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Penn State sanctions: NCAA aims to end 'mindset' that led to tragedy

Penn State sanctions rival the worse NCAA penalty ever, including a $60 million fine, a four-year ban on bowls, and 40 fewer football scholarships. But sanctions also aim to scale back the outsized role of football on campus.

By Staff writer / July 23, 2012

Andrew Hanselman, left, of Bucks County, Pa., and Maddy Pryor, a senior, from Neptune, N.J., react as they listen to Monday's televised announcement of NCAA sanctions against Penn State University football program on campus in State College, Pa.

Gene J. Puskar/AP

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Washington

In explaining NCAA sanctions on Penn State University for allegedly covering up long-running sexual abuse by an assistant football coach, NCAA President Mark Emmert didn’t mince words.

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“An argument could be made that the egregious behavior seen in this case was greater than any other seen in NCAA history,” said Mr. Emmert at an Indianapolis press conference Monday.

It was at this press conference that Emmert announced sanctions on Penn State University and its football team that rival any punishment ever meted out by college sports’ chief governing body – including the so-called “death penalty” levied on Southern Methodist University in the mid-1980s.

But how do Penn State’s sanctions compare to those meted out against the Mustangs, who until today were college football’s most infamous “death penalty” case?

In Penn State’s case, the NCAA sanctions can be broken down into two broad categories: punitive and corrective.

On the punitive side are the headline-making figures. A $60 million dollar fine to be paid no less than $12 million per year for an endowment supporting “programs preventing child sexual abuse and/or assisting the victims of child sexual abuse.” The school can’t cut other sports to pay the fine, nor can it use the proceeds of the fund to pay for programs at Penn State.

The football team is banned from post-season bowl competition for four years and sees its annual allotment of scholarships cut from 25 to 15 over that same time frame.

In order to avoid punishing current athletes, all current players are allowed to transfer to new universities and play immediately – typically, transferring players would need to sit out one season. Any current football players can stay at the school and maintain their scholarship whether or not they play football so long as they meet the scholarship’s minimum academic requirements.

These provisions, of course, have the simultaneous effect of emptying out Penn State’s well-stocked coffers of football talent.

And then there is a cut to former head coach Joe Paterno’s legacy: the vacating of all football wins from 1998 to 2011. Mr. Paterno, who, according to a report conducted by the university, played a role in covering up sexual abuse of young boys by his one-time assistant head coach Jerry Sandusky, was the winningest coach of all time when he resigned during the throes of the scandal last year. Expunging those wins from his record drops him into 8th place all time.

Then there are a blizzard of corrective measures aimed at ensuring no future abuses occur. These include the appointment of an independent “athletics integrity monitor” for five years, paid for at university expense. This person will file quarterly reports to the university’s board of trustees, the NCAA and the Big Ten, Penn State’s athletics conference on how the university is implementing its “Athletics Integrity Agreement,” a multistep program outlined here.

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