Penn State NCAA ruling: spare the rod, spoil the child strategy

NCAA sanctions against Penn State are harming innocent football players and not addressing the underlying fault. The NCAA should aim its blame on the coaches and officials who allowed this to happen.

Craig Houtz/Reuters
Penn State football players leave the Lasch Football Buliding following a team meeting after the announcement of the NCAA penalties and sanctions on the Penn State campus in State College, Pa., July 23.

As the mother of four boys, I am beyond rage over the vile acts of Jerry Sandusky (the former Penn State defensive coach who was convicted of sexually assaulting 10 boys) and the failure of his colleagues to protect innocent children. Yet, when I heard about the sanctions, which will be as great a punishment to innocents as bad actors, I wondered if the NCAA needs a parenting coach.

The NCAA, engaged in an act of basic parenting, has adopted the age-old “spare the rod, spoil the child” strategy. In taking up the rod against Penn State, the NCAA has struck multiple blows on the innocent.

This is new territory for the governing body to handle when they are more equipped to issue penalties for overshooting a spending cap than something of this nature. But they need to see it from a real-world parental perspective.

Today, the NCAA imposed sanctions on Penn State after an independent investigation found that football coach Joe Paterno and other senior university officials failed to stop Mr. Sandusky from sexually abusing children on campus. NCAA President Mark Emmert announced that the association was banning the football team from all post-season play and bowl games for four years, reducing the program's number of scholarships from 25 to 15 per year for four years, and fining the program $60 million. The association also vacated all of the program's wins between 1998 and 2011.

Losing scholarships and taking away wins away from the players is shaming the innocent. How must those young men and their parents feel today as their hard work, good sportsmanship, and accomplishments are not only erased, but tarred and feathered?

My eldest son heads off for his freshman year of college at Virginia Commonwealth University this fall and I think of all his hard work to get where he is. It would be devastating to our family if it was taken away because of guilt by association.

What the NCAA did today is punish innocent players by damaging their career records and academic futures. This is new ground in sports justice.

The level of anguish over what Sandusky did is soul scarring, even for those who never attended a Penn State game or the university itself. He deserves pain and humiliation as do those who allowed it to happen through their silence. I do not accept the answer from Mr. Paterno’s family that a police investigation done years prior to these fresh charges was dropped and so he had no further recourse to protect the children. You bet he and every other administrator and coach who knew had recourse. They and every other member of the Penn State staff who had knowledge of what was happening could have stood at the door, in the gap and over the man who committed these crimes against children.

Don’t tell me that the same men who can make a linebacker whimper can’t put the fear of heaven and earth into a child molester. For their lack of creativity in stopping Sandusky these men should be fired and banned from sport. Period. If it’s not within the power of the NCAA to call for that then somebody has the chance to edit the rules.

Shaming and destroying the educational and career hopes of talented players who did not know what their former coach was doing to children is not the way to go. In this case, don’t spare the rod, just improve your aim.

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