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Will Louis Freeh report hurt Penn State football?

Could Penn State football face NCAA 'death penalty?' Most observers say no. But Penn State football, which brings in $50 million in annual profits, could face other NCAA sanctions in wake of the Louis Freeh report.

By Ernest ScheyderReuters / July 13, 2012

Former FBI director Louis Freeh speaks about the Freeh Report during a news conference July 12, 2012, in Philadelphia. The NCAA is looking at the Freeh report to decide whether to sanction the Penn State football program. Freeh says the most "saddening and sobering" finding from his group's report into the Jerry Sandusky child sex scandal is Penn State senior leaders' "total disregard" for the safety and welfare of the ex-coach's child victims.

(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

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Penn State's powerhouse football program could face a range of sanctions from the NCAA in the wake of a damning report about the cover-up of child sex abuse, but will likely avoid having its team temporarily suspended through the much-feared "death penalty."

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The NCAA, the governing body of U.S. college sports, said it was reviewing Thursday's report by former FBI director Louis Freeh, who blamed Penn State officials for concealing sex abuse by Jerry Sandusky to protect the school's reputation.

Sandusky, the team's former defensive coach who helped make Pennsylvania State University a collegiate football giant, was convicted last month of 45 counts of child molestation and faces up to 373 years in prison.

IN PICTURES: Fallout from Penn State scandal

In past sports scandals, the NCAA has issued a so-called "death penalty" - effectively suspending a program for several years. It did as much to Southern Methodist University in the late 1980s after an investigation found the school paid some of its football players.

The prevailing belief of former college coaches, sports consultants and academics is that the NCAA won't take that step in Penn State's case, largely because such a finding could only come if a school was a "repeat offender," continuing the offending action after a public warning.

"The likely scenario is the NCAA will issue damning and condemning statements and call for the justice system to meet out the appropriate punishment," said Marc Ganis, president of sports consulting firm Sportscorp Ltd.

"That would be disappointing, because the NCAA is one of those institutions that should take a stand on morality, not convenience."

The NCAA could, however, reduce scholarships for student athletes at Penn State, prohibit the school from appearing in bowl games or having their games televised, or keep some coaches from appearing at games.

Technically, the NCAA could even void previous Penn State victories, drastically altering the results of football seasons long past.
NCAA officials did not return a call seeking comment.

The football program brings in more than $50 million in profit annually for Penn State, according to a Forbes study, funded in part by lucrative sponsorship deals with corporations including PepsiCo Inc and Nike Inc.

A suspension would put all of that in jeopardy and alienate the hundreds of thousands of fans that descend each fall on the school's central Pennsylvania campus, nicknamed "Happy Valley," for football games.

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