saying the school accepted the penalties to avoid the so-called “death penalty” that could have resulted in the suspension of the football program for at least one year. “We did what we thought was necessary to save the program.”

In response to Erickson’s comments, Ray, speaking to ESPN.com’s Adam Rittenberg, said the NCAA did not threaten Penn State with the death penalty, and that the sanctions issued were unanimously agreed upon by the NCAA Executive Committee.

“It was a unanimous act,” Ray said earlier during the news conference. “We needed to act.”

My question is why did the NCAA need to act at all?  According to the NCAA website, the NCAA was created with the help of President Teddy Roosevelt in order to protect student-athletes.

(From NCAA.org)

The rugged nature of early-day football, typified by mass formations and gang tackling, resulted in numerous injuries and deaths and prompted many college and universities to discontinue the sport. In many places, college football was run by student groups that often hired players and allowed them to compete as non-students. Common sentiment among the public was that college football should be reformed or abolished.

President Theodore Roosevelt summoned college athletics leaders to two White House conferences to encourage reforms. In early December 1905, Chancellor Henry M. MacCracken of New York University convened a meeting of 13 institutions to initiate changes in football playing rules. At a subsequent meeting December 28 in New York City, 62 colleges and universities became charter members of the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States (IAAUS).

The IAAUS officially was constituted March 31, 1906, and took its present name, the NCAA, in 1910. For several years, the NCAA was a discussion group and rules-making body, but in 1921 the first NCAA national championship was conducted: the National Collegiate Track and Field Championships. Gradually, more rules committees were formed and more championships were created, including a basketball championship in 1939.

A series of crises brought the NCAA to a crossroads after World War II. The “Sanity Code” − adopted to establish guidelines for recruiting and financial aid − failed to curb abuses. Postseason football games were multiplying with little control. Member institutions were increasingly concerned about how the new medium of television would affect football attendance.

The complexity of those problems and the growth in membership and championships demonstrated the need for full-time professional leadership. Walter Byers, previously a part-time executive assistant, was named executive director in 1951, and a national headquarters was established in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1952.

Byers wasted no time placing his stamp on the Association. A program to control live television of football games was approved, the annual Convention delegated enforcement powers to the Association’s Council and legislation was adopted governing postseason bowl games.

As college athletics grew, the scope of the nation’s athletics programs diverged, forcing the NCAA to create a structure that recognized varying levels of emphasis. In 1973, the Association’s membership was divided into three legislative and competitive divisions − I, II and III . Five years later, Division I members voted to create subdivisions I-A and I-AA (renamed the Football Bowl Subdivision and the Football Championship Subdivision in 2007) in football.

The NCAA began administering women’s athletics programs in 1980 when Divisions II and III established 10 championships for 1981-82. A year later, the historic 75th Convention adopted an extensive governance plan to include women’s athletics programs, services and representation. The delegates expanded the women’s championships program with the addition of 19 events, many of them Division I and National Collegiate (all division) championships.

The 1980s were tumultuous. The period was marked by many serious and high-profile cases involving rules violations. Questions about academic standards abounded, and the Association responded in 1983 with the adoption of Convention Proposal No. 48, which strengthened academic requirements for prospective student-athletes. In 1984, the NCAA lost control of regular-season football television rights when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the Association in a landmark antitrust case.

As the complexity of the enterprise grew, college and university presidents became more involved in the governance of the Association. In 1984, the NCAA established the Presidents Commission, a group of presidents from the three divisions charged with setting an agenda for the Association.

Byers retired October 1, 1987, after 36 years as the Association’s executive director, having established himself as a visionary who created sophisticated systems governing championships, rules and finances.

Byers was replaced by University of Virginia Athletics Director Richard D. Schultz, who resigned in 1993.

Schulz was succeeded by University of Arizona Athletics Director Cedric Dempsey, who led the Association beginning in 1994. Dempsey oversaw a landmark restructuring of NCAA governance that provided greater autonomy for each of the divisions and placed institutional presidents in charge of each division and of the Association in general.

Dempsey served as president until December 2002 and was replaced in January 2003 by Myles Brand, president of Indiana University, Bloomington. 

Brand, the first university president to serve as the Association’s chief executive, based his administration on the twin pillars of advocacy and reform. Major academic reforms were accomplished in Divisions I and II, and presidential involvement in governance became increasingly effective. Brand also oversaw efforts at fiscal reform and constantly championed the causes of diversity and inclusion.

Brand died September 16, 2009, of cancer. James L. Isch, formerly an NCAA senior vice president and chief financial officer, served as interim president.

Mark A. Emmert, president at the University of Washington, was named the fifth NCAA president April 27, 2010, and took over duties of the office October 5, 2010.

By their own admission, the NCAA’s job is to protect student athletes from harm.  What happened at Penn State, despicable horrific acts of sexual abuse by an authority figure on the young boys who trusted him followed by a cover-up that would have made Nixon proud, had nothing to with the welfare student athletes at Penn State.  It was a massive moral failing by four men (Head Football Coach Joe Paterno, Athletic Director Tim Curley, School Vice President Gary Schultz and President Graham Spanier) when they discovered the deviant pervert in their midst.

The NCAA was well within its prevue to have Penn State forfeit all wins by the football program from 1998 (the first reported date of an allegation of abuse by Sandusky) and 2011 when the scandal broke.  That punishes the institution and one of the four men (late coach Joe Paterno) involved in the cover-up.  But the rest of the sanctions make no sense from a mission statement perspective.  What happened in those locker rooms and in the cover-up afterward was a moral failure on a grand scale and criminal matter for local law enforcement to sort out.

The truth is the NCAA is terrified of its brand being tarnished.  The more the Penn State Sex Scandal is at the forefront of any ESPN broadcast, the more the NCAA loses money for its member schools  (Total revenue for the 2010-11 calendar year was $845.9 million).  If the NCAA really wants to become a moral arbiter, I would recommend changing the mission statement to read as follows: the NCAA’s job is to protect student athletes from harm and find a to get these athletes educated while maximizing their earning potential for the member institutions.

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